The Crumbs Under the Table

A sermon for Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9,22-23; James 2:1-17; Mark 7:24-37

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on Pexels.com

“Love your neighbour” they said.  But who do I expect my neighbour to be?  Someone just like me, or someone very different?

Today’s gospel reading is one of the hardest in the gospels. This is not the Jesus we think we know, who opens his arms to everyone, meets the needs of those in front of him, brings healing and hope.  Quite frankly, this passage is shocking in how Jesus speaks to this woman, it is quite simply rude. How can Jesus infer that to help her and her child would be like throwing food to the dogs? What is Jesus saying?

Is he simply irritated?  Tired, needing rest and recouperation?  Fed up with constantly being in demand, expected to have all the answers? Does he just want five minutes peace?  Was he, as is often suggested in commentaries testing her to see how much she really needed what she asked for, how easily she could be put off?

Can Jesus really be rejecting her because of her origin, her ethnicity?  Surely Not?  Does he want to care first for those he thinks he has been sent to?  Does Jesus himself need challenging on who and what matter in this world?  It is quite a puzzle.

The selected verses from Proverbs 22 quite clearly tell us that all are in common, God has made each and every person: rich, poor, whoever they are, and the call is for those who have bread to share with those who do not – there are no caveats or get out clauses.

Likewise, James reminds us we are to have no part in favouritism.  We do not, or should not, treat someone differently because they are, or are not, part of our tribe, our culture, kindred spirits that we recognize.  We are to love our neighbour whatever they look or sound like, whatever beliefs they espouse to, however historically we have been told to think about them.  We are to show no partiality – only love.

Through the challenge of the woman, Jesus comes to his senses, remembers God call, and her need is met.

Perhaps the most important part of this passage are the questions it makes me ask of myself – and the answers I come to.  What about me?  How do I respond to those I see as other? What will I do for those who come to me for help?  How do I love?  How do I treat my neighbour, whoever that neighbour is?  However I am feeling?

How many times
have I wanted to hide away,
have some peace,
some me time,
chance to recharge,
to just be,
to listen,
to pray?

But I have been needed
and called on
and had to go,
to give,
to be
in a difficult place
where I am wanted.

How many times
have I wanted
to keep something special,
for the few,
for those who deserved it,
or who I thought did?

But I have been called
to meet need,
to reach out in love,
to step outside
what I thought were my boundaries,
what I was called to,
because there was need
and hope
and a reaching out.

How many times
has God worked,
in ways I do not understand,
can’t comprehend,
am not sure I agree with?

But God steps in
to meet people,
to hold them,
to heal them,
to reach them.

In their pain,
their fear,
their anger,
their questioning,
whatever their need.
Whatever their background,
their origin,
their appearance,
wherever they are coming from
or going to. *

And God asks me to join in with all God is doing.
May God work in us as we seek to love our neighbour, without impartiality, however much of a surprise they may be to us, or us to them.  May we and they be blessed through all that God can do.   

*Taken from my book Voices Through Mark available from me or through Moorley’s Publishing 

~ by pamjw on September 5, 2021.

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