The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Rejection hurts. Everyone knows this. It doesn’t matter whether it is in a familial, romantic, school, work, sport setting rejection by a person or the group hurts. Psychology will talk about the neurological and physical experience being actually painful and very deep rooted in us be-cause we need others – our ‘tribe’ – and thus we are extra sensitive to rejection because being ostracised might have killed us in the past. Rejection triggers all sorts of things within us – our desire to belong, anger and aggression, and can send us down a path of poor thinking, poor personal assessments, poor judgements, poor behaviour. Rejection has a way of short circuiting reason. It’s a tangled mess to be rejected. And we often say that a rejection ‘isn’t the end’ (because there will be someone / something else later) and we are very often right – life does move on – but if the rejection is definite, then that relationship has ended or definitely changed. Yes, rejection hurts.

I am swirling in rejection because last Sunday when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples he said that those disciples would be received or rejected – and if they were rejected, don’t take it personally, the rejection is really of Jesus and the One who sent him. But all rejection is personal. So I went wandering in the Gospels and noticed – I knew this I suppose but now I noticed it – that one of Jesus’ descriptions is that he is the Rejected One. He is rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and scribes – and he is the stone the builders rejected. This rejection is about an examination and he is deemed to be useless, deficient, counterfeit. The story of God and people throughout the
Bible is largely one of humanity rejecting God and God responding. God perseveres with people.

Sometimes he acts patiently and works with his rebellious people calling them to him and working for them. Sometimes his actions confirm their rejection and show the consequence of their rejection. Each generation faces the same God but in evolving situations based on what has gone before – and the pattern remains that humanity rejects God – rejects Jesus. ‘He is not the God we want.’ I do wonder whether if Jesus turned up for a chat and we discovered that he didn’t agree with our views on politics, sexuality, the economy, or music whether we’d say, ‘Hang on, you’re not the real Jesus!’.

So it seems that we don’t want to be rejected but we have the capacity to reject. Why do we do it? In one sense only we can answer that question but thinking ‘big picture’ I’m going to suggest that as finite beings with limited time rejecting others meets our need for something – power and trying to make our lives in our image, as we want. That is why rejection is god-like. I cut you off. I reshape our relationship. Tough. But then along comes this God we meet in Jesus. Yes, he has ultimate power and if he rejects us, we do indeed die. But reading the Bible and meeting Jesus, we discover that this God puts himself in the place of rejection to rescue us, to speak to our deepest fears of rejection, that he is gracious and loving and forgiving and merciful and that he offers himself and his life all in service
to us. It is on his terms though – and Jesus calls us to follow him. It is hard to believe – that God who could (should!) reject us does everything not to meet his needs but to serve us. Consider the cross. Jesus speaks to those who are rejected and to those who reject and says to both ‘Follow me’. And where will that journey end? — GS