"Emiliano Zapata: What Good Ever Comes Out of Nazareth?" by Pastor A.J. Houseman
Updated: Jan 21
A decade ago, I lived in Mexico serving as a missionary for a program the Lutheran Church has called Young Adults in Global Mission. I worked at a school for persons with Down-Syndrome and took a bus there every day. Every day, I transferred buses in the Emiliano Zapata park, where right in the center of this square was a huge statue of Emiliano Zapata.
Many of you may never have heard of Emiliano Zapata, but in Mexico he is a bit of a hero. He was a leading figure in the Mexican revolution from 1910-1920.
He was born in a small village in rural Morelos. Villages like his were being forcibly being taken for a small upper class to monopolize land and water for the sugar cane industry.
At one point, the federal army came through employing the scorched-earth policy. Where they burned villages and forcibly removed their inhabitants and drafting them into the army or sending them to southern Mexico to work in forced labor camps.
Emiliano stood up for the people. The peasants. The little people that were taken advantage of and had little to support themselves. He started a movement to reclaim the land, instill articles for land ownership in the Mexican constitution of 1917, and defended the people of this place until he was killed in 1919.
He took up this work because it was a calling. I imagine there were times when he thought to himself, “why me?” or “I don’t know if I can do this” or “WHO AM I do to this?”
Emiliano was a nobody. A peasant. From the middle of nowhere.
I imagine often times the disciples felt this way after their calling. Who am I to be this important? These people who have become some of the most famous people throughout all of history all over the world. I mean, who else has their story read every single week across the globe?! …… Maybe Harry Potter, but probably still not even close!
And how about Jesus himself? I mean when he comes on the scene he’s a nobody. Just some carpenter’s son from a little backwater town in Galilee. “Can anything good ever come out of Nazareth?”
Here in lies the prejudice. The stereotyping of persons of certain cultures and certain places.
Emiliano faced this kind of prejudice. In his place and time, as an indigenous person in a country struggling with the heinous acts that come with colonialism.
This absurd assumption that because of who you are, because of where you are born, because of your family origin, you are less than. “Can anything good ever come out of Nazareth?”
Since i’ve lived on the east coast, so many people stick up their noses to the midwest. I’ve literally had someone tell me that they don’t care what’s on the other side of Pennsylvania, that those places are irrelevant. That where I’m from and those people don’t matter.
Or how about what people say about Baltimore?
See the thing is, the thing for Emiliano, for us in Baltimore, or the midwest that no one cares about, and the thing for Jesus and his disciples, see the thing is, God calls us into discipleship anyways.
God didn’t stop and only chose people from really important places. God calls a young Mexican peasant. God calls the disciples who were fishermen, tax collectors, and other random guys from the backwaters of Galilee. God’s own son is from one of these little villages. AND God calls the people of (Locust Point) / (South Baltimore).
A wise person once told me a long time ago that the Holy Spirit is like someone whacking you across the gut with a 2x4, and you can’t ignore someone hitting you with a 2x4.
This is God’s call. This is the call of the Holy Spirit who, no matter who you are or where you are from, is calling.
These guys 2,000 years ago had no idea what would happen when God called. That their daily lives would be interrupted by something incredible. That 2,000 years later, people would still be talking about it.
Emiliano had no idea that there would one day be statues in his name. He didn’t do what he did for fame or glory. He was just called, and God interrupted his daily life for something incredible.
Where and how is God interrupting your life with something incredible? Where is God calling you? What is God calling you for?
These are the questions, I want you to take with you this week. To see where and how God is calling you. To see the incredible that interrupts our daily lives.
God is calling. Will you follow? Amen.