August 14th, Pentecost 9

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

8 Thus says the Lord GOD,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.
This lesson parallels our Gospel lesson… a statement that God’s people don’t stop at the border of Israel. The question then centers on who is the outsider in our world, in our setting? Who does God care about but we would rather not?

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

This text stands as a reminder that anti-semitism is unacceptable in the church. It is not possible to be both Christian and anti-Jewish. To set up a theology where God rejects Judaism is not biblical. To claim that God has rejected Israel or will do so is to make our Christian faith something that is itself an ‘earning’ of salvation. Israel isn’t God’s chosen one because Israel pleased God or was faithful. No, Israel is God’s chosen because God chose. That is all there is to it. The gifts of God are irrevocable.

Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28
The first section I may not choose to read on Sunday. It could preach, but I think that between the other lessons and the second section of the Gospel, there is more there for the congregation I will be preaching in front of.

There is a sticky turn in this one… is Jesus changing his mind? Does Jesus realize that his refusal to heal the woman’s daughter is wrong? It sure seems that way to me. There is no other explanation for how he can go from ““I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” to “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish..

Jesus simply doesn’t come off too well here. He doesn’t just ignore the woman’s need, he insults her by comparing her to a dog. What we see here is a Jesus who mirrors our own selves… being ready to write off someone, to define and fear an “other” on the basis of skin color, nationality, class, or creed, deeply ingrained stereotypes that go back generations or even centuries.. But there is something else there. There is the possibility of finding common humanity where we could see only difference. Of encountering “The Other” in such a way that they can no longer be “The Other”. From this point on, Jesus finds not just the face of his people to be one of beauty, but finds beauty in all of humanity. This is a turning point for Jesus in how he deals with “inside’ and “outside”.

The problem becomes ours, then, to have to ask of ourselves “Who is outside? Who would God have us ignore? Whose cries are not important?


About Pastor Tim

I'm pastor of First Lutheran Church in San Marcos, TX. I'm also a husband and dad of two amazing boys.
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