Sunday, August 20, 2017: After Pentecost "God's Plan is For Everybody" Fr. Carey Stone


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 Proper 15A’17 web ed.

20 August 2017

Matthew 15.10-28

St. Luke’s Episcopal church

North little rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

 

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples: In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. –From Isaiah 56

 

The story of God’s human family starts small and moves slow. From Adam and Eve in the garden, to the story of one particular group of people, the people of Israel who were chosen, and another group who were not chosen the gentiles to the words of the prophets there are certain clues that God’s intention from the beginning was to have a much larger family. As we heard in Isaiah My house shall be called a house of prayer for ‘some’ people…no, it says “for ALL people!”

 

That seems like a great idea in theory but over the centuries humanity has found it hard to practice. The pattern we have seen is one of constantly dividing up into tribes and fighting for the largest piece of the pie. From this condition of our hearts have come: evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander and let us not forget racism. From a place of scarcity and fear the tribes divide and attempt to conquer the other tribes and then maintain a monopoly.

 

I found the chant “You will not replace us” used by the neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville both chilling and telling. It encapsulated the very essence of scarcity which is the core belief that here is not enough to go around  - not enough power, not enough money, not enough possessions, not enough (fill in the blank). They were verbalizing their greatest fear – a fear of being replaced by people whom they see as their inferiors, people who according to them are wearing the wrong colored skin and are the wrong race.

 

When Jesus entered human history he entered it as a member of the race of people who had traditionally been God’s chosen people. He could have been one of the greatest rabbi’s of all time if he would have just helped to prop up the status quo by not rocking the boat. But this is where Jesus didn’t play the game. He had a habit of telling stories that offended the chosen people by including all the wrong kind of people: Samaritans, Syrians, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, prostitutes and in today’s gospel a Canaanite woman, in modern geography that means she was Lebanese.

 

He sets up his story of the Lebanese woman by first giving a teaching on what he saw as literally the heart of the matter which was the heart. The religion of the day focused upon the tribe and keeping all the external laws and rituals and it further reinforced the two tiered division of the population you were either one of the chosen or one that was not.  Guess what their greatest fear was? Of being replaced. As they saw it there was not enough love, mercy, or grace to go around – only the small tribe was in and everyone else was out.

 

If you imagine with me for a moment that Waffle House were giving away free lifetime memberships to the Country Club. Can you imagine what the good dues paying members of the Country Club would think and say when they saw the ‘riff raff’ coming onto the property and being allowed onto the greens and in the restaurants and meeting rooms for free. It just wouldn’t be fair would it?! To say this kind of generosity made Jesus unpopular would be an understatement.

 

After giving his lesson that what counts is what’s on the inside of people he tells about the Lebanese women who begs him to heal her sick daughter. Jesus initially uses the language of a club member in talking with her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” ‘OK the Pharisees are still with you Jesus, you can’t disagree with that.’ He then says something that the Pharisees would love: ”It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs?”

But then the woman says something and Jesus can no longer resist her: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” To this Jesus gives an astounding reply, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

 

 The wrong gender and the wrong race = true faith! This math did not compute. Jesus was expanding the definition of the word “Chosen” he was flinging the door wide open to his Father’s house that it would be a house of prayer for all people.

 

What we’ve seen on the news from Charlottesville and what I am talking about today is not so much a political issue as it is for us a baptismal issue. In our baptismal covenant we find what a Christ follower looks like on the ground: A Christ follower is one who has genuine faith in the triune God, one who continues in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and in the prayers, one who preservers in resisting evil and repents of sin, one who proclaims by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, one who seeks and serves Christ in all persons, loving their neighbor as themselves, and finally one who will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Our path as followers of Christ is clear it is not the path of fear, hate, and scarcity but a path of faith, love, and abundance. May we be people a people of true faith who have the light of Christ shining from our hearts and welcoming all people into the loving arms of God.

 

Let us pray:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen, The BCP p,815