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15th Sunday After Pentecost - September 5, 2021

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

One time Jesus said, “When you throw a party don’t invite the usual suspects – the partners at the firm, your accountant, your mom’s bridge group, your mom…no, when you throw a party go down to the Salvation Army, honk the bus horn and say “if you want to party…climb aboard.”

Another time Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a party (notice Jesus loved talking about parties)…and all the invited guests and their plus 1’s never RSVP’d – I mean they had the invitation card, but no one came. So the host threw open the doors and brought in random people just passing by including the beggars and the ragamuffins – all the down n’outers and vagabonds…” None of them had invitation cards, none of them were club members, but they all were dragged into the party.

Can you imagine…you’re just walking down the street with a grocery list in your hand and a song in your head, not really paying attention and then someone grabs you and pulls you into a big room, shoves a drink in your hand, hands you a plate of food, and says “get ready for the toast!”

“The toast!? What or who am I toasting?!” How crazy would that be? I’ve never been to a party like that. Maybe that’s because I went to a Baptist college. But I don’t think many people have gone to a party like that.

Or….maybe we have and we just didn’t know it or even forgot

…Jesus did say that’s what the Kingdom of God is like – it’s for everybody. It seems that entry into the kingdom of God is an event that we find ourselves in the midst of and not something which requires an admissions process.

So if Jesus said all that what is he doing in our story from Mark this morning.

A woman comes before him, and not just any woman – a Syrophoenician woman, a Gentile woman – but that shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Not after we’ve been listening to him teach and confront the whole exclusionary religious system. And, he is in Gentile territory – so he can’t be that surprised, right?

Her daughter is ill, possessed. She begs him to heal her daughter. And Jesus’ response:

Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and feed it to the dogs.

What? Did you hear that? Jesus called her sick child a dog.

Why? Where’s the compassion? Where’s the Jesus who’s unafraid to cross all those cultural boundaries so the healing love of God can be shared with all? A dog…really?

Now, scholarship is all over the place on this. Some New Testament scholars say, “Well, in the Greek dog is diminutive – like Jesus is calling her “a house pet” and not a wild dog. He’s joking with her – kind of a nudge, nudge, wink, wink encounter.” Other scholarship suggests Jesus is vocalizing the internal voice of the disciples, wrapped up in all their prejudice toward Gentiles and their offense that a Gentile woman would even think of approaching Jesus. And there are others still who believe Jesus, being not just fully God but also fully man is tired, worn out, and wrestling with his own cultural bias.

Ultimately, we don’t know. As CS Mann put it, “We are face to face with something of which in the nature of the case we can know nothing – the human self-consciousness of Jesus.”

We don’t know.

But here’s what really intrigues me. That this story is in Mark’s gospel at all. That it wasn’t left out. It’s included. If you’re composing the narrative of Jesus, wouldn’t there be at least a temptation to omit this story – if for no other reason than it’s a little hard to understand and Jesus comes off looking like a jerk. Wouldn’t there be some pull to just edit this one out.

But there it is. And here we are – still hearing about it.