Sunday, August 07, 2005

August 14, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +13

Genesis 45:1-15 or Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 133 or Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

In today's world of negative campaigning it is so easy to ask the question of what defiles and to avoid the question of what evidences mercy.

As you come into this week pay attention to the many ways in which (y)our first response is the negative one of finding the differences among us rather than noticing the commonnesses among us.

To be aware of our tendency to blame first is to be able to catch ourselves at the blame game earlier and earlier. This will allows opportunity to enter into the mercy game earlier and earlier.


  1. Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

    It is not what goes into our mouths that defiles us. It is not what goes into the mouths of our enemies that defiles them. Our mouths are different but our need for food is the same.

    It is so easy to focus on mouths with full lips or thin lips, rosebud lips or no lips. We can categorize mouths until the cows come home (been kissed by cow lips recently?).

    This business is so difficult that even Jesus had trouble with distinguishing the limits of like lips from the commonality of food to pass those lips.

    In today's world it easiest to find this same difficulty in the political realm of Party (whatever one you want to look at). We automatically give credence to our own and disparage anyone from a different Party.

    The woman's faith was great, to keep on claiming her commonality. Jesus' faith was great, to finally hear that claim and respond to it in a positive manner.

    How great is your faith? How great is the faith of the congregation with which you associate? How great is the faith of the community/nation you participate in as citizen?

  2. Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

    Has GOD rejected creation?
    Has GOD rejected Adam and Eve?
    Has GOD rejected Cain?
    Has GOD rejected the Nephilim?
    Has GOD rejected the prophets?
    Has GOD rejected Canaanite women?
    Has GOD rejected Jesus?
    Has GOD rejected the Jews?
    Has GOD rejected Gays and Lesbians?
    Has GOD rejected the people you reject?
    Has GOD rejected Islamic Extremists?
    Has GOD rejected God's mercy or steadfast love?

    If you say, "Yes," to any of these, how do you get out of the eternal threat that at any time GOD will, for whatever reason, reject you?

    If you say, "No," to all of these, how do you get out of the eternal work of expressing inclusion?

  3. Psalm 133 or Psalm 67

    How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity. Note, this is far, far different than living in uniformity.

    When this is not only our intention, but our experience, we claim that GOD's graciousness and mercy are evidenced in our midst.

    So, where have our intentions run awry and amok? Who is not in unity? The prophets would have us look first to the poor, the outcast, the weak, and the minority, in whatever forms those take. Given the sweep and the specificity of their vision it is important to note both the big issues of poverty that affect everyone (including those currently rich) and the personal issues of those we have a particular affinity with.

    Just as each of us have a different set of gifts to add to the common good, so each of us have a different set of sensitivities to a person or group who is left out of unity. The deal here is not to claim everyone needs a particular gift to belong or that everyone needs to be focused on the same brokenness of unity. These simply leads us back into more or less sophisticated forms of uniformity.

    Interested in a good and pleasant life? It can't be done in isolation from the unity issue.

    A parallel is found in the American pursuit of happiness. If we don't care for the unity issues inherent in a common defense of all and the general welfare of all, we will miss the the mark of happiness.

  4. Genesis 45:1-15 or Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

    Once family feuds get rolling it is extremely difficult to break them. Even the one who has the power to shift the ground of relationship seems to have to work up to it.

    Having decided to reconcile, it is interesting to compare this the process of going first to the injuring/injured party and for the public nature of it to come forward later.

    At any rate, having the outcasts and the casters-out brought back together is a momentous occasion. This may be a reason we get back together so hesitantly. Inherent in the outcasts being gathered together is the understanding that such a specific action will grow to become the norm, and then where would we be -- "the more we get together, together, together, the more we get together, the happier we will be" is pleasant to sing about, but only in small doses.

    We are hesitant to let this expansive regathering loose by providing even a small family regathering as its seedbed. Not only are Joseph and his brothers re-gathered, but the promise is set loose that all separations shall be overcome. At this point we will be up against universal salvation, which is, somehow, more than our idealized reconciling mercy can bear.

  5. To follow the unity/uniformity discussion from the Psalm comments, you may find this article by Joan Chittister to be helpful.

  6. Oops - forgot the linking code to make it easy for folks so they don't have to cut and paste.

    Joan Chittister link

  7. Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

    I'd like to see this passage expanded to include verse 28 -- Regarding this part of life, such and such, regarding that part of life, such and such.

    This compartmentalism of life comes in helpful and unhelpful ways.

    Helpfully, we do find it advantageous to be able to focus without being overwhelmed with everything, sort of like the old joke about why God created time -- so everything wouldn't happen at the same time.

    Unhelpfully, we begin to think our compartments are true.

    Helpfully, we can still affirm that folks are doing the best they know how, it is just that they happen to be working out an inappropriate-to-the-situation compartment.

    Unhelpfully, we begin to act on our compartmentalized thinking.

    Awareness of the compartments of our own and others is a beginning step on being a partner with GOD and knowing what to do with those silly keys left in our hands to bind and unbind, to open and shut compartments. May you "aware" well with those you come in contact with.

  8. Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

    Moral platitudes are distinguishable from moral behaviors. When we talk values talk it is important to emphasize that spoken commitments require expression in external action.

    One of the interesting processes of life is the way in which we posit good stuff in one moment and in the next we find opportunity to put that to the test.

    Its not what goes in to a person, but what comes out of them. What has gone into a Canaanite woman has been generations of a specific tradition and a life-time of relationships. What has come out of her has been advocacy for a sick daughter. What has gone into Jesus has been generations of a different specific tradition and a life-time of relationships. What has come out of him, eventually, has been satisfaction for a sick daughter.

    As we proceed we will always be tempted by the various specific traditions we have experienced -- tempted to have the specifics divide and sub-divide us. Of better assistance will be moving through those specifics to a different set of specifics, the relationship ones, where we can more easily grow from the helpful, fertilizing, past of the traditions handed down to us and avoid the unhelpful, weedy, past of that same tradition.

    Yesterday the news came that our ELCA cousins kept their status quo of tradition and left the healing of gay sons and lesbian daughters waiting for 2009. This is not a casting of stones as my own denomination has done that, and worse, but another great sadness that the time between when we mutter about dogs and their food and we affirm great faith coming from a surprising quarter seems to take forever.

    The work of the Holy Spirit can still be found in this in-between time as we resist and struggle with learning new things once too difficult for our ancestors in our tradition, and even ourselves growing out of such a tradition. May our times between dogs and daughters be shorter and shorter.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.