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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 18, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 25, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Pentecost 16 Proper 18B RCL September 9, 2018

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

In our baptismal vows, we are asked, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Donna Hicks, the author of the book Dignity, was with us at our Diocesan Convention to help us to understand the meaning of dignity on a deeper level. Our bishop has done a great deal of work on this topic, and this has led him to become a part of Jerusalem Peacebuilders. All of our readings today reflect on the topic of dignity in one way or another.

Our passage from the Book of Proverbs tells us that a reputation for honesty and integrity is a precious thing. Justice, generosity, and compassion bear good fruit. God is the creator of all people, rich and poor, powerful and vulnerable. We are called to honor the dignity of every person, because the dignity of every person is a quality given to
them at birth. Every person is a child of God.

Our reading from the Letter of James builds on these ideas, asking, do we treat people differently according to their position in society? Do we show a rich person to his or her seat and ignore a poor person? Or do we recognize every person as a beloved child of God? James tells us that our faith must be lived out in action. If a person comes to us who has no clothes and no food, we cannot say, “Go in peace; have a good day.” We are called to take care of that person. Food shelf ministries are one way to respond to that call. Thank you for your support of that ministry.

In our gospel, we have some encounters which teach us about dignity and God’s love on a very profound level. Jesus has just been trying to teach us that what is in our hearts is what really matters. The Pharisees were chiding him and his disciples for not washing their hands and therefore being ritually unclean and Jesus was trying to
teach us about the importance of compassion.

Now our Lord goes into what was then called Phoenicia and now would be called Syria. This is a Gentile land. He goes into a house and tries to keep his presence a secret. He is tired; the crowds are around him constantly, and he is trying to get some privacy. A woman whose daughter is ill hears about him. She comes and bows down before him, pleading with him to heal her daughter.

Jesus is a rabbi, a teacher. Rabbis are not supposed to be near Gentiles. He has gone into a Gentile territory. Rabbis are not supposed to talk to women. If they talk to Gentiles and women, they will be ritually unclean. So Jesus is now ritually unclean according to the law. He is still thinking that his ministry is to his own people, so he tells the woman that the children need to be fed, that is, the Jewish people. He says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” It makes us squirm to hear this language. Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “One cannot help wondering if there were moments in [Jesus’] life as in ours, when he regretted saying something.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us, p. 99.)

The woman is desperate to get help for her daughter. She genuinely believes Jesus can bring about this healing. And she is deeply spiritual, highly intelligent, and a first-class theologian. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Jesus recognizes the woman’s faith. And her wisdom. Her daughter is healed.

The woman refuses to accept that she is inferior, either because of her gender or because of her nationality or religion. She goes home and finds her daughter well.

Jesus has just had his ministry clarified and vastly expanded by a woman he had never met before and probably will never meet again. Although he responded at first from his exhaustion and frustration, a moment he will probably regret, he has, in this brief but life-changing encounter, respected her dignity and allowed her to teach him
something about his ministry.

Jesus goes on, into another Gentile territory, Sidon and the region of the Decapolis, and they bring him a deaf man. This man can neither hear nor speak. This time, Jesus has no hesitation. He takes the man to a quiet spot, puts his fingers into the man’s ears, spits on his hand and touches the man’s tongue. This is a deeply intimate encounter. Now he is even more ritually unclean. Jesus says, “Be opened.” The man can hear and speak. He and his friends cannot be stopped from spreading the good news of his healing.

Jesus has been opened to the breadth of his ministry. The new faith is for all people. This was good news indeed to the many Gentiles who were flocking to the new faith in the first century.

Our Lord was fully human and fully divine. In his first response to this courageous woman, his humanity shows through. But his compassion, his humility, his own openness to all people is clearly demonstrated when he opens his own heart to her response. Jesus had just had a long and tiring discussion with the Pharisees about ritual purity. One must eat the right foods and associate with the right people. In these two encounters today, he learns from a most unlikely teacher that his ministry is to all people. In listening so carefully to her words, he accepts her as a teacher, one who changes his life.

Loving and gracious God, help us to respect the dignity of every human being. Help us to be people of compassion. Help us to follow where you lead. In your holy Name. Amen.