Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost  /  September 10, 2006

Message based on Mark 7: 24 – 30  /  Title:  It’s About Being Fed

By:  Rev. Carol Kniseley  /  Resurrection Lutheran Church  /  Fredericksburg, VA


My husband and I did something for the very first time since moving to Virginia some six years ago.     Being huge fans of Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion, we decided to catch a live broadcast of the show in Vienna…at Wolf Trap National Park.     And because it was a rather spur of the moment impulse, of course, all of the tickets with seats  were sold out.     So we did the next best thing and purchased lawn seats.    Which means: first come, first served.      


We had to be there at least 3 hours before the show if we even hoped to see a blade of grass when the gates were finally opened.    Now picture this:  the temperature is well over the 90 degree mark.     With coolers beginning to drip and close to 100 people beginning to fan themselves in order to create a breeze of any kind, there isn’t a single seat to be had anywhere in sight without giving up one’s hollowed place in line.   


With this being our first time at Wolf Trap, bet you’ll never guess who forgot the sunscreen.     And just when I could feel the skin on the back of my neck becoming very, very warm…someone near and dear to my heart took one look at me and announced for the entire world to hear:


     “Ah ha!  I did marry a red neck!”


Not something you want to say to someone who grew up in the hills of East Tennessee.  Being called a Tennessee hillbilly might be one thing…or even a rabid Big Orange Volunteer fan whose blood does run orange.   But a bonified “red neck” is not something that one wants to be called.    Sunburned neck or not…I did not hear the words as a complement.    And it certainly was not heard as a complement when similar words were spoken to a woman…by none other than Jesus, himself.


Today…we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity…his ‘down to earth’ humanness that pulls us up short.   If you’ve wondered what all the fuss was about concerning The Da Vinci Code…the answer is staring us right in the face.    Jesus was very much “human” in every sense of the word…and in this particular text, he is caught “red handed”…so to speak…acting like one of us. 


Imagine that…Jesus saying something that comes off a bit ‘unkind’ if not altogether just plain rude.    Now don’t get me wrong.    I love dogs.   In fact, some of my very best friends in the entire world are dogs…and, yes, I am referring to the ones with four paws.   But to call a person (or persons) “a dog”…was never meant to be a compliment.    Even in Jesus day.


Could it be that what really sticks in our craw…is the notion, that all of a sudden we are seeing a glimpse of “ourselves” reflected in the words of Jesus.    And we remember, don’t we, the last time we did the very same thing.   Justified our lack of attention…even our lack of response…to someone that we knew was in need…but who didn’t fit in “neatly” with our agenda at the time.       Jesus…it appears, had an agenda all laid out.   As he stated: he was to go to the ‘children of Israel FIRST’.   Nice…neat…orderly…completely fair…at least by Jewish standards…but it does nothing for those on the outside.


Enter the woman with a need.   A woman who has simply ‘heard some things about this Jesus’ and has come to see for herself if the rumors are true.     She comes to Jesus at a time when he least expects, catching him off guard (or so it seems) as what she gets in return is a surprising earful of rejection.


And yet, instead of backing off…instead of retreating…her tenaciousness kicks in.    Digging her heels into the ground,  she dares to remember the reason for her coming in the first place.   Her daughter “is in need…and can not come to Jesus on her own”.      And so she comes.    She comes on her daughter’s behalf…and in so doing, becomes one of millions who become the carriers of the mat for those who can not come…and the speakers with a voice…for those who have no voice to give.  


And in the end, isn’t that what the woman in today’s story really wanted.    Listen closely, and you will hear her mantra:


“…it isn’t about being fair…it’s about being fed.’ 


Fed…with the bread of life even if that bread comes in the form of crumbs.    It will be enough. 


God’s grace is sufficient to meet the needs of a woman considered by many to be ‘on the outside’….’no where on the map’…except, in the eyes of God.     I would like to believe that even Jesus learned a little something about human nature from this woman…and in the end,  took a risk…and changed his mind.


Not too long ago, a similar experience happened to Pastor Jim and me…on our day off.   We were sitting at a local restaurant when a waiter, whom we knew, approached our table.   Seeing that we were alone, he quickly decided to pull up a chair and sit down at the table saying:  “I hope you don’t mind, but there are some questions that I’ve been dying to ask you.”


What you need to know it that this young man’s experience of church was virtually nil.    Having grown up in a family where no one took going to church seriously, the questions he came up with were rather startling: 


“What’s the big deal about Jesus?” he asked.  

“If I believe in a God…and that something is out

there watching over us…what does Jesus…or the church for that matter…have to do with anything?”  


My first reaction was to say something rather  theological…explaining that “Jesus was the Son of God…who came down from heaven to become one of us…who took on our flesh so that when he died on the cross, our sins would be forgiven and we would then live with him in heaven for all of eternity.”


I have to tell you…that as soon as I said those words, I knew from the look on that young man’s face that that was not what he needed to hear.    Having not been raised in the church…having almost no knowledge of the Bible…he was truly a person (like many in our world today) living on the outside edge.     He had heard rumors about the church and about Jesus…and was coming in his own way…to be fed.


I suspect, that on some level it is the work of the Holy Spirit that is drawing people like this young man into ‘holy conversations’ around the church.    Because deep down inside…they sense a hunger that desperately needs to be fed.     Be it a hunger for a truer understanding of God…or a hunger for a child’s body to be made whole…the waiter in the restaurant, and the woman in today’s Bible story…both represent a ‘world of people’ whom we in the church dare not ignore.


The church…in all of its humanness…is at it’s best when, like Jesus, we allow ourselves to grow from our experiences.    Our job…is to open wide the doors of our churches and continue serving the bread of life…to whomever comes:  regardless of nationality, economic station in life, color of skin, religious bent or not,…(you fill in the blank).     


And if the crumbs fall into the hands of folks whom we never expected to encounter…then, dear friends in Christ, consider that to be the work of the Holy Spirit.    Who is very much alive and well…and reaching out to embrace the entire world…with the open arms of Christ. The only question remaining:


…will we “in the church”… continue to risk…

doing the same?