Dear Friends, (sending a bit early this week, as I have time now, but may not later).
We continue to be challenged to do extraordinary things in this Extra Ordinary Time! We must remember that not only are we human beings, which is quite a wonderful thing, but like our brother Jesus, we are divine beings too and that gives us all that we need to be extraordinary creatures in our world! My prayer for all of us this week is that we can all strive, in our place, to be all that we can be–it is our choice! Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
P.S. If I can be of help to you, or you would just like to chat, please don’t hesitate, in between my calls to you, to be in contact, by phone, 507-429-3616, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
God, our protector, keep us in mind; always give strength to your people. For if we can be with you even one day; it is better than a thousand without you.
Let Us Pray
O Gracious and Loving God, your care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation to the hearts of all who live. May the walls, that prejudice raises between us, crumble beneath the shadow of your outstretched arm. We ask this through Jesus, our Brother and Friend, and with the Spirit, all One God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.
- Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7
- Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32
- Matthew 15: 21-28
My friends, today’s Scripture readings are full of challenge to do the “right thing.” The prophet Isaiah says, “Work for justice.” Even Jesus, our brother, is mightily challenged by a woman of faith, “to do the right thing.”
These readings are especially poignant for the times in which we live, as at every turn, we too are challenged, “to do the right thing.” From the wearing of masks and social distancing to protect ourselves and others from an enemy that we cannot see, to voting for people who truly believe in the good of all and will work for that good—who are basically attempting, “to do the right thing—to do justice—we are mightily challenged in these readings.
So, let’s take them apart a bit. Our gospel selection today is the most compelling, because it shows our brother Jesus warring between his human and divine natures and except for the great faith of a Canaanite woman; it appears that he would have let his humanity win out in this encounter.
It is important to remember here, however much anyone of us may revere Jesus; that he was capable of being completely human. And what does that mean? It means that Jesus, being completely immersed in his humanity, was capable of “not being perfect” in his response to his world, which, by the way, is the definition of being—human and if this is not true of Jesus, than it cannot be said, that he was human.
Jesus was being confronted in this instance by his culture, by gender specifics and by religious commitment. Let’s look at each one briefly. In the time in which Jesus lived, his culture told him that the Canaanites were his enemies—the Israelites had defeated the Canaanites to keep their land holy and because their enemy didn’t believe in their God, they thought that they should have nothing to do with them. Secondly, the gender issue was that a man should not be talking to a woman in public. And a third point was that Jesus, in his human mind, had the sense of being sent to save his own people, not foreigners or outcasts. Being a man in his time and place, Jesus would have been aware of all these taboos and so, in one sense, his rude comment to the woman might be understandable.
So, what’s the problem here? The problem, my friends, is that Jesus was not just human, but equally—divine. So, as his followers, do we not have a right to expect more openness, mercy and understanding from him than his first comment suggests? Let’s hold that question for the moment. We see that it is through this woman’s “great faith” in pursuing Jesus to obtain help for her daughter—to, in fact, demand his very best, that she challenged Jesus to be, his best. This is so interesting when you look at the whole picture. For some, reading this gospel might cause them to be disappointed in our human brother—even disillusioned, given who we believe him to be.
Scripture scholar, Diane Bergant has this to say: “If we don’t accept Jesus’ at times, shortcomings—than that minimizes the extraordinariness of those of his actions that break through the limitations of his culture, his humanity. Being completely human, Jesus became a man of his own limited time and culture—but at the same time, he was open enough to break out of that limitation.”
So, friends, where does that leave us? First of all, it is important to remember that while each of us is completely human, capable of being, “imperfect,” we are also filled with the same divine nature, as was, and is, Jesus, which aids us in being our best selves, if, like our brother, we choose to act on it. You see, that is really what it is all about and being our best selves is really our choice, like it was for Jesus.
