Proper 18B (OT 23)

 
 

Voice in the Wilderness: Diann Bailey

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


Mark 7:24-37

Initial Thoughts

  • Syrophoenician woman is one of my favorites in the whole Bible.

  • Careful not to preach two sermons with these two great stories.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Comes right on the heels of last week.

    • Last week was about Jesus calling out the Religious hypocrites, and you can argue that he begins this passage by acting like one.

    • Now in region of Tyre

      • Matthew 11:22 “But I say to you that Tyre and Sidon will have it better off on Judgment Day than you.”

      • It is a “large Phoenician port city of Syria.” (Lamar Williamson, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, p. 136)

    • In the gospel, next story is another feeding. In Lectionary, we skip to Jesus predicting his death and Peter’s testimony of Jesus as Christ.

    • This story is in between Jesus’ two feeding miracles, which lead to the culmination of  Jesus’ Galilean ministry - Peter calling him Christ, the Transfiguration, then heading to Jerusalem.

  • Syrophoenician Woman

    • “It is odd that such an amount of information is given about the woman.  Mark wants to drive some that this person is the embodiment of "other."” (Rob Myalis, Lectionary Greek)

    • Ancient Greek Comedy - Battle of wits. Jesus is always the one that comes out on top in these rhetorical battles, except here.

      • Not unlike Poetry or Rap battles, where the victor is the most clever.

      • Here, the victor is not Jesus, but the foreign woman.

    • Jesus jerk (not Jesus juke)

      • “Jesus initial response to the woman is sharp. The attempts of commentators to soften the saying miss the point…. Jesus nevertheless is bluntly confronting the woman with the priority of the Jews in the divine economy, a point consistent affirmed throughout the New Testament.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B., p. 502)

    • Translation Alert

      • NRSV - “For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter”

      • CEB - “Good answer!” he said “Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter."

      • Was the woman rewarded by her answer? Was she rewarded for passing the test?

    • Woman is shown as direct contrast to Pharisees from last week.

      • Pharisees look for what is due to them because of the tradition and what they have earned.

      • She begs for compassion based on her need - not on tradition.

  • Deaf man

    • Decapolis is on the opposite side of Galilee from Tyre. Tyre is far northwest, on the Mediterranean Sea. Decapolis is on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. There has to be a significant amount of time passing between these stories, yet they are tied together.

    • Jesus “gets his hands dirty”

      • Whereas healing of the woman’s daughter is done with little to no ‘effort,’ this healing is described in great (kind of gross) details.

    • The infirmity harkens back to Isaiah 35:6 - eschatological implications.

      • This is the passage of Isaiah that is talking about the one who will prepare the way and make the paths straight.

      • This messiah-text includes the “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be cleared. Then the lame will leap like the deer, and the tongue of the speechless will sing.” (Isaiah 35:5-6)

      • This is a part of the work of Jesus, which continues with the highway which is the Holy Way.

    •  

Thoughts and questions

  • “Open Up” - United Methodist slogan of “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.”

    • Many progressive UM’s question the validity of this statement because we continue to be closed to the LGBTQ community.

    • I read the “opens” as verbs, not adjectives. Instead of the slogan being a description, I see it as a prescription. It is what we are called as a church to do - to go out and open hearts, open minds, and open doors.

    • My church’s prayer of illumination every Sunday: “Holy Spirit, open our hearts to the story of your love, open our minds to new ways of knowing you, open our doors to all whom you would welcome. Amen.”

  • This story is in between Jesus’ two feeding miracles, which lead to the culmination of Jesus’ Galilean ministry - Peter calling him Christ, the Transfiguration, then heading to Jerusalem.

  • Woman is shown as direct contrast to Pharisees from last week.

    • Pharisees look for what is due to them because of the tradition and what they have earned.

    • She begs for compassion based on her need - not on tradition.


James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Diatribe - “In the diatribe a fictional sparring partner is created by the use of question and response. Vivid examples of the type of behavior being condemned also form an important part of the philosophic diatribe.” Pheme Perkins (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching – First and Second Peter, James, and Jude)

  • A New Social Order:

    • Story of a pastor who dressed up as a homeless man and visited his church explained by Snopes.

    • Direct continuation of last week- specifically the call to care for the widows and orphans and to be unstained by the world.

