Thought for the Day : Friday 19 March

Thought for the Day by Alan Griggs (St Chad’s)

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 13:53-58

A friend of mine went to University, and worshipped regularly at the college chapel; there he came across a group of other college members who had an unusual way of assessing sermons, which was often given by visiting preachers. Before the service, they made 2 equal piles of pennies, a good pile and a bad pile. Whenever the preacher made a good point they moved one penny on to the good pile; whenever they didn’t like what the preacher said, or thought it was not clear, they took a penny off the good pile and placed it on the bad pile. At the end of the sermon their pennies gave them an easy assessment of its value.

This is not a good thing to do (especially when I am the preacher!). But it does reveal how some people feel they have the right to sit in judgment over what is said in a sermon. The alternative way is to reflect how we are being judged by what is being said in the Word of God. It is thought that more than 50% of a sermon is done, or not done, by the people who hear it.

In today’s reading from Matthew we hear about the sermon preached by Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. He had been preaching and healing in different parts of Galilee. There had been large crowds eager to hear Him, and remarkable healings had taken place. The people heard him gladly, and many showed great interest in what was being achieved. But when he came to His own home town, things were very different.

In Mark’s account of this event, we are told, ‘he could not do any miracles there’.

Matthew, borrowing from Mark, modifies this; he doesn’t want to say that Jesus couldn’t do things; so he writes:
‘he did not do many miracles there, because of their lack of faith’ .

Both Mark and Matthew describe the hostile reception that Jesus received in Nazareth. He went in to the synagogue and was invited to speak; those who were present included his parents, his brothers and sisters, and those who had grown up with him when he was a boy.

They were amazed at the way he spoke – his knowledge and understanding. But to them he wasn’t a healer and miracle worker; he was the local boy that everyone knew. How could he be a prophet or anything like it? He was far too well known for that.

Mark’s gospel tells us that they said he was the local carpenter; Matthew simply says that they thought of him as the carpenter’ son. (There was a Jewish tradition that rabbis were excused the need to work, so they could devote all their time to their studies). They had come to hear him, partly out of curiosity, but they also made an assessment out of prejudice of what he said. This began before he even opened His mouth. They totally failed to come with an open mind; they had set their minds against him. We know how before long the religious leaders did the same, and in the end they crucified Him.

We have to choose: do we assess the Word of God, or does it assess us?

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