The Scripture selection from Paul to the Romans gives us a view of this. Paul was called to be God’s prophet and as it turned out, not to his own people but to the Gentiles—those not of his culture or belief system. Now, given the Jews lack of belief in him concerning Jesus, he might have just said, “Well God, they won’t listen, say nothing about, believing, so that experiment failed—there is nothing I can do!”
But, as we know, our God is always, “doing something new!” This expansive God of ours—through Jesus, said, “Go to the Gentiles!” Paul did just that and found that these “foreigners and outcasts” not only listened, but they believed! Think of how different Christianity—an experiment in loving—basically, would have been if Paul had simply walked away! And the question that each of us must ask, my friends, we who say through our baptisms and confirmations that we follow Jesus, the Christ, is, what is our piece to do? Are we, each of us doing all we can to be our best selves, to affect change in our world?
And God knows, there is much in our present world that needs changing! It has been said, by more than one, that we are living in a time of, “a perfect storm.” As much as this pandemic has brought at the very least—discomfort, at not being able to live as normal—before the pandemic, at the very worst, it has brought; pain, suffering, death and grief to many way before their times. And if the pandemic were not enough, our country has been called to face, head on this time, the cultural sin of racism.
A time of pandemic and especially COVID 19 has brought the sad truth home, in stark relief, that those who live in poverty, and many of these are our black sisters and brothers, have suffered most and have died at a far higher rate than have white people. Not having enough income to feed your family properly leads to all kinds of medical issues—obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and lung disease due to smoking and all these pre-existing conditions ultimately make one more susceptible when illness, such as this pandemic strikes. Added to this, our country, at present, in both State and Church is witnessing an unprecedented lack of leadership and guidance to help us all see our way through this time.
This is a time that calls for compassionate, merciful and just leaders in Church and State—fully human who attempt to mirror the divine each and every day to bring goodness and wholeness to all. This is a time for us as individuals to do the same. Last week we talked about, “doing what must be done, saying what must be said.” Yes, yes, yes!
Small-minded responses, such as the apostles gave in today’s gospel, “Get rid of her!”—basically, she’s an embarrassment, simply will not do! Voting for one life issue, while ignoring the rest, simply will not do! Life is life—all along the continuum and must be about a “seamless garment” approach here as Joseph Cardinal Bernardin spoke so eloquently of it nearly 25 years ago in Chicago.
Jesus’ initial response to a life situation is instructive for us. He, like we often do, spoke out of his humanness—perhaps, he was tired—but in the end, his divinity warring against his humanity, chose goodness, faith, mercy and understanding.
We have such strength friends, in following our brother Jesus, working each day to be our best selves, striving to let our divine natures win over our human ones, not just for ourselves, but for all whom we share this planet with. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
1. For each of us, help us to remember how our humanity has been graced by your willingness Jesus to take on our existence and show us how to not only be human, but how to be like God, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
2. For each of us here and for our entire Church, help us to respond with love and care to each and every person we meet, each and every day, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, be it in body, mind or spirit, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
4. For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, remembering that peace begins within each heart, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
5. For all who live with cancer, especially any members of our families or our friends, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- For each of us here and for our wider Church, that we would realize today and always what a loving and compassionate God we have, slow to anger and rich in kindness, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
7. For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
8. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially from Covid 19 and all other afflictions—give them your peace, be with those our friends and relatives who are newly bereaved to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs, you may say them out loud—then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Creator, Savior and Spirit, you see into our hearts and know our needs before we ask—give us what we most need today. Allow us to have your lovingkindness and your compassionate heart to be what our world of people so need. Give us the personal strength to always do the right thing, to emulate you in our lives. We ask this of You, Jesus, Creator, and Spirit of us all—God, who lives and loves us forever and ever—Amen.
Let Us Pray—again, we can’t physically be together, to receive the physical bread and wine—your body and blood, but this time calls us to remember that you are already with us—each and every day.
Prayer after Communion
God of mercy, help each of us to become more like Jesus in our lives and may we one day come to share his glory in heaven, our brother and friend, who lives and loves us forever and ever—Amen.