Sermon for September 5, 2021 15th After Pentecost “If you have ears to hear…”
When I first read the texts for today I thought ‘oh no, this is challenging for a long weekend’ and then upon reflection the humanness of Jesus is revealed in a way that makes the teaching accessible for me and just maybe for you. To not have biases I do not think is humanly possible and yet the text today nudges us in the direction of treating all people with respect and dignity…sort of like the Golden Rule.
The teaching from James is to recognize how easy it is to decide the value and status of a person based on looks. It is easy and yet we are called upon to look past the outward appearance and view the character of a person. There are times when I wonder what people think about me. Let me share more; I have clothes that are so good they can only be worn while gardening, mowing or chores in and around the house. Then I will be asked to go get something, not wanting to change I just scoot out and get the item. And I wonder, what do people think? And then I wonder…do I do the same thing. And the answer is by times yes. And I am reminded by this teaching not to be so quick to pass judgement.
And there are those who wear the finest designer clothes and yet do not measure up in character to most who dare leave the yard with those ‘too good to leave the yard clothes’. I am sure that we have all met folks along the way that fit motif.
James goes on to teach that we must keep all the commands, for if we fail in one then we are guilty of them all. Oh my! I expect I will not be alone in the boat of the guilty. The teaching reminds us of the difficulty of being a follower of Jesus. Our biases, our prejudices, our pre-conceived notions of others all need to be set aside as we look at all as brothers and sisters in Jesus. That along with following all the rules all the time.
But do not give up just yet…keep reading…keep on listening and hearing for then you will hear; ‘mercy triumphs over judgement”. The mercy and forgiveness of Jesus is constant and is the core of our faith. For even if we fail or fall short, even repeatedly…Jesus does not. Jesus has named, called and redeemed you for purpose that is revealed and being revealed.
And that leads me to the Gospel teaching. There are many nuggets of wisdom and teaching in these verses but for today I would like to step back and look at verses 24-30, the interaction with the woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit. Jesus is seeking rest and respite from the rigors of his days. The context is that Jesus has had a very challenging week; he healed many at Gennesaret, he leaned of John the Baptist’s death, he fed the five thousand, he walked on water, is challenged by the Pharisee’s again to mention a few of the events happening in the life of Jesus. And he wanted rest. The clue is in verse 24 ‘he set out for the region of Tyre and he entered a house and he did not want anyone to know he was there’.
But the news spread before he could even sit and put his feet up. A woman, a foreigner and a gentile came in and begged Jesus to heal her daughter. In a very human moment Jesus dismisses her and her daughter. Her response is that even the dogs have opportunity to eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. Even tired, Jesus recognizes that he has not acted with hospitality, he has acted contrary to his teaching and the daughter is healed. It does not say in the text but I am sure that Jesus seeks her forgiveness for his rudeness and will do better next time.
What a delightful teaching moment that the teacher practices what is taught. How good for me to know that perfection is not expected. Jesus seeks our heart, mind, soul and body to witness to truth. To know with every fiber of our being that the message we hear and proclaim is spirit and truth, for all people all the time. If you have ears to hear…hear.