Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Psychologists tell us that the pain of rejection isn’t just emotional: it activates the same pathways in our brains that physical pain does. Recalling an instance of rejection is actually more traumatic than recalling an instance of significant physical pain. Why is rejection so hard? Because we are designed to live in tribes. When we’re rejected by our tribe, whether that’s the kids on the playground, the students in our class, our coworkers, our loved ones, or even our church, our fundamental need to belong is destabilized. Being rejected can send us into a surge of anger and aggression and even self-recrimination and self-destruction.
Jesus knew a thing or two about rejection. Even before he was born he was excluded. When Joseph found out that Mary was carrying a child that wasn’t his, he planned to divorce her. A visit from an angel quashed that plan, of course. Then, when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, all the inns were full, and although everyone in town for the census was a descendant of David, no extended family members offered them shelter. Later in his life Jesus would face rejection again and again, sometimes by his own family. As he hung on the cross, his own Father turned away. There was no room in this world for him.
But even though Jesus was not Joseph’s biological son, Joseph raised him as his own. He made sure Mary had what she needed to bring this child into the world, and he would go to great lengths to protect the infant Messiah from a jealous king who meant to kill him. Mary loved this baby with all her heart, even though she didn’t always understand him. On that night, the night of his birth, she wrapped him in clean strips of cloth, binding him snugly as he had been in the womb, and laid him in an animal trough filled with fresh hay, keeping him warm and safe. They made room in their lives for the long-awaited Christ. After his death, his friends would wrap him in similar strips of cloth for burial, making room for him in a borrowed tomb.
Jesus understands us. He knows how it feels to be rejected and despised, ridiculed and excluded. He suffered hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Even torture and death. So whatever we are going through, he knows how we feel. We can take all our fears and concerns to him, and he will comfort us. God loves us so much that he includes us in his kingdom, his family, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Because of our sin he has every right to reject us, but that is not his way. He is a God of mercy and compassion, making a way back to him for a people who have strayed so far away from him. So, following the example of Jesus, we are to be a people of mercy and compassion. If God is willing to overlook our sin, we can overlook the sins of our brothers and sisters. Our neighbors. Our enemies. And welcome them into the family of God by making room in our busy lives, sharing the gospel with them, caring for their needs, being generous with what we have, and loving them as Jesus loves us: warmly, wholeheartedly, and extravagantly.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (nursery care available). Discovery Hour classes for ages preschool through adult will resume in January.