“He’s only Mary and Joseph’s boy…..only a carpenter from Nazareth.”
At the start of our worship Barbara held up a toilet roll – only a roll of paper, only an everyday item, hardly worth a second thought – yet suddenly it became the most important thing in the world!
How often do we hear a person described as ‘only’? They’re only a child. They’re only the neighbour / only the person who works at Marks / only the person who sits outside Tesco with a cardboard cup asking for help. So many ‘only’s. What do we mean by describing a person as ‘only’ and what are we measuring people against when we say they’re ‘only’?
How often do we apply that same phase to ourselves? It’s only me. I’m only Nigel. I’m only a member of the congregation or I’m only in the choir?
I bet many of us who are parents, when we’ve said to our children about keeping their room tidy or looking after their things get the answer back: “Well its only me”. It’s only me who is affected. Why the fuss? Why does it matter to you?
So, it’s only me. Are we saying we don’t value ourselves very highly. Or even, I’m nobody, I don’t count. I don’t raise expectations. I don’t expect too much of myself; and nor do we expect others to think too much of us either. As soon as we say ‘only’ we put a limit on things.
Back to the toilet roll – or lack of – situation…..When lock down set in last year we were suddenly confronted by the realisation of just how important many people were – not just the NHS, the doctors and nurses, the care workers, but also the checkout workers, the delivery drivers, the cleaners, the bin men .. and scores of others. They weren’t just ‘only’ then. The previous assumptions we may well have held were found to be completely wrong.
The reality is that no one is ‘only’; no one is nobody – everyone is somebody. Everyone has value. And everybdy has something to offer, something they can be. If we stop to think about it, we are all important to ourselves and each other.
Those who were listening to Jesus and had started complaining “Who does he think he is – he’s only the carpenter’s boy; how come he’s standing there saying that he has something important to tell us; what makes him think that he will have something to say that we should take notice of.”
Only the carpenter’s boy
Those who were listening to Jesus and had started complaining “Who does he think he is – he’s only Mary and Joseph’s boy; how come he’s standing there saying that he has something important to tell us; what makes him think that he will have something to say that we should take notice of.”
He’s only the carpenter’s boy! We know who his Mum and Dad are; they are ‘only’ ordinary folk; nothing special.
They had conveniently forgotten that all through their own history God had raised up unlikely people; chosen and empowered them to do great things. Abraham, an old man who had carried so much doubt, yet became father of the nation; David, the shepherd boy who became a most revered king. In our first reading today we heard about Elijah who had had enough, who felt he was a nobody, who just wanted to die. But God called him, revived him and he went on to do great things.
Jesus himself called very ordinary people to be his close friends, his disciples. They were only fishermen, only everyday people; he even called Matthew, only a taxman, someone who everyone loved to hate! Then there were the ‘only’ people, thousands of them, who formed the early church and whom we read about in the Acts of the Apostles.
‘Only people’. The Bible is full of them.
And what about us here today? Are we also ‘only’ people? God offers us the same as those who followed Jesus 2000 years ago. Offers us a relationship with Jesus where there is no limit to what we can do – especially when we act together. Jesus once said about not hiding your light under a bowl. We all have a part to play. We are all important – we can all do something and we are all valued.
Only Mary and Joseph’s boy
I wonder if we had been in the crowd in Galilee that day listening to Jesus would we have recognised him as only Mary and Joseph’s boy or would we have seen something more than that? How do we recognise him now, today? Knowing what we know, reading what we read in the pages of the New Testament? Do we recognise him for who he is? Are we prepared to take and eat the Bread of Life that he offers as part of a long-term diet plan? A plan that will build us up and sustain us for the journey through life? And what is this Bread of Life? It’s being fed by Jesus with his words, teaching, behaviour, actions. It’s being nourished by a life lived in the way of the kingdom of God.
I’m going to ask you to sit and reflect on being offered a life with and in Jesus where there is no limit to what you can do. A life where we are not ‘only’ people. A couple of years ago at Spring Harvest there was a choir of children from an orphanage in Uganda. They were only children, only orphans who once thought they were only that with no expectations; but they were gathered together and cared for by Christian Missionaries. Jesus was brought to their lives; their hopes and expectations raised. They formed the Watoto Children’s Choir. They came to sing to us and remind us that we should not limit our life expectations because, as this song says I am not forgotten, God knows my name. We will play it for you now as we reflect.
An important somebody
We end this reflection by singing together ‘This little light of mine’. I suggest that as we sing we think about how we are going to make our light shine in our community, and I suggest that, if you wish, we raise an arm or turn on the light on your mobile phone as we sing the chorus to show I am not an ‘Only’ – I am not only a congregation member; I am not only a choir member – and I am actually an important somebody in Jesus; and there are no limits to what I can do for him and with him. Amen.