9th September, 2018
As I reflect on today’s gospel for me it’s about the inclusiveness of God. I want to make it clear that this is one reflection, this one view, is not necessarily the right one. And I encourage everyone to reflect on what today’s gospel means to you. The gospels in general were not designed to be read in small chunks, so I’ll try to summarize what Jesus has been doing up to now.
Jesus has been busy. Under the pump as we might say today.
In the last few weeks, Jesus has been going around, by foot, from village to village, teaching and healing and anointing people. We can imagine that he’s been speaking with families, pastoring, consoling, instructing, and standing up to the constant undermining challenges of the pharisees; for the love and benefit of us all.
Jesus was entering each village and getting to know the people of Galilee, and the people were getting to know Jesus. His name had spread because of his works, his generosity and his grace.
But some still had miscomprehended expectations of Christ. Some thought they would encounter a muscular messiah, a new King David, a messiah who would only save the Hebrews, while everyone else would be destroyed and vanquished. They did not expect to encounter a personal God – a God who would challenge the inclusiveness of their faith.
Jesus affected each person he encountered differently. And he affected his own disciples differently according to their personal faith. The ministry of Jesus was inclusive. His saving acts were beyond the pharisee’s control and that distressed them greatly.
Today’s gospel tells us that when Jesus arrives in the city of Tyre that he is tired and in need of some alone time to escape from peoples notice. ‘Jesus enters a house and does not want anyone to know he is there.’
But even in this secluded house, a woman of great faith finds him, enters the house, and implores Jesus to heal her daughter. At this moment Jesus has a choice to heal or not heal the gentile’s daughter. And his choice would reflect who our God is – a God of a chosen few (Hebrews only) or a God for all. (Hebrews, Gentiles, Romans, and the rest of us.)
The woman, who approached Jesus, a Syrophoenician, may have spoken a different language, and may have looked and dressed differently from Jesus and his disciples. Scholars debate the details. She may have been a ‘so-called foreigner’ and been considered unclean to the Hebrews. When Jesus healed her daughter, he demonstrated that God loves all cultures and all people equally. To me, he showed the inclusiveness of God’s love.
Today, in our context, perhaps, when we recognize that we are fully loved by God, we might be able to notice God loving others as well, just as they are, no exceptions. We are reminded in Today’s Gospel, that all peoples are a part of God’s family. Even the people we’re not familiar with or wouldn’t necessarily have a coffee with.
In the same way that the Syrophoenician woman prayed for her loved one, and Jesus answered her prayer; we are reminded that the prayers of people outside our radar will be answered today. Our God is an inclusive God.
It’s far too easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking God is only on our side or rooting for our club or group or tribe to win. Sometimes we might see something happening in our favour, or in our nation’s favour, and we think God is indeed with us. But too often I’ve learned that’s simply a kind of ‘bias of coincidence’ that we take to be a justification of our viewpoint, be it a personal, cultural or national viewpoint.
I conclude with a simple principle when I think about the inclusiveness of God. If God loves me unconditionally, then it must be that God also loves my neighbour unconditionally, a neighbour who may be very different from me.
God’s inclusive unconditional love puts us all in relationship with each other.
God’s inclusive love is his gift to us.
Our Faith is our continual response to that love working in our lives and in our diverse communities.
Rev Julian Morris