No media available


Mark 7:24-37

Did he really just call that woman a dog? Really? And right after telling us that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles, but what comes out? What just came out of his mouth?

What are we supposed to do with this?

In the end, he gets there. Jesus does heal the womans’ daughter. This woman with so much courage, with so much belief: this woman who walks up to Jesus, sets him straight, who after Jesus tells her that her daughter is healed, just believes and walks away.

This woman who would do anything for her daughter, who just wants her daughter healed of whatever the unclean Spirit represents.

And I am sort of grateful for this glimpse of Jesus not at his best, just for a moment. Jesus who we say is both fully human and fully divine. Maybe we are encountering this fully human part of him?

He came into the region of Tyre and he did not want anyone to know he was there – but that was never going to happen. Word about him had clearly spread. Was he just looking for a little alone time? Was he just needing a break from all of the needs, all of the asks that were constantly made of him? Is that why he said what he said to her?

Did he just not want to, right now? OR was it because she was a Gentile? An outsider?

I just keep wondering what to do with this?

And I keep thinking about the stories that we are hearing about refugees – about people who are from outside, who are trying to save themselves and their families, who are trying to keep their children safe. I think about the ways in which they risk their lives in order to get away, to leave their homes and the people that they love, in order to be safe.

And I think about the reception that they are receiving. About how overwhelming it must be for the communities that they are going to and through. Overwhelming for everyone.

But I don’t think it’s just coincidence that the Gentile woman who advocates for her daughter is followed by the healing of the deaf man. I think that it is quite intentional that theses two healing stories follow each other.

Jesus who doesn’t want to hear about the womans’ daughter, who initially seems to want to send the woman away, in the end, hears her plea. It is what she says and what he hears that changes his mind.

And then he heads off towards the sea of Galilee and heals the deaf man and the words that he says to this man are: be opened.

Be opened.

And the mans’ ears were opened and his tongue was released.

And I wonder what this story holds for us. I wonder how we might be opened.

I don’t know where to begin with the refugees – I have been sitting at my kitchen table reading and reading and reading: stories and poems and the pictures – the pictures which are hard and heart breaking.

And I sit comfortably in my kitchen and I sleep in my bed and my children ride their bikes up and down my road.

And I want to be opened.

Jesus goes from seeing the Gentile woman as other – to hearing her proclaim her faith in him and his ability to do what she needs. He is opened.

I wonder if we are willing to do the same.

These people who are fleeing, they are our neighbours. They share this planet with us, their politics are tied to ours and they are not fleeing just to make those of us who live comfortable lives, uncomfortable. They are feeling because it is not safe for them in their homes.

The video that went viral of the German town that offered a beautiful welcome to refugees, I wonder how we might do that.

I wonder how even a tiny community like ours, here at St. Brigid might be open to what possibilities lay in offering welcome – in being opened.

I know that there are issues in our own city that we might think about too – loneliness and poverty to name two – how might we be opened?

It’s not comfortable to welcome a stranger, or to give up things that we like, or to engage the possibility that things will likely have to change or that we may need to change too. But we are people who follow Jesus. And the whole of the Gospels tell us that we need to be prepared to be uncomfortable.

Jesus’ story is all about welcoming strangers, about risking hospitality; it is about speaking up to people in power.

Our Gospel stories tell us that we are to be opened. Jesus’ story is not about hiding in our homes and doing nothing.

Which is truly the easiest thing to do.

It is easiest not to advocate for change.

But in our newspapers and on our televisions and our radios, we are being told a story of humans risking everything so that they can be safe – and they are dying for it.

And I don’t want to sit in my house and just read about it.

I want better for us as followers of Jesus. I want us to take the Gospel seriously. And if I’m honest about this, it scares me to be preaching this because I know it means that I will needs to actually do something.

But I want to be opened.

I want to follow Jesus. I want to take the Gospel seriously in my life. And I would love for our community to participate in some way.

And that way might begin just with us naming out loud in prayer, together the things that we know need to change around here.

It might begin with naming the concerns that we have on our hearts out loud so that we in this room, together with God can hear them.

I feel heartbroken and powerless at the amount of hurt and scared in our world. And I am tired of hearing politicians talk about how much they will change to make my life better/easier/ whatever. I’m tired of waiting for those in power to get it. I am interested in participating in the world in a meaningful way.

I am interested in being opened.

I think about that photo of the little boy on the beach – the one that has caught our attention so horrifically. And it was terrible to see and I never need to see it again. But what caught me what the story that came after, in which the father – the only surviving family member now wants to go back to where they came from in order to bury his family. He doesn’t want them to be buried in some foreign land. He wants them to be buried at home.

We all want to be home, I think in some way.

Home where we are loved, where our roots are, where we feel safe and know our surroundings.

So, I have read and re-read todays Gospel text I cannot even tell you how many times this week. And it really does look to me as though Jesus Does call the Gentile woman a dog. And he does try to send her away.

But she is not having it. Her daughter needs help and she is going to do whatever she needs to, in order to get it. She will speak truth even to this man who she knows can help her with what she needs. And he hears her and he is opened.

She goes home after her encounter with Jesus and finds her daughter well and the deaf man hears and speaks. And I wonder who I am in this story and who we want to be.

Photo by Flickr User Paul Kitchener. CC BY 2.0.