Who let the dogs out?

 Gate Pa – 9th September 2012

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


Hebrew Scripture:                 Prov 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm:                                     Psalm: Ps 125
Epistle:                                    James 2:1-17
Gospel:                                    Mark 7:24-37

What I want to say:

  • this story is shocking
  • calls into question all our images Christ – nice
  • it highlights how much we too are shaped by the social, political and religious world we live in
  • it asks of us – who are treated as dogs in our society?
                         - who do we struggle with, who do we see or treat as “dogs”?
  • How might I embrace them as God’s beloved?

What I want to happen:

people to become more aware of own prejudices blocks seeing God in others

The Sermon

1.    Introduction: -

when I talk about Jesus  - I wonder what image or thoughts come to mind?
  •          small groups
  •           share
  •       popular images include
                      ð gentle, kind, deep penetrating stare
                      ð strong silent type
got to say that today’s story with Syrophoenician woman blows all that out water
Ø can (commentators do) see how Mark sets this up as verbal joust
ð meet needs within his community
ð that is how Mark tells the story

Ø very hard to explain the actual story
o   the event
o   confronted with Jesus likening to a dog a mother who come to him, desperate for her daughter
Ø confronted with very human Jesus who has been shaped and moulded to some degree social, political and religious world lived in
o   reminds us that we are shaped by social, political and religious world we live in
o   what just as appalling is that many those heard and read this gospel would think nothing of what Jesus says
ð world Jesus,
ð world Mark
ð world we live in deeply divided
§  great animosity even hate between various groups
§  where those of other group not seen human
§  seen as of no concern to god – whoever god might be
§  even those within your group can be seen in this light
§  story of Iranian/Afghan couple in Australia and husband who murdered her
ð she brought dishonour to his family leaving him
ð perfectly reasonable to kill her
ð “she was like dog”
ð lengthy jail term completely unreasonable – provoked
this is world this story both set, and written by Mark in.
                 ð world where people are like dogs.
             ð God is prejudiced

2.     Marks Gospel and Gentiles

·        what is both confusing and shocking is that elsewhere in gospels Jesus confronts these kinds of views
·        in fact in Marks gospel we are in middle section which is all about confronting these divisions and attitudes

if used lectionary readings last week – heard Jesus being confronted by Pharisees and scribes because disciples not observing traditions of elders re washing hands
        ð eating with unclean hands
        ð made them unclean
ü traditions not mosaic law,
ü but traditions build up ensured mosaic law observed
ð washing required significant time, water and money – vast majority people
ð poor peasants – which included Jesus and disciples
unable to observe them
ü what disciples doing pretty standard behaviours disciples,
ü and those Jesus spent most time with
Ø as result - they were seen by Pharisees, scribes and Judean elite (usually translated Jews) as unclean and no better than dogs themselves
Ø to them Jesus says
“Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

ð radical stuff
§  no food is unclean
-         know from Acts and Galatians this on-going source debate
§  could eat with unclean hands
§  more radical – possibility that you could eat with unclean people
§  ? did this include non-Jews – those beyond Jesus group
§  more radical that maybe gentile heart is as acceptable to God as Hebrew heart
Ø immediately make has Jesus travel into Gentile area, and two stories we heard today have him engaging with Gentiles
if we were to read on (which not, skip the next verses) concludes with feeding 4000, seen by number commentators as being with Gentiles, and acts as counterpoint to feeding 5,000 which with Jews
God’s actions through Jesus are for both Jew and Gentile, for all people, for all come under God’s concern and love => incredibly radical notion

3.     This story

Ø so given all that, this story is even more shocking
like to offer now is really good way explaining this story
it is what it is
simply leaves nice images of Jesus shattered
left very human Jesus
Ø what is striking about this story is courage and tenacity of the unnamed woman
              §  risks shaming family (and all consequences of that) apparently being alone in public talking with this man
              §  Jewish – animosity shown Jesus response mutual
              §  pleads for her daughter
              §  when he responds to her way that would have been expected according social norms
              §  stands up to this rabbi
       ð amazing woman who risks much for the sake of her daughter
Ø Jesus responds by recognising her humanity
                 ð This new way of being,
                 ð this new way of seeing people and treating them as beloved of God
                 ð this  includes even gentile women.

 4.     Good news and challenge

There is both good news and challenge of this story
          Ø good news that all are included
          Ø challenge – questions
          Ø take on Jesus reaction to this woman and apply it to ourselves we are left with some questions
ð who are Syrophoenician women of our society?
ð who are seen and treated as dogs
o   name a few: beneficiaries, gang members and their families, convicted criminals, refugees and immigrants, especially those of a different colour

more importantly – who are Syrophoenician women for us  as a church and as individuals
o   who are the equivalents for us?
ð what would it mean for me to recognise their humanity, as Christ recognised humanity Syrophoenician woman.
ð what mean for me treat them as beloved of God,
o   means by which I might love God,
o   means by which God loves me?
ð how might I embrace them as God’s beloved


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