Sunday, July 27, 2008

Matt 15:21-28

It is Sunday and maybe anyone who reads this is not in a church today. There is something not working in the formula for perhaps some of us that has worked in Christianity for hundreds of years.

I believe there is an adage of sorts that says that the best way to learn a subject is to teach a subject.

I am fumbling with my faith in my quest to do something or get someplace other than where the (forgive me for saying this) cookie cutter religions what us to go, accept, purchase and not complain about the product etc.

This practice and or theorectical homily was assembled in accordance to a one year lectionary and in conjunction with the second Sunday of Lent.

A bit abstract for me but a great learning tool for myself and for one who in retrospect being so painfully shy in his youth as to think he could not get up and deliver somthing like this.

It also got a large number of hits on another site. Odd/Curious thing?


The opening reading from Psalm 121 is something that really brings home some very specific memories to me.

I had been, and very briefly, an elder in a congregation that used this Psalm as the cornerstone of it's being.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth."

That congregation started over sixty years ago on the edge of the desert. It had then a majestic view of mountains to the north. Now it is sandwiched in between parking lots, fast food joints and office buildings.

Though I can visualize when in something like 1948, a dozen families made a commitment to buy a small parcel of land. On that land they built a church and a grade school. I have met some of the children educated at that school over the years. One stands out in memory as having been in the Peace Corp.

If you think of all the good that affected the human race and coming from the children educated there, well the possibilities stagger the imagination. I think of the promise of God to Abraham about how the number of his descendents would number more that the sands of the earth or the stars of the sky.

For those of you, who have never lived and worked in the desert, let me tell you something. It can get hot. How hot? Very hot. But they say it is dry heat.

Ladies and gentlemen. One hundred and twenty degrees in the desert in the summer is comparable to being a dressed up Thanksgiving turkey coming out of the refrigerator at five in the morning and being rudely placed into a preheated three hundred and fifty degree oven. And they call it dry heat.

The desert reduces you and your psyche to some bare minimums. There is a line from a popular song "A Horse with no Name" of many years back. "In the desert you can remember your name, cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain."

Little wonder God chose Jesus to wander about a desert for forty days to get his head on straight for the difficult task of his brief but revolutionary mission to preach the good news of the coming more freely of the spirit of God into the human race.

And following through with the reading of Roman 5:1-5

"Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought us that blessing of God's grace that we now enjoy."

Romans is always very simple and clear in saying what we as Christians are all about.

I could stand here and talk about faith or grace. But most of you know what those things are about. Or so we think we know.

Today's gospel reading is an obscure passage. I say obscure because when I read it to make comment, I did not remember this text with any clarity. I probably read it once, was speed-reading or the like. It did not strike a chord in my gut. It is not the most familiar or popular group of lines in the Christian testament.

In fact I had to read this passage several times and went back and forth between my New Century Version Bible and then back to the old standard, a rock of ages, the King James version. Even then, I only got a light feeling about what seems very not in character with our familiar view of Jesus. I finally got some insight from a few lines of Martin Luther in one of his sermons to feel comfortable enough in my skin to talk to you about it.

A woman of Canaan, a non-Jewish woman, comes to the miracle worker Jesus to beg a cure for her sick daughter. Jesus ignores her. He does not answer. She makes a big fuss and his followers want him to send her away presumably with her request fulfilled.

Jesus stands pat and states that "God sent me only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel".

This harkens back to Matthew 5:17 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill."

So here is this predicament. Jesus does make exceptions as to who he might help outside his primary faith of Judaism. But here I think he is reading the mind and heart of the woman badgering him for a small miracle for benefit of her daughter.

Jesus quite ungraciously calls her or refers to her as a dog in the line "It is not right to take the children's (of Israel) bread and give it to the dogs."

But the woman is persistent. She wants a favor. She loves her daughter. How can she, a gentile and a pagan, reach into the heart of this very Jewish rabbi?

The woman concedes that she is a dog when she says that "Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table".

Jesus liked her response. And so he replies "Woman, you have great faith! I will do what you asked." The woman's daughter was cured.

We can knock at God's door and hope that he opens that door, or he can stand on the other side of the door and say that he doesn't know you. If one, or any of us, in our true hearts, can prayer long and hard and request grace to get through the day or a difficult phase in our lives, it is only God who can bestow grace.

Faith, faith, faith in our hearts opens the door to grace and the peace and love of God.

Never forget that.

Always remember that.

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