that exciting person from somewhere else…

Mark 6:1-5 (CEB)

Jesus in his hometown

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honoured everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
I’m going to be a bit churchy today, rather than personal spirituality-y or devotional-y.  It’s my blog – I can do what I like! 🙂
This passage has been making me think today about a piece of work I am doing for the Synod in Torbay & Teignbridge – namely, trying to design a new workable model to get the very best out of what will soon be (already is?) a very limited resource: stipendiary ministers! 
Ministers still have a kind of fantasy image in their heads that their calling expressed in a local church will involve being a significant figure in their town – a well-loved local dignitary ranking alongside other important town figures like the mayor.  They might expect to be invited to civic functions – sometimes that DOES happen – I am writing this in The Avenue office while I wait to go and “do” the prayers at Kingsteignton Town Council this evening.)  Ministers imagine – even if they don’t even realise they are imagining it – that they might cycle along a lane rather like characters in Midsomer Murders and be waved at by the postmistress and the local farmer and the greengrocer attending to her display of melons…
OK – so maybe I exaggerate – but maybe you get the point!  Ministers still retain the vestiges of an old model of ministry that has them at the centre of a community, intimately involved within it, living, breathing, shopping and working within it, knowing all the movers and shakers and being widely recognised.
This is far from the truth nowadays, not because ministers have become closed off and unapproachable, but because of the fragmentation of ministry and Ministers being called to diverse and scattered communities, some of which don’t feel like communities at all and not living in all the places that they are called to minister in.
Maybe I am stating the obvious – it IS obvious – but I don’t often hear this talked about.  
At first sight this might seem like a bad thing, BUT….  there’s that reading above.
Jesus is recognised and valued and honoured everywhere he goes EXCEPT in his home town.
How many times have I discovered this?  I spend years preaching and teaching. explaining, demonstrating and discussing a particular idea in a church where I am well established and well known – then along comes a guest preacher, a stranger from another place who says EXACTLY the same thing and the congregation react as if she is the wisest and most amazing person they have ever met and why has nobody ever suggested this before?  🙂
Ah, says Jesus…  “Prophets are honoured everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.”
 Maybe there is something in this.  Maybe there is a model of ministry that is NOT based on this “pillar of the community” idea, where instead the minister is deliberately an outsider – on the edge of a community – not recognised…
After all, isn’t that where other people on the edge, the unaccepted, the rejected, the outcast are likely to be gathered? 
[cue: some minister somewhere reading this and saying “I’ve been saying that for YEARS and all of a sudden along comes this upstart nobody-blogger and says the same thing and suddenly everyone is listening?? grrrr……”] 

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