The Grapevine



January 17, 2021

Aloha Church Family and Friends,


     Whether we know it or not, the truth is every time we set our foot at a high-priced jewelry store or a car dealership, even before we say a word, we get qualified, evaluated, assessed and judged by sales people. Their thought process usually goes like this, “Sure, everyone wants that shiny sports car or an expensive piece of jewelry- but do they have the money or enough credit to buy it? Are they the real buyers or just time-wasters who don’t have a broken dime to their name?”  But how do you decide who can and who cannot? Is it the clothes we wear, how we speak or the confidence we project when we act? The trouble with making assumptions is that they are usually all wrong- we base them on things superficial and non-essential that represent next to nothing: these days it is all upside down and really wealthy people often look low-key and drive older cars, yet people with no money for some reason try to project an image of wealth and prosperity!

     False assumptions are bad not only in our everyday situations but are even worse and more dangerous in things of spiritual nature. If you get mistreated or ignored at one car dealership or jewelry store, there is another one half a mile down the road ready to roll out a carpet. But when it comes to the matters of the spirit, our assumptions have to do with something that matters not only in this life but also in all eternity, and so the stakes are infinitely higher. It was false assumptions that prevented the Jews in the time of Jesus from recognizing him as the Savior of the world. “How can a humble suffering servant, a son of a carpenter, who was arrested and executed on the shameful cross be the promised messiah? The Savior should come in all the glory and power of prophet Elijah!”, they thought.

     In our Bible lesson from the gospel of John, we read a story about Jesus in the beginning of his public ministry recruiting his first disciples in the region of Galilee, a rural and what we’d call these days, blue-collar area. There he calls to ministry a man by the name Philip. Philip is very excited because he is convinced that Jesus is indeed the promised Savior described by the prophets, and with great enthusiasm he reaches out and shares the good news with his pal Nathanael. But Nathanael doesn’t share Philip’s excitement at all and exclaims in response.  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” “Come and see” is Philip’s response. Can anything good come from Nazareth? Talk about over-qualifying, passing judgement and making wrong assumptions! In Nathanael’s mind, Nazareth apparently was just a little, unremarkable and dull town on the wrong side of the tracks, and nothing good could ever come from it. Simply put, because of his preconceived notions and perhaps, bias and prejudice, he was on the verge of rejecting the greatest experience of a lifetime- meeting Jesus, experiencing the life-changing power of God and the gift of eternity.

     If we look deeper into our own lives, we could see that for us it is all too easy to make the same mistake: we wonder if anything good can ever come from a bad part of the town we heard about, or from a certain family that always seems to be getting in trouble with the law. When bad things happen or a tragedy strikes, even though we know that there’s always a silver lining, we cannot help but wonder if anything good could possibly come from a boring job, a stale marriage, a chronic illness, a broken relationship or a financial loss. We wonder how God could possibly work with localities or situations so dull, so painful or so hopeless and turn them into something positive and hopeful.

     When we label a situation “no good’ or “hopeless”, not only do we often make wrong assumptions about its outcome, we also give ourselves an excuse, a permission to withdraw, give up and close our eyes to new possibilities that God is working in

the midst of it all. Instead of cooperating with God and becoming open to God’s life-giving spirit, we erect a wall that insulates us from the flow of divinely inspired positive change. We read in the Bible that God operates according to a different set of rules and the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19). The things that are impossible with people are possible with God (Luke 18:27). What we as humans commonly reject, discard as worthless and ignore, God transforms, fills with new life and purpose and uses as part of His divine plan to build the realm of His love and light. And so, an unremarkable place like Nazareth becomes the home town of Jesus, our menacing life challenges and hardship become opportunities to grow and deepen our faith, and also draw closer to the very Source of our life. “God turns a desert into pools of water and a dry land into flowing springs” (Psalm 107:35)

     My friends, may God open our eyes so that we may always see new Spirit-inspired possibilities and know His amazing presence in our lives! As always, keeping you and your loved ones in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless us all!

Pastor Alex Tychkin, Lihue United Church