All means all - Reflections 8-13-20

Texts for Sunday August 16, 2020 
Isaiah 56:1,6-8;  Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28 
The texts for this coming Sunday remind us that God’s love is inclusive.
Way back, when God first called Abraham to be the patriarch of a “great nation” who would become God’s People of Israel, God said to him, I will bless you and you will be a blessing…. and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
As one moves through the story of God’s people in the Old Testament, that initial blessing of Abraham becomes less and less prominent in the story. A whole lot of history goes by until we get to a remnant of God ‘s people who had been taken captive by a conquering nation where they lived in exile for 70 years. Isaiah 56 addresses them as they are about to, or maybe already had, move back to their own Israel.  Last Sunday in Isaiah 55, God welcomes them back with invitation to renew their relationship with him as the chosen people. This restoration is a sign of an everlasting covenant with the people God says. This week, in Isaiah 56, Gods says now that we have reconnected, don’t forget to maintain justice and do what is right. One way to understand God’s covenant with them is the way God’s people live life. These people who have returned from exile still have their unique role as blessed to be a blessing. And oh, by the way, says God, I am gathering foreigners and other outcasts to join you in your worship and prayers.  My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The psalm offers another invitation for all people and nations to praise God for mercy and blessing. Let the nations be glad because God brings justice and will lead all the nations of earth. Let all the peoples praise you.
In the readings from Romans for the last couple weeks, Paul has been wrestling with the fact that many from his Jewish religion are not followers of Jesus. Does this mean God has rejected the chosen people? Are they, in fact, now outsiders? No. Paul says God’s gift and calling are irrevocable. And ultimately all things rely on God’s mercy.
In the text from Matthew, Jesus headed into a Gentile region where his understanding of his mission was challenged by Canaanite woman (gentile).  He tells her his purpose statement: I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. With courage and clever answers, the woman contends that God’s love, even just crumbs of it, is for all people. Jesus commends her faith and heals her daughter. I think this woman brought a little clarity to Jesus’ mission.  Not just the lost sheep, God’s love is inclusive of all peoples and nations. 
Now we have 2020. This pandemic reveals how imbalanced, unjust, and biased our society is… oh, and don’t forget divided. People physically fight about wearing masks. They vilify and denigrate those with whom they disagree. But God still calls out to God’s people “Maintain justice. Do what is right." 
That feels difficult and dangerous. 
God’s call for love was not easy for the exiles and even Jesus had to grow into it. Paul and Jesus died for proclaiming God’s redemptive and all-encompassing love. God’s inclusive love requires boundary crossing and transformation. 
 So, now in 2020, what’s that look like?

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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