    • The world determines worth via social and economic status (as well as race, gender identification, sexual orientation, ableness, etc.) and those who are stained by the world respond to others according to their status. That is not the way of faith.

    • “Partiality toward the wealthy and powerful is a common feature of any society. In societies that bestow honor and privilege on the rich in exchange for their patronage and material support for communal projects, the behavior described in this section would have been second nature.” - Pheme Perkins (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching – First and Second Peter, James, and Jude)

    • Movement from the old patronage social system to a family system. In a family system the benefits do not come with quid pro quo expectations. Everyone is obligated to aid one another. The only patron or “father” Christians are to have is God.

  • v. 1 - your actions (favoritism) do not reflect your belief (in Jesus as Lord and Christ)

  • vv. 2-7 illustrate this declaration

    • Favoritism (or partiality) is honoring the rich and dishonoring the poor

    • This is about partiality within the community (“assembly” or “Synagogue” - the worshipping community). Do you or does your church show partiality to members over non-members? To big donors over non-givers? To young millennial families over aged boomers? To those who claim one political affiliation over another?

    • v.  4 - The justice system at the time of James and now is supposed to be “blind” or impartial, but this is not the case. The justice system in the US heavily favors the wealthy who are able to afford rich lawyers as well as time away from home and work. Justice is not blind in the US. James calls out the injustice in our justice system.

    • v. 5 dishonoring the poor is just as bad a favoring the rich because it is the poor who will inherit the kingdom and be blessed (cf. Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20). You cannot claim to follow Jesus and dishonor the poor

    • vv. 6-7 Directly challenges the notion - “if you can’t beat them, join them”. James accuses the community of becoming those who are oppressing them.

    • During the Reformation the church distinguished between the “worthy and unworthy poor. The poor who begged in the street changed from being viewed as a way to show piety (by assisting the poor) to being scored as the unclean bears of disease and moral decay. For more on this see Haruko Nawata Ward’s theological commentary in Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

  • vv. 8-13 The Law of God

    • Appeal to a higher authority than culture or Roman law - the perfect law - love your neighbor

    • There are not lesser or greater infractions to God’s law- you either keep the law or you don’t. The law of God is not a menu.

      • So what are the royal laws? There are laws in Torah that determine a person’s cleanliness or uncleanliness - thus creating dynamics of partiality. It comes down to “what is your and your church’s hermeneutic”? A slippery rabbit hole that misses James’ point -

      • Just as one should not show favoritism among people- you also cannot show favoritism among the laws. You either follow the commandments or you don’t. You either treat everyone equally or you don’t.

      • “If one keeps the whole law, but fails in one point—showing favoritism—the whole weight of the law falls upon that person. Favoritism emulates, not the law, but the oppressive measures of the rich who do not show mercy. The polar opposite of favoritism is mercy.” Aaron Uitti Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

    • Also calls attention to a higher authority-God. We answer to God and the teachings of Jesus, not to culture, not to wealth and not to worldly power.

  • vv.14-17 Faith without works is dead

    • You cannot claim to have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior while ignoring his life, teaching and example.

    • The heart of hypocrisy- to claim one thing (faith in Jesus) and do another (be impartial and ignore the needs of those in the human family)

    • James is NOT saying that one can be saved by works alone, but rather by faith lived out, done and seen. Salvation is both belief and action

Thoughts and Questions

  • The justice system in the US heavily favors the wealthy who are able to afford rich lawyers as well as time away from home and work. Justice is not blind in the US. James calls out the injustice in our justice system.

  • So what are the royal laws? There are laws in Torah that determine a person’s cleanliness or uncleanliness - thus creating dynamics of partiality. It comes down to “what is your and your church’s hermeneutic”? A slippery rabbit hole that misses James’ point -

  • Just as one should not show favoritism among people- you also cannot show favoritism among the laws. You either follow the commandments or you don’t. You either treat everyone equally or you don’t.

  • How many of our communities contain people who claim to be Christian yet never participate in the community of faith? Or participate in the community of faith but ignore the needs of the poor, “orphans and widows”.

  • How often do we offer “thoughts and prayers” instead of real action? It isn’t that thoughts and prayers are pointless, but thoughts and prayers without ac tion is insulting.

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.