"The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy."-Eudora Welty
This Sunday in Liturgical Churches that use the Common Lectionary this is the fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel text is Mark 7:24-37.
Everybody has a favorite Bible text , well this is my least favorite Bible text.
In some ways it is a marvelous text to preach on. It has two great miracles. There is a healing of a little girl and the healing of a deaf man. Both are examples of God’s love for us.
There is the clear example of human nature . Jesus tells them don’t tell anybody so they run and tell everybody. One can easily get two or three sermons out of them.
Then, of course, there is a magnificent example of faith on the part of the mother of the little girl. That deserves a sermon by itself.
The problem is to get to these wonderful sermons you have to get by the opening to the lesson.
There , horror upon horror , we find Jesus indulging in what might be considered “ hate speech”. No , not might be, by today’s standards he is . He refuses to heal the woman’s daughter and says you “ don’t take the children's food and throw it to the dogs”. Dogs was a term the Hebrews used to refer to Gentile people. It was not a term of racial respect. It would be like saying “ you can’t take our tax money to feed those dirty Spics”. Clearly not politically correct.. Clearly hate speech.
So how do I get by the opening to the happy stuff?
Well I could say that Jesus was testing the woman’s faith. He wanted the disciples to see what real faith was like. How it persevered even in the face of adversity. That’s a good , plausible explanation. The woman is seen as heroic and Jesus still heals the child. I may even have used that in a sermon once.
But now it seems a harsh way to test her faith. He didn’t need to be insulting. It could be I’ve just become too sensitive because of the age in which we live.
There was a time when many of the terms that are not PC today could be used with no hate attached. It was just the way one group spoke of another. There were Spics, Gringos, Wopps and other ethnic groups. Most of the time the terms were neutral. It was that bunch of people living on the other side of town.
So one could say neither the woman nor the disciples thought anything of Jesus referring to Gentiles as dogs. Thus there was no hate speech, no crossing of the line.
I can live with that but Jesus saying it still feels wrong. It makes no sense.
But then I ran into a book by Elton Trublood on the humor of Jesus.
Trueblood points out that the Disciples didn’t have much understanding of humor. They wrote down as serious some of the humorous things Jesus said. He gives numerous examples.
This incident he sees as banter. He thinks Jesus knew the woman well enough to engage her in some friendly banter.
The disciples having no idea what was happening remembered only parts of that banter.
She says to Jesus. My daughter needs healing. He smiles and says “ but you know I can’t give the children’s food to the dogs“. She responds immediately “but even the dogs get the crumbs”. Jesus , laughing, says “your daughter is healed”
This seems plausible. I have had good friends that I bantered with. Anybody listening in would have thought we hated each other. Banter is not for the others but just for the two involved. It is their world and their moment.
If Trueblood is correct then her faith still shines through. The miracles are still there. And we see people being people and Jesus being a real human being.
I like Trueblood.
I rejoice in the faith of the lady, the wonder of miracles, and even the perversity of human nature.
Through it all Jesus saves. In the end that’s all that counts.
Sunday morning and Pastor Joan is getting ready to preach. She loves preaching. She hates the thought of giving up her pulpit while she is out having the baby. On the other hand she is really looking forward to the baby. This is part of her sermon:
In the last half of the gospel for today we meet a deaf man. Jesus takes him aside and heals him. I’m glad TV Evangelists aren’t using this as a model for healing services. Just think of all the spitting they would be doing not to mention the sighing.
The healing is a pretty much your ordinary healing. He couldn’t hear. Now he can. He couldn’t talk very well. Now he can Just your ordinary healing. But then Jesus orders them and him to tell nobody about the healing. He doesn’t ask. He orders!
Now If Jesus had just performed a miracle for you wouldn’t you obey Him? Wouldn’t you happily do what he ordered.
But instead they run around telling everybody.
The surprise here is that Jesus doesn’t take the healing back. The healed failed to obey. He shouldn’t be allowed to keep the healing.
I know Christians who think like that.
It’s Get saved! Get in Line! Get things right! Or lose it.
God doesn’t take back His miracles.
We would if we were God.
Thank God we aren’t God.
If you were in the hospital dying of cancer and Jesus suddenly appeared and healed you. Then he ordered you to tell nobody it was Him. Could you keep it quiet.
When the Doctor’s probed and tested. When they decided the chemo had worked at the last minute .Would you still keep silent.
When your atheist friend says to you that you should thank science for your healing. Can you still keep silence ?
When your little girl says daddy where was God when you needed Him? Will you hold it in?
When the Pastor asks people to share the little miracles in their lives can you sit on this big one ?
I really doubt it.
We are what we are as human beings.
We are broken, imperfect , sinners. But God never takes back his blessings.
When we fail he picks us up.
He restarts us.
I just love Sundays. I got out of the fortress, and went to Church. People make you feel so good to be there. I met some visitors from Australia. Wow!. The choir was back and had a great song. The sermon was not what I expected, Pastor Steve ducked the hard text and talked about our need for a day of rest tying it to Labor Day. We had Communion. The fellowship afterward was equally great and they had watermelon slices.
I came home and updated the Church web page. One of the little things I can still do. I enjoy that as well because it is like reliving the morning.
Then I did some blogging.
Thom gave me two awards , well me and half the blogging universe, of which I can accept only this one.The other has rules and I never accept awards with rules. Thank you Thom.
This was the day the batteries turned on me. The battery in my new camera that I use to video tape the sermon wouldn't take a charge. Then during the service my hearing aid battery failed. I'm glad the battery on the scotter held up.
Well now I need a breathing treatment.