Grace and Peace to you from the mystery in whom we live and move, and have our being.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”Mark 7: 24-37
Let’s get one thing perfectly clear before we begin this Touchpoint… I am not a theologian. I am not Jim Hanson, Sheri Brown, Conrad Braaten, Henry Rojas, or any of the many educated and trained people who attend our Wednesday respite or regularly read these Touchpoints. Rather, I am someone who has been fortunate enough to have his spiritual journey enhanced by these mid-week encounters with the Word.
So what then do we make of this week’s passage with so much happening? We have miracles, plural, more than one. We have travel to multiple cities, gentile cities. We have interesting characters, including a woman who is either full of faith, tenaciousness, intelligence and resilience, or is she just a nuisance? And we have Jesus who appears to be tired, edgy, irritable… human!
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” This is Jesus’ response to a woman who is on her knees, begging for help, not for herself but for her daughter. I don’t know of many parents who would not do anything possible to help their ailing children. And here we have Jesus not just ignoring her, blowing her off, or pretending she doesn’t exist… no he takes the time to rudely address her, to associate her with the dogs. It reminds me of the lyrics in the Bruce Hornsby song, The Way It Is:
Standing in line, marking time,Bruce Hornsby
Waiting for the welfare dime.
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says, “get a job”
This is not the Jesus I like. This is not the Jesus I want. I want the Jesus in the pictures from my Sunday School classes…you know… kneeling with the children, holding a lamb, piercing blue eyes. Alternatively, I am OK with strong Jesus. Standing in the boat to calm the storm, telling his disciple to put away his sword in Gethsemane, or turning over the tables at the synagogue. I am also fine with humble Jesus, philosophical Jesus or parable telling Jesus. But this cranky Jesus is not what I signed up for.
But as I have learned from listening to so many Wednesday Touchpoints, read the verses before and after. Because It is easy to take one verse and use it to meet a certain narrative and that has often been done to creates a divide in us as a people. We take one verse, or one sentence, or one segment of a discussion and use it to create an us/them dynamic. That is done in business, politics, and in religion.
Some say our country has never been more divided
The division is very real. Some say that our country has never been more divided than it is now. I don’t know about that. I wasn’t around during the civil war, but by all accounts when tens of thousands are fighting to the death, there is extreme division. I was just a kid in the late 60’s when protesters were being killed by police, so I am too young to compare that divide to this one. But I know that where we are at today as a country is not healthy, and may not be sustainable. I can say the same for the church. By all accounts it is not healthy, and may not be sustainable.
So how do we begin to narrow this divide? It’s a question that has been asked and analyzed by people way smarter that I. And given that this didn’t happen overnight, it is certainly not going to be repaired overnight. Yet, we need to start somewhere.
When I was going through some really difficult times in my life and I looked to others for help, my first reaction was to point out the flaws and differences in each of those who were trying to help. Finally, someone suggested that I look for similarities rather than differences. Look for what could help instead of what I felt was flawed logic. Look for how parts of their story might match my own. It was an amazing change in perspective. Once I actively looked for things that made others similar to me, rather that different than me, I was naturally more open to listening.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
So how can that be applied to where we are today? I think if we can start with how Jesus answered the question of which commandment was the most important. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment, he said. And the second is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Not a bad starting point. Then, I might suggest finding a common denominator that applies to every person, everywhere in the world, and that is that we are all children of God. If I am looking at myself as a child of God and I look at you as a child of God, then I love my neighbor as myself, it might give us all a starting point of healing and reconciliation from anything that divides us.
As Jesus was able to look at his disciples as they were denying, betraying, and running away from him and still see them as children of God and he shared the meal with them as a way of re – connecting. As a way of uniting in the face of division. We to are now invited to this table to re – connect and unite with ALL.
Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. What happens when we read the verse following, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs”?
“Lord,” the women replies, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then Jesus told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
So now as we go forward, I ask two things of you:
- Go into the world, knowing you are a child of God, loving your neighbor, and bring peace and hope to those around you
- Pray, pray really hard for Jim to have a speedy recovery and to resume his rightful place leading and challenging us each week because this is not nearly as easy as he makes it look.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint. Today, Eric Simonson, Spirit’s Executive Director, gives the Touchpoint.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.