The reports are stunning! Due to the financial fiasco of 2008 the average wealth of persons in the middle class has dropped by more than $40,000. It took four years for a generation of wealth to evaporate. It will surely take more time than this to regain these funds. What is just as appalling is the reminder that this decline was due to bad mortgage lending. Greedy lenders and dare I say some greedy borrowers (with too little money) signed for too much ... house.
What once was a source of pride and security, within less than five years has become a credit albatross and place of desolation. A house used to mean safety and monetary gain. It meant that we were on the path to some degree of prosperity. Just recently we were admonished that this path has taken a turn for the worse. The road is now replete with fiscal thorns and subprime lending rocks. So many have lost their houses. So many in our nation do not have a place to call "home."
This idea of "homelessness" not only affects persons caught in the circuitous mortgage-lending web, but it is relevant to our military personnel. Women and men from all branches are now routinely returning from Iraq only to find that there is really no home in which to lie down. It is not uncommon to hear stories of veterans who are having difficulty finding jobs and making ends meet. They risked their lives to secure the home front of these United States. Yet, these soldiers are rewarded with hard knocks and hard times pertaining to their own home stability. Do they have somewhere they can call "home"?
This is a season of transition and "meanwhile" living. College students who had become so accustomed to the confines of dorms are now transitioning. Career moves will take some graduates to places where they will acquire their first homes. Whether it is a one room on the Eastside or an apartment in the local square, it will be their residence. It will be their home.
On the other side, more and more university students will go back to their hometown. No job offers and no desire for or acceptance into graduate schools leave many with one option: going back to momma and daddy. While such accommodations provide a degree of physical security, life back at the ranch can create emotional turmoil. What was once familiar is now foreign. Acquaintances who were once a guy's "boys," a female's "girlfriends," one's "road-dogs," now seem like strangers at best. The places the pre-college student used to frequent are not as appealing. Did the town change? Did the people change? Perchance college has indeed changed that student. It is as if there is widespread xenophobia in a place that an individual knows. Is this what it means to be "home"?
A Biblical Perspective
In the Gospel's penultimate Sabbath story, Mark records Jesus attending the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth (6:1-6). Jesus is teaching, and people are astounded. What he says not only amazes them, but the "deeds of power by his hand" are just as stunning (v. 2). Yet, Jesus endures verbal abuse. This is not a result of his healing someone, but it is because of who he is. At issue is not the identity of Jesus as "Son of Man" or "Lord of the Sabbath." What is problematic is his family. Jesus' biological family and their lack of status cause trouble. Jesus is too plain, too ordinary. While elsewhere he is the healer, the restorer, at home he is just a carpenter. The same hands that touched Simon's mother-in-law and cooled her fever in Capernaum are the same hands used for merely maneuvering wood and tools at home, with a few exceptions. Jesus is no big shot in Nazareth. Jesus is just a guy at "home."
WATCH: A Prophet Without Honor:
Mark avers that Jesus is amazed at the unbelief of his neighbors (v. 6). However, Jesus does not disregard this reaction. He does not engage in a game of "hater-ation." He acknowledges the dis-ease he causes the hometown crowd. Jesus acquiesces and admits that honor comes from everyone and from everywhere except from where one would expect it, from one's own people (v. 5).
On the contrary Jesus does not allow the absence of a welcome home parade to stop him. Instead of discontinuing his deeds of power, he pays it forward. Jesus calls the 12 and gives them the authority to do what he has done (v. 7, 12). They are now to cure the possessed and heal the sick. Dare I say Jesus enacts his own Affordable Care Act? I said, "Dare, I say..." Jesus uses this moment of cognitive and social dissonance to empower others to seek the health and welfare of people in his community. Whereas, the people who knew Jesus the best appreciated him the least, his pain became the impetus for enabling the disciples to seek the greater good, the greater health good. No, I am by no means comparing Obama to Jesus. Trust me! I know better!
Home Is Where Healthcare Is?
After six months of anticipation, there is now a ruling. The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," is constitutionally legal. The president's efforts to ensure healthcare for more than 30 million uninsured have a legitimate stamp of approval. Because the government has the right to tax, Obamacare's measures are indeed permissible. The president promised to make healthcare a priority during his first campaign, and he did. There is no political promise like prioritizing citizen health and well being. In this home we call the United States of America, we now live under a federal mandate to purchase health insurance. Love it or leave it.
"The Wizard of Oz" and "The Wiz" say it best: "There's no place like home." Mortgage deals gone amok, lack of respect for military sacrifice, post-college hometown challenges, and now coercion and perhaps penalties for refusing health insurance. Yet, there is no place like these United States. Whether we loathe or cheer the Supreme Court's decision, our national home is a place rooted in hierarchal checks and balances. As even depicted in the biblical texts, home is not a place absent of drama or disagreement. No matter how a person defines "home." No matter our race, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, political ideology or health status. We all need a home; we all long for home. There is no place like home!
Editor's Note: ON Scripture - The Bible is a series of Christian scripture commentaries produced in collaboration with Odyssey Networks. Each week pastors from around the country will approach the lectionary text of the week through the lens of current events, providing a religious voice that is both pastoral and prophetic.