Homily: September 6, 2015
Pentacost 15, YEAR B; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar Dogs under the table
It's a familiar image to most of us-
Dogs always seem to be hungry.
This image appears in today's gospel reading-
in an extremely curious way.
The story goes like this.
Jesus really doesn't want to be bothered-
He's pushed, tired,
Maybe a little overcommitted.
Then along comes this Gentile woman,
Like hundreds of other people that week,
She asks Jesus to heal her loved one,
her little daughter.
Who wouldn’t be moved by such a request?
Jesus rejects her ask-
essentially telling her
"My healing power isn’t meant for you, little dog."
That’s the least offensive way I can
Translate what Jesus says to her.
A couple of Background checks are in order here.
First, Dogs in Jewish culture were trash animals-
The garbage collectors
The wild roamers-
Not domesticated, well loved pets-
like Finn Shadow McKool the Wonder Dog
is at our house.
So this title appears to be an insult,
Hurled by Jesus in the woman’s face.
Second, most Israelites despised the residents of Tyre-
It was close by
Just across the northern border of Galilee from where Jesus grew up-
But Tyre and its surrounding countryside
were Gentile, not Jewish like Jesus.
As if that weren’t enough
Tyre and its flourishing countryside
were also direct competitors with Israel
for the almighty drachma of the traders
who moved back and forth across the East.
So, Jesus goes there knowing that the crowd wouldn’t follow him.
Knowing all this makes Jesus’ reaction to the woman’s request
A little more culturally understandable.
Jesus makes it clear to her
that he thinks he owes her nothing.
But the woman refuses to be deterred.
In fact, She takes up Jesus' unflattering “dog” comment
And turns it around
And hits him over the head with it.
"Even the dogs under the table gather up the crumbs."
So Jesus grants her request.
Happy endings for all!
But wait just a minute.
Isn't there a huge disconnect between THIS Jesus
and the one we WANT to believe in?
I proclaim every Sunday at this Table:
Jesus welcomes all!
But here we have a story
with Jesus evidencing what appears to be
a native unjustifiable
It’s obvious Jesus doesn’t want to help this woman.
I can't deny that this bothers me.
It bothers me a lot.
But I want us to learn a lesson here.
Jesus grows in his self awareness
And his acceptance of other people throughout his earthly life.
Think about that.
We may have been taught that Jesus as God
sailed through his earthly existence,
knowledgeable about everything,
And perfectly content
as only someone with the label
“God” tattooed across his heart could be.
As elsewhere in the gospels,
we see a different Jesus-
Here we see someone who struggles
and learns and grows
more and more and more with each passing day.
Don’t get me wrong here.
Jesus was sent by God in heaven,
And he is in some sense always one with God.
But the lesson here for US
is that that Jesus’ oneness with God
didn’t mean full knowledge,
an easy time of it,
So it is also for us this morning
who follow the Way of Jesus-
to borrow a phrase from our AA brothers and sisters:
We seek Progress- not Perfection.
One of the reasons
I like our faith community so much is
that we have a model of that struggle and growth
Front and center every time we gather here.
Look behind me at the picture of Christ in Gethsemane.
In spite of the angelic expression on Jesus face
this is emphatically not a person who is automatically at peace.
This Jesus fell to his knees
and struggled to know,
and to do God’s will-
to the point of sweating great drops of blood.
That’s real spiritual life.
That’s our spiritual life.
This Jesus teaches us that
it’s ok to struggle- to question, to wrestle….
Struggle is mandatory-
And so is growth.
They go together in the Way of Jesus.
That’s also why we are called to treat everyone else in life-
as a fellow traveller in this Way.
like us- are ALWAYS on the way.-
they are struggling and growing-
and we need to give them the space to do that.
…. Just as Jesus grew in his life
…. Just as God gives us space to grow in ours.
That space is here-now-
The space God has given us to struggle and grow.
One case in point:
There has been a lot of heat and very little light
recently shed broad in our neighborhoods
About race relations.
Black lives matter. Yes.
White lives matter. Yes
All lives matter. Yes.
But what matters just as much
As each individual life,
With our freedoms and our failures,
Is that we all recognize each other’s
common need and freedom to grow.
Our Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
has issued a letter calling on Episcopal congregations
to participate in
“Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” today.
“Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone;
it will also require a change of heart and thinking,”
then she she quotes , AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson.
“the faith community must lead,
and be the conscience of the nation.
And lead others in a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism,
this includes ignoring, tolerating and accepting racism,
and to make a commitment to end racism
by the example of our lives and actions.”
This is no two tier or three tier community we live in-
Although it most often appears that way
Sad to say, Even spiritually.
There is a cure for that-
The only cure
From our gospel lesson today.
When will we recognize
That we All of us,
Syrophonencian and Jewish,
Racist and those discriminated against,
Gay and straight,
Young and old,
Republican and democrat and independent
We are ALL called by God to give each other
The space and freedom and room to grow-
We need to give other the room to grow and change.
And let All come under the table
and share the crumbs today. Amen.