Sunday, September 9, 2012

Even the Dogs

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go-- the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." Mark 7:24-37

This weekend our grand daughter Lilly has been here with us. Our dog Petey, who is a mutt and a girl, is very gentle and patient with Lilly. I suspect it is mostly her good nature, but also the fact that Lilly shares all sorts of food with her, dropping crackers, pretzels willy-nilly and often offering to share food with Petey outright. They have a symbiotic relationship, this wise older companion and her young messy provider. They are both members of a loving extended family, who watch out and care for each other.

Jesus was trying to get a rest when a panicked mother sought him out. Her child was tormented and the mother at her limit. Jesus refused initially, since the woman and child were not of the tribe. But she persisted, and pointed out that even the dogs are part of the extended family. Jesus had a change of heart, a learning moment, a growth experience in his ministry. And the frantic mother's faith and insistence, changed the course of his ministry. We learn from this story that even when we are reluctant to ask God, God is willing to heal and transform us, bringing us the faith and abundance we might be lacking. We are part of a world wide, extended family that reaches across time and space in God's love.

Today, may we be more willing to ask God for what we need, and more willing to express our need that we are bound by pride and shame. May we be willing to be a part of the family, seeking to be included in all aspects of the life of God's family. And may we, because of what we have received from God, reach out across all boundaries and barriers, sharing God's love to our extended family far and wide, seeing all as welcome and included at one big table of love.

The Collect

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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