The Minister writes

 

 

Dear All,

Dear All, A few weeks ago, we reflected on Mark’s remarkable story of Jesus’ healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter and the disabled man in Mark 7. Here, Jesus is in Gentile territory, hoping for a little R&R with his disciples. A Greek woman from ‘up north’ comes to Jesus, she’s hoping for a little miracle from him and she begs him to heal her daughter. Jesus tells a brief parable about boundaries; the mealtime boundary between the family and their animals and she completes the parable: the animals get the leftovers, which interestingly, is exactly what happened for the disciples after the feeding of the five thousand in Mark 6! Jesus is astonished! It’s not her faith that Jesus commends but her word. She’s worked out something that the disciples don’t appear to have grasped yet: that, as one writer explains, ‘the boundary between God’s reign and everywhere else is porous and all sorts of people can come in and out, including this Greek woman.’

 

Obviously, she did also have faith. It was faith that sent her on the journey to seek Jesus out, and faith that kept her going on the journey back to see whether Jesus’ word was true and her daughter had been healed. Wonderfully, that faith was not disappointed (Mark 7:30). Having broken down the boundaries in private, the loving and learning Jesus now very publicly opens the floodgates and shares the blessings of God’s kingdom with the Gentiles. God’s kingdom is open to all!

 

It is the openness of God’s kingdom that is clearly the theme in this Bible passage. If we think for just a moment about the following story of the healed deaf man, we might wonder whether it is significant that Mark chooses to tell us the Aramaic, ‘eph’ pha-tha’, that Jesus speaks. As one perceptive writer ponders, did Jesus do this so that it stands out? Might ‘eph’ pha-tha’, ‘be opened’ be referring not just to this man’s ears and mouth but also to the kingdom, now opened to Gentiles? Now the good news spreads quickly throughout the whole region. The religious leaders might not have grasped this, but here two Gentiles have joined Jesus in his message: the boundaries are breaking down and all are welcome to come and experience God’s reign.

 

So Mark’s story explores how ‘outsiders’ are included in our journey of faith. The Gentile woman and the disabled man are both people who were considered to be outsiders in Jesus’ society. But there are no borders to God’s love and welcome. It is a story about two people who weren’t usually welcome and yet Jesus welcomes them. We might try and put ourselves in their position: what did it mean to them to be welcomed into the kingdom Jesus proclaims? Also, what lessons are there for us and for our church community? How should we be learning and growing in our love for our neighbour? How does Mark’s story help us in wrestling with issues of welcome and inclusion? How should we welcome and include those who are different or who feel they will not fit in our churches? Let us do all we can to play our part in the boundary breaking kingdom of God, to see that all are offered a warm welcome here and that there is never any exclusion due to race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability or for any other reason. Let us hear the cries of those who are too often and unjustly discriminated against and, in God’s name, let us be those who offer only a loving and liberating welcome to all. Let us embody the borderless kingdom of God!

With love,

Andrew's signature

We pray:

Loving Lord, make us all ever more embracing of the different, accepting of the stranger and intolerant of all that gives room for discrimination to flourish. May we be those who share your universal love, without condition, without barrier, without fear of appearance or taint of discrimination. May we be those who lovingly welcome all. Amen.

This prayer is an adapted version of a prayer by Rupert Bristow in ‘Prayers for Inclusion and Diversity’ published by Kevin Mayhew