Pentecost 16-B/September 9, 2018/Community Lutheran Church/Pr. Joe Vought
Welcome to church on Rally Sunday! It is good to begin the school year and a new year in ministry. September is an adjustment, everyone is getting used to new schedules. How many of you are happy to have a regular schedule again, kids back in school with routine? (hands) How many of us are wishing for one more taste of summer? (hands) How many don’t care? (hands) Okay, thanks for sharing. In the chapters just before our Gospel reading, Jesus has preached in parables, healed the sick, fed 5000 people, debated and argued with Pharisees. Now Mark says, “he set out, went away to Tyre” (non-Jewish country, north of Galilee on the Mediterranean coast) “He did not want anyone to know he was there.” I get that. When we want to get away it is often good to go to a new place. Maybe Jesus went to the beach. A couple of years ago we took a cruise, loved it, exotic ports of call, time together. When we’re on a cruise, Debra will ask before we go to our dinner seating, “What are you going to say when they ask, “’What do you do for a living?’” I think about saying, “I’m in healthcare or I’m a counselor” but I am not a very good liar. I don’t know what’s worse, lying badly or telling the truth and watching the reaction, “Yikes, he’s a preacher!” Or, “Have I got some questions for you and you become cruise boat chaplain.” Jesus probably wanted a break but Mark says “he could not escape notice,” a woman begs Jesus to cast out a demon from her daughter.
She had three strikes against her: she was a foreigner, Gentile SyroPhoenician (people who had been enemies of the Jews); she was living with a demon, which meant she was unclean and a woman who approached a rabbi like a woman of the street. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, is under no obligation. God’s promises come to Israel first Jesus says “it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But then there are two moments of grace and surprise: The first, when a woman’s faith reaches out for love of her daughter, “Sir even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Anyone who has ever had a sick child knows that faith is not afraid to ask and love is not too proud to beg. When our daughter Kristin had surgery as a child, we were heartsick and needy. With cataract surgery, I was in need, a stranger became a friend, my doctor, servant of the Great Physician. The second moment is to see Jesus’ surprise, delight and changing his mind, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” It’s ironic isn’t it? Last week Jewish leaders were arguing with Jesus about cleanliness and rules and today a foreigner shows great faith. Why is it religious people sometimes act like they deserve God’s grace, while outsiders often bring honesty to God and show more faith? What would it be like if we confessed our need for healing and asked God for help? I know that’s what I need. Maybe you’ve heard it, “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Jesus lets himself be interrupted and blesses a foreigner of great faith. He opens the ears of a deaf man. With the word “Be opened” Jesus opens his heart to all who know their need of grace.
I pray our lives may be shaped more and more by the amazing grace of Jesus who loved us when we were foreigners. I pray we will not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds to receive and share the love of Jesus. Because there is too much fear and blaming in our world and politics how can we open ourselves up to more faith, more listening and working together? How will we be open to people we haven’t met, someone God puts in our pathway- a stranger to challenge and bless us? How will we be open to sharing faith, teaching it to our children or finding a place to serve to make a difference for God’s sake? We call ourselves Community Lutheran– welcoming, growing and sharing with all who walk through our doors. But because God so loves the world and not just the church we open our doors to go out and build community with others who do godly work in the world: with Muslim friends at the ADAMS Center, with Rwanda School, in ministry with LINK, caring for Loudoun Veterans and Meadowland School. We share the faith and open up because we believe there are no strangers, only brothers and sisters we haven’t met yet. When this happens the words of Isaiah and the Psalm come to life: “The Lord sets the captive free, the Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord cares for the stranger.” “Open the eyes of our hearts Lord, open the eyes of hearts Lord, we want to see you. We want to be like you.” (sing it with me) Amen