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,

a SyroPhoenecian.

 

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?

 

But wait,

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."

 

Brilliant!

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

bonifide prejudice.

 

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,

perfect,

And perfectly content

as only someone with the label

“God” tattooed across his heart could be.

 

But here,

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.

Yes,

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,

automatic perfection.

 

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,

to want,

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-

Everyone!

as a fellow traveller in this Way.

 

They-

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.

 

She wrote

“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

Economically,

Politically…..

Sometimes,

Sad to say,   Even spiritually.

 

There is a cure for that-

One cure-

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.

 

Move over,

And let All come under the table

and share the crumbs today.     Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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