An isolated incident…?

An isolated incident…?

So it would seem, as Mark’s gospel describes Jesus comings and goings

between Tyre and the region around the sea of Galilee.

He has healed the sick – walked on water – argued with the elders,

and generally made known his feelings concerning the wisdom /folly of his family of faith.

He is constantly asking those whose lives he has changed to tell no one –

his secret (it seems) must be kept for a while…

But there is no hiding the grace of God when it walks abroad in the light of day.

Jesus fame races ahead of him to Tyre –

even the gentiles have decided to take a chance

on this strange and wonderful man of God from Nazareth.

So we come to this seemingly “isolated incident” –

a foreign woman (that is, NOT one of the chosen people of God)

comes and throws herself at Jesus feet,

and begs healing for her daughter  (who has an unclean spirit).

So far so good – a familiar story

–          except that she is not a Jew…

…and we think we know what to expect.

As usual, we are mistaken.

Jesus – kind and gentle –

full of mercy and the love and wisdom of the One God –

tells this woman that she and her daughter are not worth his time –

nothing more than dogs!

The Jesus WE know would not act like that!

The Saviour we trust is not so harsh…right?

We are presented with a pretty puzzle in the Gospel of Mark –

first with Jesus continual admonition to silence –

and then, of course, with this encounter, that is unusual in every possible way.

A woman dares to approach – to speak – to make a request!

Uncalled for (in Jesus culture)

A gentile presumes to ask a favour of God!

Preposterous!

Everyone knows that God has made a choice,

and that choice is limited.

And most remarkable of all –

having been once denied, this woman persists,

and Jesus grants her request.

It seems Jesus’ mind can be changed – Jesus convictions are still being shaped.

Jesus sees the injustice in his original position and repents!

And the child is healed, and the woman is satisfied…

And we are left to consider what it means for us.

For our minds have been made up long ago, where Jesus is concerned.

God is God –  the same yesterday, today and forever.

And if God is unchangeable, so too must God’s people remain firm in their convictions –

Christ’s Church must maintain her traditions and standards and principles,

Ferociously; to the end – AMEN.

And yet – is God not swayed (throughout Scripture) by calls for mercy –

both from the chosen and the forsaken?

Don’t our perceptions of perfection in Jesus take a hit

when we examine his encounter in Tyre with this nameless, “godless” woman?

The story of redemption is fixed in print, thanks to Herr Gutenberg,

but does that mean the ways of God are static and staid,

unable to adapt to the changing state of humanity?

Jesus choice in this particular incident suggests that God can and will err on the side of Grace, every time.

Even when the prejudice is deeply seated, and the convictions – Jesus convictions, in this case – are ancient and immovable – Grace is the way God leans – help is offered, even to those who are “beyond help”

And what does that mean for us?

It means that even our most sacred traditions, our deepest fears, and our most stubborn habits,

are subject to change when exposed to the graceful light of the gospel.

There is no idea so firmly fixed that cannot be changed by the love of God.

No habit so deeply engrained that we cannot – at Christ’s urging – do a different thing.

The last shall be first, the weak – strong; and the story of salvation will be told, in spite of our reluctance.

The mission of the church is not simply to baptise and preach – to tell the story until all have heard it

No, the mission of the people of God is to be changed by the story we tell

To put ourselves in the path of grace;

and allow our path to be changed as a result.

So Jesus changes his mind – an unprecedented act in Scripture;

But the plan of God was not in any way changed by this encounter with a foreign woman.

The love of God – so large that it can embrace the world – has come in this story to the unloved,

And we are called to pay attention.

To turn our eyes to our own situation – to examine the ways that we have frustrated the grace of God

And to err, every time, on the side of the love

that moved Jesus to take back his harsh words

and offer this woman the peace that she longed for.

For we too shall find our peace –

Though not in our own achievements, nor in the success of our endeavours as a congregation.

Our peace is to be found in the love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ;,

who see us as we are,  and invites us (often in unlikely ways)

to grow into our place in the family of God.

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