Mark 7:24-37, James 9:1-10, 14-17
â€œGod Only Live Forgivenâ€
As you would know, the show Big Brother is back on T.V. It can be an interesting show at times but it also reminds me of my golf ability and why I only play once or twice a year. Being that after 6 to 12 months Iâ€™ve actually started to forget just how bad a golfer I am, and so for the first 6 holes Iâ€™m full of enthusiasm, but from the 7th to the 12th Iâ€™ve realised just why I donâ€™t play and during the remaining holes I just want it to end. For me, due to my inability to master it in any way, shape or form, golf truly is a good way to ruin a nice walk. By the way, I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s true but I was once told that the word GOLF was derived from Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.
Not that I get all my insights from Big Brother but I remember in the first series in 2001 one of the contestants stated that â€œpeople have to win my respect(before I respect them)â€ and then as now, I still donâ€™t get that sentiment. Maybe it was just a loose comment but it just reeks of self-indulgence. To respect someone is in regards to your thoughts towards that persons sense of worth, and given that, and Iâ€™m not trying to be pious, but for me I cannot think of anyone I know that I donâ€™t respect, but on the flip side I cannot think of why anyone would be concerned if I respected them or not. Why would they?
If somewhere has to earn our respect, that means they must respect us first, then and only then would we respect them in return. Thankfully in todayâ€™s Gospel we see that Jesus never fell into this one upmanship garbage. Last week we heard Jesus dismissing the manmade cleanliness laws of the day as a way of bringing holiness. But in todayâ€™s Gospel Mark shows us how Jesus didnâ€™t just blur the lines between who are and who are not Godâ€™s people he smashed it too pieces.
First-century Jews referred to the pagans as dogs because of their failure to observe ritual purity laws and here, outside of Jewish territory-or put better, in enemy territory A Greek women, a pagan approaches Jesus to initiate the discussion, and this in itself was not the done thing because in those times it was considered improper for a woman to directly address a man, but none the less, Jesus healed her daughter as she requested.
In the second miracle we are not told whether the man was a gentile or a Jew-but with his condition he would have been considered unclean, so even if a Jew he would have been excluded from their society and worship.
In both these interactions and Jesus actions he has thrown the manmade exclusions of the day that he spoke of in Matthew 23:13 out the window: â€œWoe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in peopleâ€™s faces. For you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter go inâ€.
Because through His actions we see that Jesus’ outreach is not excluding but inclusive, and his presence is not condemning but transformative.
Author Anne Lamott once said: â€œI do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.â€
To be taken from death to life, not through our actions, but in spite of our actions, how could we not be transformed? Lost but found, how could we possibly judge another personâ€™s sense of worth, that they may possibly win our respect?
In ourselves, we see that God has shown no partiality but grants the same gift of salvation to all those in Christ. Lost but found, ripped from the curse of death and given life-how could we not serve and build up each other and all those that come before us, irrespective of appearance, wealth or status.
But then I think of my golf abilities, right now I know Iâ€™m hopeless because I only had a game a few weeks ago-no doubt in 6 to 12 months Iâ€™ll load up the buggy thinking Iâ€™m the next Greg Norman.
A good friend of mine told me that there are plenty of people believing in God on the battlefield, but not so many of them holding that belief later, when in the safety of peaceful times.
A golf pro told me that he must train at least four hours a day, even when he thinks his game is exactly how he wants it, but then added-because when I approach the ball, if I start second guessing myself or wondering if I can make the shot-itâ€™s over. Thatâ€™s why its practice, practice and more practice-to just know it-that I donâ€™t even have to think about it, that I know I will make the shot-confidence.
Sport, generally, you get from the work you put in-as is life generally. Itâ€™s hard to buy the new Ferrari if a person doesnâ€™t want to work. Yet, in Christ, we put in nothing but got everything.
Itâ€™s not only easy to forget that â€œThere bar the grace of God we goâ€, but spiritually there we did go. Joining the ministry I could see myself as pastoring to the lost on the street-the outcasts, but over the five years I came to see that even those in Christ, the pain and self- doubt is often hidden under a very thin veneer. I came to see that like Jesus knew-We, I all need to be reminded his Words of comfort-His words that bring to us the confidence and trust in the truth. That underneath the bedraggled look of the person on the street, he see a little child that he wants to hold and love. That beneath the white gown of a pastor who knows all too well his shortcomings and sin, Jesus see a little boy that he wants to hold and love. That you here today, rich or poor in wealth or spirit. At the beginning of your lives or nearing the end, Jesus seeâ€™s little children and sayâ€™s let them come to me, because I love them and they are mine.
â€œAs Copernicus, the great astronomer, was dying, a copy of his great book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies, was placed in his hands. But it was not his brilliant work that was on his mind. Instead he directed that the following epitaph be placed on his grave: “O Lord, the faith thou didst give to St. Paul, I cannot ask; the mercy thou didst show to St. Peter, I dare not ask; but, Lord, the grace thou didst show unto the dying robber, that, Lord, show to me.”
Jesus shows no partiality. He did not come to exclude but to include. God Only Live Forgiven. Pray we never forget that for ourselves, or of any of those that he places before us. Amen.