Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Peace be with you!
I giggle at the odd mix of friends God has blessed me with. From the hard core Christians to the hard core atheists, from the peacemakers to the rebels, from the prim and proper to the totally-out-there bunch, and all those in between, I have the oddest group of friends for a Luther Seminary graduate. One friend God has blessed me with is Geoff, who bears the tough guy look, complete with tattoos down both arms and a foul mouth. One day, Geoff and I attended a wake for a mutual friend’s father a few hours away. I remember being nervous that morning since I had never gone anywhere with Geoff before. What would we talk about on the long drive? My idea of a good Friday night is having a few drinks at dinner followed by a rowdy card game at home, while Geoff heads off to be a bouncer at a big party.
In the gospel reading, Jesus goes to the region of Tyre to escape the daily debates with the Pharisees. He does not want anyone to know he is there (Mark 7:24). However, as always seems to be the case, Jesus is noticed by the Gentile locals who have heard stories of his miracles.
Among them is a woman whose daughter has demons living in her. This woman, a Gentile, goes to Jesus and begs him to cast the demons out of her daughter. Upon hearing the request, Jesus challenges her faith by saying some tough times that might even sound mean. Jesus is not being mean, though. He loves the woman and wants her faith to be even stronger and more determined. When she throws herself on Him with total trust, knowing Jesus is the only one who can heal her daughter, Jesus does make her daughter well.
Jesus has a heated debate with the Gentile woman. Upon hearing her request, Jesus says, “Let the children [the Jews] be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs [a common way of referring to the Gentiles among the Jewish community]” (Mark 7:27, NRSV). You would think the woman would run away and cry to her friends at these seemingly harsh words from Jesus. However, the woman responds with faith, firing back, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28, NRSV). Jesus challenge the Gentile woman, but she treats him with respect while proving to him she deserves to experience God’s love. The woman may not be a Jew, but she is still given an opportunity to hear the good news. When we are faced with challenges that try our faith, when God seems silent, do we respond by turning away from God or by clinging to Him even more tightly as this woman does?
The woman’s faith was not easy to come by, but it does make sense Biblically. In the Old Testament, God repeatedly promised that the Messiah would bring salvation not just to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. In this story, we see the beginning of that promise coming to fruition. No longer is Jesus’ ministry only directed to the Jews but it is ultimately directed to all people who come to know Jesus Christ as the Son of God — including you and me! Later, Jesus goes to the region of the Decapolis and Jesus heals a deaf and mute Gentile man (Mark 7:33-34). Jesus will go on sharing God’s love with the Gentiles. God’s love stretches to all corners of the world. After Jesus returns to heaven, the message of salvation will spread all across the world through the ministry of the Early Church.
On the way to the funeral home, Geoff and I had a conversation about his belief in a Higher Being. He sees his daughter as a butterfly whom the Higher Being sent to transform him into a better person (perhaps not a Biblical image, but the start of conversation about faith). I never imagined having a spiritual conversation with Geoff, yet it is a conversation I remember fondly, because it reminds me God’s love is for everyone, even for the individuals who appear rough on the outside.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving those of us who are a little rough on the outside. Help us to welcome those who are different from us and to help them to hear the good news of God’s love. Remind us that the Kingdom of God is for all people, not just those individuals who look and act like us. Thank you for sharing your love with us, your children. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Which of your friends seems like your oddest match?
2. How do you welcome those different from you and share the good news of God’s love with them?