Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” I don’t remember struggling more with the gospel than I have in the last few weeks. And I don’t mean struggling to interpret the truth of the gospel. I mean struggling with that truth in my life, struggling with what that truth reveals about us and our country, struggling with what that truth is asking of us, and struggling with that truth in what I say to you each Sunday.
America is in a hard place these days, and we have been for quite a while. Over the last few months of the coronavirus many have said that we’re all in this together. Yes, but we’re not all together in this. We are not “all together in one place” on this day of Pentecost. Our country is divided, fragmented, and wounded. And so is my heart. Maybe yours is too. It’s not easy to talk about our wounds; whether it’s our individual wounds or our national wounds, whether it’s the wounds we’ve received or the ones we’ve inflicted. To talk about our wounds requires us to look at what we’ve done and left undone. It means we each have to look within ourselves. It means taking responsibility for our lives. It means valuing the life and wounds of another as much as our own.
We all face giants, Philistines, in our lives. Sometimes it’s personal and unique to our particular situation. Goliath might be an illness, loneliness, the loss of a loved one. Maybe a rift in a relationship is standing tall. Or maybe it feels as if your life is moving out of control and you’re powerless to do anything. Other times Goliath might be more systemic. It’s mass shootings in our country, violence throughout the world, war in the middle east, racism, immigration. Goliath shows up in lots of ways.
Every time Goliath shows up the battle lines are drawn. The battle is not, however, what we often think it is.
Over the last few days I thought a lot about my Nazareths; the people, places, and situations that I had no right to judge, question, or label but I did, and sometimes still do. I’ve wondered about the ways I’ve belittled, demeaned, and rejected the Nazareths in my life. I am sure I lost more by their absence from my life than they would have gained by my presence in theirs. And I wonder how many times I have missed the Messiah’s presence because I refused to look toward Nazareth.