I'm from a small town. I mean, really small. The kind of small where if you're a teenager caught doing something stupid (like firing a potato gun) the police would know who you were and who your parents were and could probably drive you back home without looking up the street. Dadeville is your typical small town Alabama. County seat, few thousand people, the occasional lawn mower race, even won the AA State Championship in like 1984 or something - we don't have our own Walmart, we have to go to Alex City for that kind of stuff. But it does have everything you need to fall in love with Alabama.
This past Sunday, I preached on remembering our Baptism*. No small feat for any Christian who a) was an infant and so has no personal recollection of said baptism. b) hears constantly the shortcomings of our ability to find God among other Christians, the world, or ourselves.
This week, we are looking at Jesus beginning his ministry out of Nazareth. And one of the first questions asked is...
Jesus of... Nazareth? How can anything good come out of that place?
Dadeville? Where the heck is Dadeville? Can anything good come out of Dadeville?
This is of course, a question that few people from Dadeville ever ask. Folks from Tallapoosa County know that great things come out of Dadeville. As a small town there is definitely a bit of gossip that gets around easily. When you've only got one school system, you graduate high school with the same 70+ people you started Kindergarten with. That means you really know everyone and you know what they are capable of. You know what families they come from and what Church they go to. You know who has trouble paying the bills and which families work hard. But since its a small town, you also know who you can turn to when you need help. All in all, Dadeville was a great place to grow up with some great people. Why would someone ask such a silly thing as "Can anything good come out of Dadeville?"
Pride hampers our ability to see God working in others - especially when we take into consideration where they come from.
We can devalue ourselves, to be sure. We hear whispers of our failures, our lies, our hurt. The voices are many that would tear us down. Our society, families, self, and maybe even our spouse. But there is another voice, God's voice, telling me that inside this skin is the image of God. I am one of the beloved. Our Baptism is a voice from heaven reminding us whose we are. We are reminded that God's claim on our lives makes all things possible.
Last week was about seeing Christ in ourselves - this week the sermon will be about finding Christ in others. We might devalue ourselves but we can quickly devalue others because of where they have been (or where they are from).
Even folks from Dadeville.
Even folks who gripe all the time, or smell funny, or don't believe in Jesus like I do, or have a different skin color, or voted for someone other than Obama, or are close-minded, or don't work hard or they'd live in a big fancy city, or are unintelligent, or don't have all their teeth.
Because if you are from Dadeville, you'd know that all those labels are about as worthless as trying to catch one of the giant catfish in Lake Martin. They ain't perfect, but they have built a community that they can be proud of. Its even a great place to raise a kid or two or three. Its folks who have never been to Dadeville who say, "oh, that place is backwater...its not important and nothing important will ever come from there. But folks from Dadeville know better.
See, Jesus, he's not from the big city. He didn't come from a celebrated family with money. He wasn't a preacher's kid, a jock, or SGA president. Jesus was from Dadeville.
He identifies first with the rejected, the despised, the oppressed. You want to see oppression? Go out into the woods in any small town in Alabama and see what a family with no job and five kids can survive on. See where they can live. What they can inject into their veins to forget that they are just no-named redneck folk from Dadeville. I digress...
Jesus was from a little town that was known for being a worthless place holder on the map. The Galilee area was where the hicks were. But he wouldn't have any of it - he heard a voice from God. He knew who he is, no matter where he came from. He knows who you are too.
Don't discount people because they are different. When Nathanael asked if anything good could come from Nazareth, Philip didn't argue. He didn't stop and show the travel brochure of the area or launch into Nathanael for being small minded. He offered a bit of advice: "Come and see"
God help us as Christians when we stop inviting others to come and see how good the Lord is to us. Philip's response to Nathanael's balk is soft, but challenging. Come and see. It isn't rude, shocked, or really all that defensive. Its an invitation: come and see. Be a part of this with me. Share your world with mine. You'll discover more than just some hick who tells funny stories.
Where did you say Jesus was!?
Come and see.
*The clip might not be accurate after the week of January 18th, 2009.