Collect and Readings for The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37;The Prayer for today Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In the Old Testament prophecies describing a healing Messiah, we sense the huge waves of longing for the whole nation to be restored and beautiful in God's sight, in full and vigorous health morally, elementally, physically and spiritually. Everything is pictured as bursting into new life and vitality through the direct touch of God's presence.
The reading from James picks up on the kind of healthy attitudes which are free from prejudice and discrimination, recognising that in the fulness of God our thinking is to be reworked until it reflects God's character, and we celebrate the triumph of mercy over judgement. He doesn't advertise for custom, so as to force the events to fit the promises of scripture; on the contrary, people drag their loved ones to him and beg him to work God's healing in them. Even as he sighed, 'Ephphatha!', longing in love for the man's ears to be opened, it is as if he is longing for the ears of the whole people of God to be opened so that they may hear and understand.
Immediately before this healing, which exactly matches with the expected touch of the Messiah, we are given another healing which can sound initially offensive to our twenty-first century ears. The woman asking for her daughter to be healed is both a Gentile and a foreigner, and Jesus' reaction to her seems to go against what we expect of the Saviour of the whole world. Surely this was a wonderful opportunity for him to show the Jewish community that God's healing is for everyone? Perhaps Jesus wanted to voice the traditional Jewish attitude on behalf of the people so that they could see how God intended to overcome such barriers.
Certainly Jesus' first priority was obedience to the Father. Since he knew that his mission was ot bring the good news to the Jewish people, he was hesitant about the timing of this outreach, just as he had said to his mother at Cana, 'My hour has not yet come.' Always he was communing with the Father, keeping exactly in step with him, however that might look from the outside. The wonderful thing is that God uses this woman to reassure his Son. As she gives him the picture of crumbs dropping as the children eat, Jesus sees how much in line this overflow of blessing is with God's will, and gladly restores her daughter to health.
Some things to reflect on:
What do your actions say about how you treat other people who don't fit in with your circle or views?
What would Jesus do in his interactions with people of different races, colours, creeds or sexual orientation?
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev'd Fiona Robinson