Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on service to the poor, explores the work of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
A Jesus Who Grows and Changes
Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to 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 she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go-- the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
--- Mark 7:26-30
The dog as beloved and famously loving family pet came into our culture much later than the period of this story: the Bible sees dogs as dangerous and wild. This passage, in fact, is the only one in which dogs are described as being fed by humans, however off-handedly, suggesting as it does that leftover food from the table is thrown to the dogs.
So Jesus is likening this woman of foreign birth and her stricken child to dogs.
Here, again, is a Biblical instance that challenges our preferred image of Jesus as august and flawless. He behaves rudely to one less fortunate than himself here, failing in the second half of in his own great commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. But the wretched woman calls him on it, and he rethinks his unkind words and heals her daughter. So, he gets there in the end.
It's so hard for us to contemplate the idea that the Son of God might have had some growing to do. It feels at the very least disrespectful, and maybe downright blasphemous to suggest that the God made Man was anything less than perfect in his human existence. Tempted in very way as we are, yet did not sin, we say, and we think that means he never made a mistake.
But it is not disrespectful and certainly it is not blasphemous. We also say Truly God and truly human, and we mean both parts of that. Truly human, in that he was born of a woman like other humans, and raised in a human family like the rest of us. He was a child before he became an adult. He learned the same way all humans learn: by correcting his mistakes.
Can we accept a fallible Jesus of Nazareth and still acknowledge him as Son of God? Still worship him as part of the Triune God, still hope to follow him into the mystery of eternal life? I can. It is as natural for us to have mistakes as it is for us to have toenails -- God the Father has neither, but Jesus of Nazareth must have had both, in order to truly be what we say he is: not a god masquerading as a human being, but a human being who knows exactly what it is to be a human being. I can't imagine that the Son of God is in need of any window dressing from the likes of me.
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
And here is the ER&D meditation:
After the Storm: The Rich and the Poor
The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all.
-- Proverbs 22:2
The other thing they have in common, of course, is that disaster can come into their lives at any moment. But the difference between them at that moment is a big one -- the rich have more resources at their disposal with which to rebuild their lives afterwards.
Four years ago this week, the attention of the nation was riveted on New Orleans. We watched terrible suffering unfold in the terrible heat of late summer there and in three surrounding states. Many people died, and thousand were left homeless.
Avon was one of them. Before Hurricane Katrina, she was one of the city’s more than 484,000 residents. Avon had rented a house in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans for more than 50 years, but in 2007, she became a homeowner: the first homeowner in the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, a partnership between Episcopal Relief & Development and the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Jericho Road builds quality, affordable homes for low-income families in the city. The program aims to construct or renovate up to 150 homes in the Center City neighborhood of New Orleans.
Avon assumed that renting was her only option until she was directed to Jericho Road. “When the banks saw I had my new job for less than a year, they said I was a risk. But I had worked at the same job for seven years before the hurricane, and couldn’t keep that job after I evacuated,” said Avon. “When I applied for a house with Jericho Road, they took care of all that,” she said. Avon bought her house on Philip Street after visiting Jericho Road’s Open House. “I had to go to two classes. I learned a lot about owning a home and taking care of it. Without Jericho, I would be renting. I tell all my friends, if you get a chance to own a home, go for it. Now, I’m paying for my mortgage, not someone else’s.” Determined to return to her city and be part of rebuilding it, she was back home in less than two years.
Working with local Episcopal partners in areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Episcopal Relief & Development is restoring lives and giving hope to people such as Avon. She is still not a rich person. But she is less vulnerable to the aftermath of the things that can happen to any of us than she was before, and has learned a great deal about her own capacity to change her own life.
To learn more about ER&D's work, or to make a donation, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ex 5219