Written by Pastor Mark
Where are we headed? I hear this question quite a bit around our church. There was a good deal of anxiety produced by a series of themes last spring when we were talking about pruning, and not knowing where God was leading us. Well now we know . . . sort of.
As a Co-op we have always emphasized our mission as a church. The thinking goes, if we know what our mission is, and if we make difficult decisions based on that mission, God will guide us in the direction we are to go. One of the tenants of our mission is that we want to be in partnership with others. “Inspired by Christ we are called to serve with ALL people in restoring all creation to God’s loving embrace.” This is such a radical idea for a church. We are looking for people outside the church in whom the Spirit of God is at work. We believe that God is going to bring us partners—people we would never have guessed would be working with us to fulfill this important calling.
Jesus is at just such a point in the Gospel lesson today. He is about to be taught what the Gospel means by an outsider. Jesus is at the end of his rope as a teacher. In chapter five of Mark he raised a young girl from the dead. In chapter six he sends out the disciples to discover the gift of hospitality, and they come back celebrating their prowess over demons. At the end of the chapter he feeds five thousand people with two loaves of bread. Chapter seven finds him in an argument with the Jewish authorities about how they fail to keep God’s commandments. When his disciples question him about this he looses it with them: “Are you being willfully stupid?” Jesus finally asks them. Jesus tells them that diet doesn’t count for much in God’s kingdom. What you eat doesn’t make you unclean, it’s what comes out of you.
Jesus doesn’t seem to apply this to people. A woman who is clearly an outsider comes up to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. Jesus is hiding out, trying not to be found and is discovered right away. He is curt with the woman, rudely comparing her to a dog. She doesn’t even flinch. She reminds Jesus that even dogs get the crumbs from off the master’s table. This is a major turning point for Jesus. From here on out in the Gospel of Mark he is going to be reaching out to those outside the Jewish faith. This outside woman had an important lesson to teach Jesus.
As a church we are partnering up with some people I never would have anticipated us working with. Pastor Courtney has been planning a new worship experience which is intended for people who are not currently a part of the Co-op. When most churches do something like this they put together a group of leaders from within the congregation and have them plan a program or worship experience that they think will appeal to others. Needless to say these efforts are a failure most of the time. Pastor Courtney, on the other hand, gathered together a group of people who were on the outskirts of the Co-op. Maybe they had attended worship one of two times. Some had never come to the Co-op. They decided they wanted to have a worship service centered on a meal. This is so in keeping with who we are as a church. They also decided they wanted the service to feature wine, and they wanted it to take place outside the church (both of which will help to make it much less threatening to those who do not go to church.) Now the only problem was where.
After going down some dead ends Courtney thought to ask Remy Drabkin if she would host the new service. Remy, a young, female, Jewish winemaker had just opened her new tasting room. She was thrilled with the idea. Courtney said it was as though she was just waiting to be asked. Remy has also opened up some other areas of conversation with us, leading us to consider partnerships we wouldn’t have dreamed of.
Finally James reminds us that it is not enough to spout God talk, or to worship in the correct way on Sunday mornings. We must put our faith into action. Martin Luther had some problems with this idea early in his ministry. Lutherans like to say we are saved by faith alone, not by works. However Luther changed his mind. We are not saved by works, but they are definitely a sign of a healthy faith. And explicitly that action needs to be focused on those in need according to James.
Quotes for the Week
Do one thing every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt
What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Jane Goodall
In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. Bertrand Russell
I had an immense advantage over many others dealing with the problem inasmuch as I had no fixed ideas derived from long-established practice to control and bias my mind, and did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is is right. Henry Bessemer
The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes. Dave Barry
1st Lesson James 2:1-10, & 14-17 (The Message)
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others.
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
Gospel Lesson Mark 7:24-37 (The Message)From there Jesus set out for the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house there where he didn’t think he would be found, but he couldn’t escape notice. He was barely inside when a woman who had a disturbed daughter heard where he was. She came and knelt at his feet, begging for help. The woman was Greek, Syro-Phoenician by birth. She asked him to cure her daughter. He said, “Stand in line and take your turn. The children get fed first. If there’s any left over, the dogs get it.” She said, “Of course, Master. But don’t dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?” Jesus was impressed. “You’re right! On your way! Your daughter is no longer disturbed. The demonic affliction is gone.” She went home and found her daughter relaxed on the bed, the torment gone for good. Then he left the region of Tyre, went through Sidon back to Galilee Lake and over to the district of the Ten Towns. Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, “Ephphatha!—Open up!” And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that. Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”
Questions for the Week
What is one area of your life where you are stuck?
How might you free yourself up to new possibilities?
What is the most surprising partnership you have ever been a part of?