(Posted September 4, 2015)
It doesn’t take long while reading the Bible to run into the first place that human beings disown their own responsibility for one another. It’s only in Genesis Chapter 4 that, when God asks Cain regarding the whereabouts of his brother Abel that he replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Of course God knows the answer to this question is, “Yes.”
However, the prevalence of the attitude these days that we are not responsible for one another is dismaying. “It’s not my job” has become a mantra of sorts in a culture that refuses to get involved. We’ve seen videos of people stepping over the bodies of others who have passed out on a sidewalk. When they are later asked why they didn’t help, they will often give their version of that saying: “I thought somebody else would help.”
However dismaying we might find it that people around us don’t get involved, how much more dismaying is it to come upon this coming Sunday’s gospel and to hear Jesus reject a request from a woman to heal her little daughter! Not only does Jesus refuse – for the moment – to heal her child. He calls her a dog for asking. Now what’s up with that? The truth is, we’re reading this week from the Gospel of Mark. One of the fascinating things about Mark is, Jesus is regarded as someone who was still learning who he was and how his mission to bring the Kingdom of God to earth would be shaped. Jesus was “an evolving Savior” through the lens of Mark. He is less divine than human in this reading.
The woman who has come to see Jesus is a Syrophoenician – meaning that she was a Gentile and not at all a member of the Israelites whom Jesus thinks he has come to minister to. She’s an outsider. Scholars think that she had heard about the amazing healing powers of this itinerant preacher, and probably thought of him as a magician of sorts, as many itinerant healers were at the time. She had nothing to lose to go to him to help heal her mentally ill little girl. She had faith that Jesus could help her. Instead, she receives a curt response, even an insulting response. 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." It is at that moment that Jesus understands that his mission is not only to the Jews, but to all of humanity. IT IS HIS JOB to extend the knowledge of God’s Kingdom to all peoples. There’s something reassuring to see that God is still learning, like the rest of us.
It was so ironic to read this morning about today’s Syrian refugees, tempest-tossed and without a place to call home, as they escape open warfare in their country, often drowning in the open water of the Mediterranean, with nothing to lose but their lives. The REAL helping hand for these refugees has come from one of the least expected places: the people of Iceland. Over the past couple of weeks over 11,000 Icelanders have come forth offering to house and care for Syrian families on a permanent basis. Icelanders view and welcome the newcomers as people who will bring their talents to their adopted country. These brothers and sisters of the Syrophoenician Woman will find healing and peace far away from the violence of the lands where still the unbelieving words “Am I my brother’s keeper” echo amidst the bomb craters. May others emulate the healing properties of brotherhood. - -Pastor Pat Kriss