Stained Glass cross

St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver,  B.C.

Diocese of New Westminster

Anglican Church of Canada

Diocese of New Westminster badgeSt. Mary Magdalene badge

Worship Times

 

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am

 

Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm

 

Centering Prayer

Thursday 2:00 pm

Sermon

September 9th Pentecost 16,  2018                                                                      John Marsh

 

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9; Psalm 125; James 2:1-10, 14-17; Mark 7:24-37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was preaching, and it was out his mouth before he knew it; it may have been meant as a throwaway line but there it was - “We’re all free, white and 21”. As he said it, the seminary dean realized what he had said as did the significant percentage of black families from the Caribbean. The rest of the homily was little more than his effort to pull his foot out of his mouth.

 

~

 

It may be the result of being stressed beyond our limits…

 

It may be due to exhaustion, the consequence of nothing left in the tank…

 

It may be because of illness, grief or worry…

 

It may be just one of those proverbial bad days when everything which can go wrong does just that…

 

Whatever the reason, there are those occasions when our response has an edge to it, those times when it goes over the edge, those situations when it cuts, judges and dismisses…

 

Sometimes we are surprised as we say it…

 

Sometimes what we have said comes back to haunt us in the ‘dark night’…

 

Sometimes all that remains is the rationalization of our behaviour…

 

Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, whatever our rationalizations, we’ve all been there, those times where we have acted out of character, where we were less than charitable, where our mask slips and we react…

 

And it seems that we’re not alone…

 

A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit…came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a gentile, of Syrophonecian origin. She begged [Jesus] to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:25 – 27)

 

There it is…

 

The healer wounds…

 

The compassionate one is caught with his compassion down and he reveals a less than pure heart…

 

Which is all the more surprising given that he had just taught that “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile”? (See Mark 7:15)

 

Despite our surprise, the story moves on…

 

In a moment of ‘genius’, a reply comes rushing forth - “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

 

Suddenly a new realization dawns…

 

There comes the awareness that he has been less than he should, less than he taught… (See Mark 7:14 – 23)

 

His understanding deepens, his vision extends …

 

It seems that Jesus’ mercy and compassion extends further than he imagined…

 

Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.” (See Mark 7:29)

 

Whatever the cause of Jesus’ dismissive, derogatory comment, whatever he thought of the woman’s reply, Jesus’ actions changed after this encounter, his vision broadens…

 

After leaving Tyre, Jesus heals a man who cannot hear or speak, he feeds 4000 people, all in a region primarily populated by Gentiles. It seems that Jesus has taken the Syrophoenician woman’s wisdom to heart…

 

Her persistence persuades Jesus to do new things…to grow beyond the ‘limits’ of his previously held convictions…

 

~

 

We may be uncomfortable with this picture of Jesus, but it is profoundly honest to the text,  profoundly revealing of the god experienced by Jesus…

 

It is also profoundly revealing of our own experience - we recognize ourselves in the story – we’ve all been there …

 

That we misstep, screw up, make mistakes, that we ‘sin’ is not an obstacle to grace nor does it limit the movement of spirit…

 

The Christ is not the perfect one beyond mistake…the Christ embodies openness to learning,  to growth and moving the boundary’s erected by the haunting hypocrisy of holding to human precepts... (See Mark 7:7-9)

 

If the Christ can learn and grow beyond missteps…

 

If Jesus can be surprised and, in the shock, see beyond his ‘latent’ parochialism…

 

Why can’t we…

 

~

 

To his credit, the dean did not back away from what had transpired in the homily. Despite his embarrassment, he made a public apology to the church and personally apologized to every family of colour in the parish.

 

 

A Post Script:

 

The Baal Shem Tov told the following story:

 

We were saved by a woman, a woman of our people; this is how it happened. She came to the synagogue, tears running down her face, and addressed the Almighty: “Master of the Universe, are you or are you not our Father? Why won’t you listen to your children imploring you? You see, I am a mother; children I have plenty of: five. And every time they shed a tear, it breaks my heart. But you, Father, you have so many more. Everyone is your child, and every one of them is weeping and weeping. Even if your heart is made of stone, how can you remain indifferent?”

 

 And God decided that she was right!