He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!”
Jesus is just different.
Different from the other prophets of Israel’s great history. Different from the messianic expectations people put on him. And even different according to the people from his hometown.
I’ve always loved this little anecdotal aside from Mark’s Gospel in which, after coming home and teaching in the synagogue, all the people from Jesus’ life couldn’t believe he was doing the things he was doing and saying the things he was saying.
Jesus, after all, is different.
The church, then, is different too. We are not just some institution among other institutions that cares about the well-being of people. We are not just some religiously affiliated people who are obsessed with ancient rituals and holy text. We are those things, but we are also so much more.
For the church, in the end, is an adventure. Week after week we gather to spend time in the strange new world of the Bible in order to discover how that world is actually our world. Everything about who we are, and what we do, is different.
We are different in terms of time – because we believe in things not yet seen and how God’s kingdom is already being made manifest in the present.
We are also different in terms of space – because even though we have a building and a property we are forever sharing space with the world in God’s mission.
But most of all we are different in terms of story – because while the world will tell us again and again who we are, or what we should think is important, the Gospel stands as a stark declaration that each and every one of us have value and worth no matter what we’ve done or left undone.
The Gospel gives us a story when we had no story – it is the story of Jesus Christ who is the difference that makes all the difference.