The surprise in today's gospel is not that Jesus was rejected at home; that happens a lot.
The surprise is that he gives the disciples authority over demons, which is a rare reversal.
In the biblical world's hierarchy, demons have authority over human beings.
They possess us, we don't possess them.
In his classic, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis famously imagines an experienced demon mentoring a rookie in this line of work.
Screwtape explains to his protégé Wormwood how their enemy, God, ticks:
One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and his service being perfect freedom, is not...mere propaganda, but an appalling truth...
We want cattle who can finally become food; he wants servants who can finally become sons...
You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses at any moment.
But now you see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use...
He cannot ravish.
He can only woo.
Demon possession is hostile takeover.
God only possesses people if and when invited to do so.
God honors our right to reject God.
And God retains the right to accept us and defend our dignity and freedom, which is why
Jesus shares the prison key with his disciples—to set other people free.
Today our nation celebrates its freedom on this anniversary of its bold declaration that it would no longer by shackled to the whims and usurpations of a tyrannical king; it is an ideal day for us as a church to remember the very different nature of the kingdom Jesus announced.
There were no Redcoats dispatched to Nazareth.
There were no reinforcements sent to inhospitable villages.
There were no violent tantrums of tyranny because the king's fragile ego was wounded by rejection or bad press—that's foreshadowing for next week.
The kingdom of God does not overpower demons just to become yet another one.
So those of us called and sent to promote it, the church entrusted with speaking and serving this kingdom, dare not compel or force people to join or believe or anything else.
Because we are God's children, we cannot ravish, we can only woo.
We walk into the world with empty hands and full hearts, not the other way round.
We cherish and defend the freedom of others at least much as we do our own.
When we decide whether or not to wear a mask, we value our neighbor's well-being and we also honor our neighbors who reach a different decision than we do.
This kingdom approach sets us up for misunderstading and frustration and rejection in a world that doesn't think or work that way.
We are different because God is different, love is different – and that is what sets us up for
success, a power no demon can match.
We are called and sent to set others free from whatever imprisons and diminishes them—
addiction, debt, loneliness, abuse, despair, dysfunction, fear, whatever.
Sometimes we settle for guilt and programming, because it is easier to coerce than to attract, to build churches than to rebuild souls.
It is easier to sing in harmony than to accept conflict and risk rejection.
The good news is that Jesus does not settle.
When his hometown doesn't trust, he doubles down with disciples in other villages.
When the world crucifies him, he doubles down with resurrection.
No matter how strong or stubborn it becomes, our rejection will never take away God's freedom to keep loving us.