Rev. Jeff Wakeley, September 9, 2018

Rev. Jeff Wakeley, September 9, 2018

Mark 7:24-37

Moses and Jesus were playing a round golf when they came to hole with a long pond.  Jesus teed up the ball and said, “I saw Tiger Woods make this shot.”  Moses replied, “It’s too far, the ball will land in the water.”   Jesus was insistent, “I saw Tiger make this shot.  If he can do it I can too!”  Jesus hit the ball as hard as he could but the ball was short and landed in the water.  Jesus glanced at Moses and asked, “Do you mind?”  Moses waved his hand the pond parted and Jesus went and got his ball.   He came back to the tee.  Moses said, “It’s too far.”  Jesus said, “I saw Tiger make this shot.  I know I can do it too.”  “Have it your way, but if you hit it in the water, I won’t help you.”, said Moses.

Jesus took another big swing and again the ball fell short and landed in the water.  Jesus glanced at Moses.  Moses just shook his head.   Jesus walked on the pond and reached down and got his ball.  Just then, another golfer who saw Jesus walking across the pond came up to Moses in astonishment.  “Wow, who does that guy think he is?  Jesus Christ!”.   Moses shook his head and said, “Nope, Tiger Woods.”

Who is Jesus?  That’s a question that the Church has been struggling with since the beginning of the church.   It was supposed to have been settled at the Great Church Council in Chalcedon in 495 AD.   The Council said that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.   But it didn’t really settle the matter because today we are still arguing over whether to focus on the human Jesus and his teachings about how we should treat one another or the divine Jesus whose death and resurrection saves us from sin and death.  Then there are people like me who are in the middle who appreciate both the human and divine part of Jesus and how they work together to bring us to a closer understanding of God’s grace and love.

We all have our own personal idea of who Jesus is.  One of the basic ideas I think we all share about Jesus is that he is kind and loving to everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done.  All four Gospels are pretty consistent in portraying Jesus just so.   So, it naturally throws us when we come across this morning’s scripture where Jesus isn’t being kind or loving.   Jesus isn’t living up to our idea of who Jesus is supposed to be.

It’s as if we have two different Jesus’ in our scripture passage this morning.    The first Jesus doesn’t think the Syrophoenician woman is worth helping.  He doesn’t want to heal her daughter.  What’s more Jesus is almost mean about it referring to her as a Dog!  He tells her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

But then just a short while later and just a few miles away we have Jesus doing what we expect Jesus to do and that is heal a deaf man who had trouble with his speech.

This is one of those times when we as believers try to make excuses for Jesus.   You know Jesus is human so maybe he was having a bad day.  Jesus is like us, we to have our good days and our bad days too.  Or, maybe he was annoyed being the interrupted.  The test tells us that he didn’t want anyone to know where he was.   I am sure we find any number of reasons why Jesus is not acting loving as we expect him to.

Perhaps the answer to why Jesus is behaving like this lies with what happens at the end of the passage after he has healed the deaf man.  First, Jesus tells everyone present not tell anyone about how what he did.  Of course, they did tell others.  The text tells that they told because they were astounded beyond measure.   I think if I saw something like what Jesus had done I would tell someone about it.   But then the test goes on and says this:  They said “He has done everything well, he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”  To put it another way.  “He is doing everything we expect and want Jesus to do.”

I want you to let that sink in for a matter?   He is doing everything we think and want Jesus to do.!   Think of all things we expect Jesus to do for us.    We expect Jesus to love us and be there to help us.  We expect Jesus to forgive us when we sin.   We expect Jesus to understand us when we are feeling down.   We expect Jesus to be there when we need him.   We might even expect Jesus to punish our enemies.    As I said we all have our own expectations about Jesus.

Perhaps we even take those expectations for granted.   We take it for granted that Jesus loves everyone.  We take it for granted that the church is supposed to help people in need.  That is what the church is there for to help people who are in need.  It’s an important part of who we are.  But sometimes it seems to me that people expectations of the church leads them to look at the church as a giant vending machine.   It’s there when they need help.

The question for all of us is:  do we take Jesus and the church for granted?  Maybe showing us a Jesus that doesn’t do what we expect him to do is Mark’s way of confronting us with that question.

We have our expectation of who Jesus is and what Jesus is supposed to do.   But, do we ever consider what expectation Jesus may have of us.  When people come to the door of the church for help do they think of what is expected of them.  Do we think about what Paul told the Church in Corinth “You are not your own but you have been paid for, for a price?”

When people come to the church do we think that Jesus maybe expecting us to do more than just give them help.   That perhaps Jesus expects us to give them something that they can be a part of like a community of faith.

I think this is not just about Jesus doing what we want and expect or the church doing for us what we want and expect.  It’s about building something important and that is the Kingdom of God.    I think the reason why Jesus said those words to that woman “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Was because Jesus was making the point that he is not just about healing people, but building a new life changing community made up of God’s children.”   I think the women’s response that even the dogs eat the crumbs under the table was her way of saying.  I want to be a part of that new community of faith.

Jesus doesn’t just save you from sin and death but Jesus changes your life and behavior.  This church is not about just helping people in need when they need it, but it also about helping to build something that people can be a part of, it about changing and transforming people’s lives.   We are helping a lot of people but are we building a community that they can be a part of.

There is another expectation that Jesus has for us.  That is to speak up.   I think Jesus expected that woman to speak up and say something about the way he was treating her.  Jesus expects us to speak up and stand against the way people are treated unjustly.  He would expect us to speak up against the unjust treatment of women or LGBTQ, or speak against racism, or discrimination, or policies that hurt the poor.   Jesus would expect us to speak up and then do something about it.

Then the third expectation that Jesus would have for us is to be mindful of who he is and what he done for us each and every moment of our lives and in every situation, we find ourselves.   He would expect us to do more than say I am a Christian because I believe in Jesus, he would expect us to do something about that faith and belief.  In his letter James says “What good is it brothers and sister If you say have faith but do not have works.

And so, the question that this morning’s scripture passage is confronting us is not whether or not Jesus is doing what we think he is supposed to be doing.  The real issue are we doing what Jesus expects of us.   And what is it that Jesus expects of us.   To not just believe in him but to let him into our lives and change us and transform us and bring us closer to God and God’s grace.  To walk each and every day with the knowledge of what Jesus has done for us and let that knowledge influence our words and finally do more as a church in just helping people but to build a new community where everyone is welcome and where everyone can be a part of.   Everyone.

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