Dr. Lillian Daniel: The limits of taste

Mark 6:1-3

"He left there and returned to his hometown.  His disciples came along.  On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place.  He made a real hit, impressing everyone.  'We had no idea he was this good!' they said.  'How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?' But in the next breath they were cutting him down." (The Message) 

Reflection by Lillian Daniel

Someone was complaining to me about why she had stopped going to her church, saying, "You know, when it came to worship, I just didn't get much out of it." 

To which I replied, "Well, it wasn't directed toward you." 

Worship is directed toward God. If there's anyone who should get something out of worship it's the creator of all things seen and unseen.  If there's anyone the choir should hope will delight in a beautiful anthem, it's the One who invented musical taste in the first place. If there's a target audience for a sermon it's probably the One who died on the cross for preaching his own. If there's anyone meant to get something out of our silent prayers, it should be the One we are praying to. Worship is one of the few places in our society where we hear some shocking news: it's not all about you. 

When Jesus Christ himself showed up to preach, in the very town where he was raised, the townspeople were so excited at first, but then it went very quickly awry. Faced with a word from the Son of God himself, it was still just a matter of opinion. And they essentially said, "You know, I just didn't get much out of that." 

Jesus could have done back flips and other stunts to entertain the hometown crowd. He could have asked them what they were into that day. But he refused to be a service provider. 

In the church at its best, we challenge the idolatry of opinion and acknowledge the limits of our own taste. We study an ancient and complex book and not just the latest fad or our own most recent opinion. In the church at its best we are a vagabond group of naysayers saying to a culture of narcissism, ""No, it is not all about you." 

But in the pressure to grow, to prosper, or just to keep going, we can fall prey to our service provider culture, so that the church at its worst sees the parishioner as customer and asks, "What do you want? What programs do you need? Sure, we can do that."

But when Jesus himself appeared and preached to the people who should have loved him most, even he wasn't good enough. And two thousand years later we read about the limits of their taste. 


Mysterious creator of all things seen and unseen, in a world that tells me that my opinions and tastes are paramount, remind me to listen for something larger and more transcendent. Amen.

[Taken with the author's permission from the UCC StillSpeaking Devotional, Nov. 20, 2011.]