Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Nazareth, Gennesaret, these are the small towns in Galilee where Jesus was based and began his ministry. He would, of course, go to Jerusalem. There he would debate with the priests, challenge the power of the Temple, and become a political threat to be arrested, humiliated and executed. This was what had to be. This was why he came. This is his signiﬁcance for us; Jesus is the cruciﬁed and risen Son of God. But those little communities in the north are also necessary.
We understand from Jesus that God is love, that God forgives, that God reaches out to people who seem forgotten, that God restores and everything else. We are to be the same. But God is not love in an abstract way. God loves people, particular people. Jesus proclaims the nature of God not on paper or in theory, but in Capernaum, in the synagogue, in someone’s house and beside the road.
We ask who Jesus is, but his signiﬁcance is not in who he is in himself, but who he is for us. Love cannot exist without an object.
And the same is true for us. The church is only the church when it exists for others. Jesus Christ is only present when we follow him, and he leads us, always, towards our neighbours.
Burton Latimer Baptist Church can only be itself when it exists for the people around it, the actual people. Being local does not mean being less important. The awkward problems and limited opportunities of any church’s setting are not a distraction from faith and mission, they are precisely where God will be found and where faith becomes real.
Be local. Be speciﬁc. Be like the man from Nazareth.