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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 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:…
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Pentecost 15 Proper 18B  September 5, 2021

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

Our first reading is from the Book of Proverbs, which is one of the books of wisdom literature in the Bible. Our passage today reminds us that a reputation for integrity is far more important than wealth, and the passage points out that the rich and the poor are not as different as we might think. We are all created by God. Things will not turn out well for those who are unjust. Operating on the basis of anger will fail. Those who are generous are happy, blessed, and why?  Because they “share their bread with the poor.” We are advised that we should not rob the poor. The reference to crushing the poor at the gate calls us to remember that the gate of the town or city was where justice was dispensed. Those who have wealth and power should not use their money or power to influence the courts.

In biblical times as today, wealth is often seen as a sign of God’s favor. Our opening reading reminds us that we are all created by God, and our faith reinforces this idea by telling us that God loves all people.

Our reading from the Letter of James begins by presenting us with a picture of a congregation where someone who is well dressed and wears gold rings is welcomed and honored while someone who arrives in dirty clothes is not treated with respect. How would we treat someone who came to our service in dirty clothes? The passage goes on to point out that it is the rich who oppress people and drag people into court. The passage challenges us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” 

We can’t meet someone who is naked and hungry and tell them to have a great day without doing something to help them. As James says, “Faith without works is dead.” Our food shelf ministries are part of our answer to that reminder. And I know that all of you are out in the world helping folks every day. If we love our Lord, that’s what we are called to do.

In last week’s gospel, the Pharisees and Scribes were scolding Jesus because he and his disciples didn’t wash their hands. The Pharisees and Scribes were accusing Jesus and his followers of not showing proper respect for the law. Jesus responded that what really matters is having compassion and caring in our hearts and treating folks with love and respect.

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus is traveling in a Gentile land, what we would now call Syria. He goes into a house to have some peace. But he has become so well known that people find out he is there.

A woman whose daughter is very sick comes to Jesus and bows down at his feet. She is a Gentile. She asks Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus is a Jew, and in those days Jews did not talk to Gentiles. Jesus is a rabbi, and rabbis did not talk with women. Talking to Gentiles and talking to women made a rabbi impure according to the law. Here we are dealing with the issue of impurity once again. Jesus has said that it isn’t what goes into our mouth that makes us impure. It’s what comes out of our mouths if our hearts are not full of love.

The woman has asked him to heal her daughter, and what does he say? “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” This is hardly a loving response. Why is our Lord saying these shocking, hateful words? Well, he is probably very tired.  He has been working hard, healing people and feeding people night and day. But to call the woman and her daughter “dogs,” a racial and religious slur? Scholars think that Jesus really thought that his mission was to the Jewish people, but they also encourage us not to gloss over his own use of a slur that people hurled at others in his time. In any case, what he says is a slap in the face, but the woman is not deterred. 

Even though she is an outsider, a Gentile,  she is an excellent theologian. She knows that God loves all people, and that God is a God of healing. She continues to be deeply rooted and grounded in God’s love. Calmly, respectfully, and firmly, she responds, “Sir. even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Jesus recognizes her deep faith. Her daughter is healed.  In his next encounter with a Gentile, a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment, Jesus has undergone a realization that his mission is to everyone. He puts his fingers into the man’s ears, and then he spits and touches the man’s tongue and says, “Be opened.” His encounter with the women seeking help for her daughter has opened our Lord to the breadth of his ministry. He has no reservations in helping this man to be whole.  Our Lord frees us from things that imprison us. He makes us whole and free. 

Herbert O’Driscoll says that this passage makes him wonder whether our Lord was sorry for what he said to this woman. I think he was. Our faith tells us that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. Here the human aspect showed very clearly. He said words that reflected the prejudices of his own time. Women and Gentiles were thought of as less than human. But when he meets the Gentile man who is deaf and has a speech impediment, Jesus heals him with no reservations.

These readings call us to live into our baptismal promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

As we accept God’s love for us, and as we ground ourselves in that love, I think it becomes easier for us to see that every person, no matter what his or her situation, is one of God’s beloved children and that every person is to be welcomed and treated with compassion and respect. Every person is to be welcomed as we would welcome Jesus. 

Keep up the good work! Amen.

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