Weekly Reflections 9-2-15

 The texts for Sunday September 6

 Isaiah 35:4-7a
 Psalm 146
 James 1:1-10, 14-17
 Mark 7:24-37

The gospel from Mark holds 2 stories this week.  Both are worth reflecting upon. I’m focusing on the first story, but do check out the second story. Mark uses deafness through his Gospel to represent not understanding Jesus. Think about the fact that it follows the 1st story. What does that mean? Who is doing the misunderstanding?

Here’s the link for the Oremus Bible Browser so you can go ahead and read the texts.

The ability to distinguish between things, to group and categorize similar things, to value some things more than others, to pre-judge things based on the category or value you have given that category or value, to label those things as negative or  positive….all these abilities are necessary to being human. And they can serve us in wonderful ways. But they inflict great harm in other ways.

Look around a crowd. Fat? Must be lazy.  Panhandler?  Makes more than I do.  Group of young black males? Up to no good. Well-dressed? Successful.  Thin? Knows how to take care of him/her self. Group of young white women? Out for a shopping trip.  We’ve all been there with a pre-judgment about someone simply because of clothes or race or body size or gender or….whatever. Yes, many of these values are learned and are social constructs. But you still own them. We all own them.

Just listen to the news: Unarmed black men shot by police. Police shot because they have their uniform on. "Mexicans are rapists." Rakhine Buddhists are driving out the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.  Europe is flooded with refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa. All of this happens because someone's social construct of religion, gender, race, tribe, aka “those people”.

So here’s Jesus in today's gospel. Again trying to sneak off for some R&R, this time he hopes to find it in a foreign place where no one should know him. But as usual he is recognized and asked for help.  A Syrophoenician woman, a foreign Gentile, asks for healing for her daughter…annoying perhaps, but it seems par for the course for what he has been doing in Galilee.

But Jesus’ answer is troubling.  For centuries now, people have been troubled by his answer and have all sorts of explanations why it isn’t as rude as it sounds. Sorry folks, I really think you just need to say that Jesus is rude here. The woman is Gentile (not Jewish). “I don’t do things for Gentiles. I take care of my own.” Then he calls her a dog.  Really.  Read it. I think this story shows precisely how human this “100% human/100% divine” Jesus is....a human with prejudices. Wow.

But this Gentile is not going to let her label stop her. “Well, even dogs get crumbs from the table of children”.  There is a pause you can feel right there. Is Jesus going to call her something worse? Is he going to walk away?

During that pause, I think he is reflecting about what it is to be human. And who he is and why he came. I'm sure he prayed. I think he learned something about himself. I think he changed his mind. And because he is so surprised at what he has learned that he just says “OK. Your daughter is fine”…no debates, or commendations, or further conversation.

One way people understand Jesus is that he came to model what is important to God about how to be human. If you look at it this way, I think this story is awesome.

Jesus modeled how although you can be led by your socially constructed prejudices, you can change, and reject them. 
We can own them. We can move beyond them. 

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245