2016 Lenten Devotional: Nazareth and Neighborhoods

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law andalso the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’” –John 1:45-46

I remember when I first moved back to Boston after living in Washington, DC; I found a nice apartment in the Ashmont neighborhood of Dorchester.

“Ashmont? Oh, you don’t want to live there. Isn’t it dangerous? Nothing good comes out of Ashmont.”

Having grown up white and privileged, I’ve heard comments like that all my life.  Ashmont, Roxbury, Savin Hill, Fields Corner, East Boston – the list goes on and on – all places people like me were supposed to avoid. What did they have in common? They were usually majority-minority, lower income neighborhoods

As Nathanael so bluntly reminds us: Jesus didn’t come from Back Bay. The stable Jesus was born in wasn’t sitting on a quant countryside farm in Dover. Jesus wasn’t raised in Wellesley or even Brookline. Turns out Nazareth was much more Lawrence than Andover.

If I can be sure of one thing, it is that Jesus will continue to defy the boxes we place him in. As he’s drawing us in to comfort us, he’s showing us more intimately how we might be asked to stretch and grow. As we walk more closely with him this Lent, might we begin to notice the ways he is different than us. And then, might we begin to see him in those neighborhoods and people we’re told to avoid. And through it all, might our hearts be forever changed.

“Can anything good come out of Lawrence?”

“Come and see”


Holy God, just for today, allow me to walk close enough to Christ that it becomes a bit uncomfortable. Then, allow me to walk close enough to those who make me uncomfortable, so that I might see Christ. Amen.

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