This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.

Dear friends,

Do you remember your emotions when you stepped out and did something new and uncharted?

Maybe you started a new job, began your first day in school as a teacher or a student, went on your first date, sold your house and moved away to a new state, or drove a car for the first time by yourself without a parent or a driving instructor.

Stepping out and launching new ventures is both exhilarating and terrifying because of the element of risk, uncertainty, and the people and things you cannot control.

How did Jesus feel when he launched his public ministry? We are not told, but it is not hard to read between the lines.

In Luke 4, Jesus goes to Nazareth, his hometown. The risks, we would imagine, are low to nonexistent because he was raised there among his neighbors, playmates, relatives, and mentors.

I feel like a mini-celebrity whenever I return to Jamaica, spend time with family and friends, and visit some of my old stomping grounds. Folks are excited to see me and want me to stay and never return to America.

On some of these visits, I fantasize about completing my ministry in Jamaica or even doing church planting because of the warmth and acceptance I feel.

So what happened when Jesus—the hometown hero—returned to Nazareth, to his friends, family, and mentors? They rejected him.

Jesus’s parents raised him well in the Jewish tradition. As was the custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He read from the scroll, gave a beautiful homily. If only he had stopped there.

But he didn’t. He went on to explain the words of Isaiah 61 and made three startling claims:

1. He is the one anointed with the Holy Spirit.
2. He is the prophet of fulfillment who declares the good news.
3. He is the Messiah who brings release to captives, healing to the blind, and freedom to the prisoners.

And, of course, all of these claims are true. But something wasn’t right.

The crowd started murmuring. “Aren’t you from right here in nowhere-special Nazareth? We know your unimpressive parents, Mary and Joseph. How dare you make such mighty claims?”

They not only rejected him, but they also had murder on their minds. They were ready to hurl him off a cliff. Some homecoming, eh?

Strange, isn’t it, how quickly we dismiss each other’s unique mission and purpose because their vision and mission don’t square with what we think is reasonable or even possible?

Jesus did not allow his family and neighbors’ negative reactions to discourage or stop him. Once he dodged their efforts to kill him, Luke notes, “…he (Jesus) passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” (Luke 4:30)

When others try to stifle your dream—a dream you are confident is meant for you to pursue—the best response is to avoid wasting time trying to win people to your side. Time is short. Resources are limited, and there are people in other places who will receive you and believe in you.

As we begin a new fall season, we are also beginning many new things we believe God is calling us to: new small groups, new adult education class, new Youth and Children’s Faith Formation activities. Consider joining us in these or other areas you believe God is calling you into. Remember, he didn’t call theological experts to help build his ministry; he called those who chose to follow him.

A Place at the Table and Kickoff
Don’t forget the new 9:30 am worship time this Sunday morning. After the worship service, I invite you upstairs to experience our lineup of Fall Kickoff activities.

Lord, thank you for Jesus’s persistence in the face of rejection and opposition. As summer gives way to fall and winter, imbue us with your vision, sense of mission, and clear purpose. We know the opposition, loss, and setbacks will come, but we also know that you are with us, and you intend to use our obstacles to grow us in the grace and strength of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blessed to be serving with you here,

Rev. Raymond Hylton

© 2021 First Presbyterian Church of Evanston

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