Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lyle said there'd be days like this...

Rev. Dr. Lyle Vander Broek
Univ. of Dubuque Seminary
Professor of New Testament
After a summer of preaching about the life of David, culminating in a sermon about David and Bathsheba (which of course included a conversation about SEX which made everyone a bit nervous) I jumped back into the lectionary this week, and the gospel of Mark.  I was looking forward to a return to the gospels - and the Gospel of Mark in particular - because this is the book that I spent a semester in seminary studying - in Greek no less!

Wouldn't you know that the lectionary passage for this Sunday was Mark 7:24-30.  The passage known as the 'Faith of the Syro-Phonecian woman'...or the day when Jesus dissed the gentile woman and called her and her sick daughter a dog (ok, so it was a little dog in the Greek - but you get the picture).

Jesus left that place and went into the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had entered a house, but he couldn’t hide.  In fact, a woman whose young daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard about him right away. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was Greek, Syrophoenician by birth. She begged Jesus to throw the demon out of her daughter. He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

But she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
“Good answer!” he said. “Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.” When she returned to her house, she found the child lying on the bed and the demon gone.  (Mark 7:24-30 CEB)

If you really think about it, it's enough to make your blood boil - that is until we take time to understand the context of 1st Century Jewish folk - and the pivotal role that the woman's response has on the entire Gospel message.  In a nutshell, her patient and measured response leads Jesus to expand his original vision of preaching, teaching and healing to encompass the entire world!

"Show of Hands" poll week of 9/2/12
I like this - a lot - until I start to wonder who we, as people of faith treat like 'little dogs'... we all know 'them' the 60-70% of America who don't worship in a church or synagogue or mosque any given week.    

As I ponder the why's of such abysmal participation in our faith communities, I can't help but wonder if it's because we have lost sight of what we are to be about.  Jesus was pretty focused on preaching, teaching and healing.  We sure do have a plethora of preachers, and we seem to do teaching pretty well too.  But how about this healing thing?

Do we believe, truly believe that healing happens?  Do we think that healing ministries are just for quacks and kooks - and thus not happening in a spiritual sorta way any more?  Have we abdicated all healing ministries to doctors and nurses and such?  OR - are we so intent on wearing a mask pretending that all is ok, that we neglect to convey the realities of our broken and hurting world - that suffering IS present in the world, that people DO need the healing that comes from our loving triune God...that healing is more than fixing folks physically, it's also walking alongside others emotionally and spiritually to health and wholeness?!

This is where I see the greatest needs in my Monday through Saturday ministry.  And the good news is that God does love us more than we can fathom - that Jesus' death on the cross allowed him to enter into and heal our brokenness and he will never, ever, ever abandon us, and the Holy Spirit is with us too -  wooing us and nudging us to be bearers of light and hope and peace with those whose paths we may cross.

Yes, Lyle said there would be days when we'd much rather be at the VFW hall, where everyone knows everybody's name, where community is formed over a cold one and a friendly game of cards - but God has put me in the church and so I shall continue to try to be faithful and seek to invite others to join in this beautiful, messy, holy journey.  

Where have you seen God at work in your life this past week?  Let's grab a nice cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) and talk about it.

in Christ, together,

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