Do any folks watch HGTV? There are many different shows, but they often feature very wealthy couples renovating a home with a budget that is way out of reach for the average American. A show called House Hunters has even spun off siblings House Hunters International, House Hunters Gen Z, Tiny House Hunters. The premise in all these shows is that a couple is shown three houses over an episode. Then they pick one home to purchase. I am sure there is creative editing in the show. Still, you often see that their expectations are unrealistic, their budgets don’t align with their occupations, and their concerns are not what the average American is generally concerned about.
There is another show called Bargain Block, and as Diana Butler Bass recently pointed out in a blog post entitled Is There a Doctor in the House? This show is very different. The show features Keith and Evan, a couple who renovated homes together in the city of Detroit. They try to use recycled materials and second-hand furniture and price their homes so they are affordable to local residents. When they sell a house, they sell it with all the furniture. What is truly unique about this show is that they live in the homes as they fix them up. They get to know a house with all its unique characteristics. They get to know a neighborhood and understand how it functions. These homes are not in good shape. I saw one episode where they purchased a home for 1,000 dollars. Whatever you imagine you can buy for 1,000, it was probably worse, but they moved in and got to work. They will purchase several blighted homes on one block and help to renew a neighborhood block by block.
As you may recall, last week, we reflected on a visit Jesus made to his hometown synagogue. Where he edited Isaiah 61 and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This week we are going to look at how the crowd reacts. He returns the scroll and then tells them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. The NRSV tells us they reacted with amazement, saying, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” The language here is a little ambiguous. This could mean amazement in like “Wow, that is awesome,” or it could be more like “Man, I can’t believe he said that. What is wrong with him?” Either way, Jesus takes it further after the crowd longs to see the miracles like the ones he did in Capernaum. Jesus introduces several new images. He describes that there were many widows that Elijah could have stayed with during the great famine, but he stayed with one who was outside the covenant. Many Jewish people had skin diseases, yet Elisha didn’t heal any of them; instead, he healed a Syrian General Naaman. Again, a man outside the Covenant and a representative of conquering Kingdom. The people are so enraged that they bring Jesus to a cliff to toss him to his death.
We see a lot of different things in their reaction. Some of this is probably pent-up frustration at Roman rule. These people have been kicked around so much they were angry. Some of this is perhaps blind nationalism. Remember, this is a Jewish stronghold surrounded by a sea of gentiles. Some of this is because Jesus did not follow the script laid out for him, they want to hear how God will deliver them, and then they will be able to oppress the people who oppressed them. They forget that they are broken people in the midst of a broken world.
This is a truth; the church often forgets this as well. For centuries the church has often looked at the world as an outsider, the idea of being in the world but not of the world. Many different theologies have arisen around this idea as Diana Butler Bass says, “liberal Christians with dreams of building the Kingdom of God on earth, progressives with a savior complex, evangelicals seeking to restore a “Christian nation.” Fundamentalists imagining a world under God’s dominion, each vision is shaped by the idea of the church having something the world doesn’t possess and can’t do. Fixing, restoring, saving, building- what you have- is an intervention from some expert who doesn’t really know the neighborhood”.
Professor Eddie Glaude recently remarked that this is how many of his Princeton students experience the world as “broken.” Climate chaos, economic inequality, democracy in turmoil, technology altering life, and a pandemic all point to this brokenness. His students fear that they may be broken as well.
Nothing will truly change until we realize that we live in a home that needs repair. That we are like Keith and Evan, we can’t go home at night to a house that gleams, to a place where the plumbing isn’t busted, or wiring isn’t on the fritz, or the windows aren’t broken. In Judaism, they often speak about a partnership with God to build a better and more just society. We often talk about saving the world in Christianity, and many link this to heaven. But a better theological and biblical understanding of the concept of “saving” is healing, restoring, and making whole. This is what Jesus is talking about that makes the crowd so upset. He is talking about saving, not the people they expect. But his “saving” healing, restoring, and making whole extends to the crowd, their neighbors, and our whole world. This is the invitation that we are invited to participate in this healing, restoring, and making whole. Part of our job as the church is to invite others into this work.
As a church, we need to seek out partners in unexpected places. Partnership who may not act like us, think like us, look like us but are seeking to heal, restore, and make the world whole.