Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, September 26, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 18

Pentecost 18, 2021
Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Though I don’t have the authority to re-write the gospel as I please, I do feel empowered to approach it in the order that works best, which is what I’m going to do today.  So, I’m going to split it up, so that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  Start with the ending, you could say.

So, in what I will call the “first part” of today’s gospel, Jesus is giving a series of warnings to various people.  For those who put a stumbling block in front of one of these “little ones,” it would be better to have a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea. 

Now, at the risk of doing what every preaching professor tells you not to do, I have to make a clarification about the original Greek language here. The phrase that gets translated as “little ones who believe in me” is mikron pisteuonton.  If you’re like me, when you hear the phrase “little ones,” you probably imagine little children.  But it doesn’t mean, “children;” it means “little faith ones.”  It’s like a term of endearment:  My little faith ones.  Better to have a millstone tied around your neck than to cause a little faith one to stumble.

A millstone!  Have you ever seen a millstone?  Huge chunk of rock with a hole in the middle.  Like a giant stone bagel.  Tied around the neck.  This is Jesus saying this.  I find it compelling and important to note: this is not a punishment for causing a little faith one to stumble.  No, Jesus is just saying, “Given the choice between causing a little faith one to lose faith, and swimming with the cement necklace, you should choose the river.”  Now, I am not clear on how much hyperbole to read into this statement.  But I think the point is clear.

We then move forward into our next section, which is where we get to the severed limbs and stuff.  This is violent, bloody, gruesome, horrific language.  And yet, the words seem to be delivered like advice from the Farmer’s Almanac. “If your hands get cold, put on your gloves.  If your eye causes you pain, see a doctor.  If your foot causes you to stumble, have that heel checked.”  The lack of passion in the phrases makes me think it is a teaching moment, not a damning moment.  After all, Jesus is talking to his friends here.  I would guess he’s using dramatic language to make a dramatic point.  And I think the dramatic point is this: 

Before you go throwing someone out because he or she is an obstacle to faith, consider whether you would just as likely cut off your hand.  Before you reject someone from the community on the grounds that they are different, consider whether you would cut off your foot for this.

By all means, there are times when drastic action is called for.  It’s better to lose one part of the body than for the whole thing to be destroyed.  But, Jesus is saying, think carefully.  Remember the example with the severed limbs.  (And how could they not?)  That’s the kind of damage you’ll do to the body of believers.  Dramatic language to make a dramatic point.

Now we move the “the end” of today’s reading, by which I mean the beginning, where we find the gospel in today’s gospel.

The set up is, the disciples come to Jesus and say, “Hey, some guys are casting out demons in your name and they forgot to make a pledge with the church treasurer.”  Jesus responds, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”  Whoever is not against us is for us . . . where have we heard that phrase before?  From the rubble at Ground Zero?  In political campaign stops?  Not quite.  What we heard in those instances (and many more) was this: Whoever is not for us is against us.  Jesus is saying, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”  A drastically different thing.  To say that the ones not “with you” are your enemies is in fact the exact opposite of what Jesus is saying.

The politician rules out all who do not tow the line.  The savior of the world rules in all who do not exclude themselves.  The politician says agree or get out.  The savior says agree or disagree; all are welcome.  The politician draws a line of rejection in the sand.  The savior draws all people to himself.  As I say, a dramatic difference.

Jesus does not count people out.  Jesus does not throw people out, or cut them off, or hunt them down and kill them.  Jesus welcomes all people.  Jesus welcomes all sinners.  And this is truly good news.  Because that means you and I are welcome, no matter what—even if we didn’t fill out the pledge card at the church office.  If we are not against Jesus, we are on his side.  Simple as that.

And we saw a similar thing in the first reading, from the book of Numbers.  Someone runs up to Moses and says, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua says, “My lord Moses, stop them!” And Moses asks, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

The disciples in the gospel reading, and Joshua in the book of Numbers are both trying to set up an exclusive club.  Trying to limit God to using the canonically approved resources.  Their position is that exclusive one the politicians use:  If you’re not for us, you are against us.  But both Jesus and Moses start from the other end:  If you are not against us, you are with us.  If you are not actively against Jesus, then you are for Jesus.  Simple as that.

And the best news of all is this:  even when we are against Jesus, even when we are not loving God with our whole heart, even when we are not loving our neighbor as ourself, Jesus is still with us, still for us.  Literally.  When we come to this table, Jesus is for us.  In the body broken and the blood poured, Jesus is for us.  Freely offered to all, even though we confess that we have against God in thought, word, and deed.  And that’s the whole point.  Jesus offers himself for our sinful fallen world, laying down his life for all.  He is not against us.  He is for us.  He is for me.  He is for you.  He is given, for you.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 17

Pentecost 17, 2021
Jeremiah 11:18-20
Psalm 54
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I think everyone would agree that this gospel reading is an adorable story, right?  Jesus picking up a little child, and telling the adults in the room that little people are important.  And the adorable part is the part we remember, because . . . well, it’s so adorable!  That’s why people watch videos of cats and dogs and red pandas online: because they’re adorable.  

But, of course, there’s more to the story we just heard.  Jesus’ object lesson with the little child is in response to something the disciples were doing.  You remember, today’s gospel reading starts with Jesus telling his disciples about how he must die.  The Son of Man will be betrayed into human hands, they will kill him, and he will rise again.  The disciples did not understand, and were afraid to ask him.

And so instead, the disciples do what any reasonable person might do.  They start arguing about who is the greatest.  You know, because that makes sense.  It is interesting to me that we don’t hear what they are arguing about.  It is tempting to assume that they are each making the case for themselves.  You know, Peter is saying how he is the most inspirational, and Thomas is arguing that he is the most intellectual.  Judas claiming he’s got the corner on fundraising.  Or, it’s also possible that the disciples are arguing for one another.  That John is propping up Andrew, and Peter is defending Judas.  But it could be that they’re arguing about the greatest something else, like who is the best guitarist, or who is the best quarterback.  We don’t really know.

What we do know is that this arguing comes hot on the heels of Jesus’ explaining how he must die.   And this is not the first time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus does this.  Last week, for example.  And it’s not the only time the disciples react the wrong way like this.  Last week, for example.  In fact, this is the second of three times he tries to tell the disciples about his mission, and how his mission is leading to his death.  And in all three cases the disciples not only miss the point, but take off on a completely inappropriate conversation.

Imagine that you’re telling someone about how you see that the end of your life is approaching, and they respond with arguing about who is the best dancer, or who bakes the best cakes.  It’s not as if the disciples are hearing and not understanding.  They’re hearing and not even pretending to care!  Are they just overwhelmed?  Is this just all too much for them?  
What’s going on here?  

Well, this lack of understanding is a theme that runs through the gospel of Mark.  But it’s a lack of understanding by the ones who are closest to Jesus:  The disciples, the friends, the close companions.  These are the ones who just don’t get it.  In Mark’s gospel, you know who actually does get it?  Who actually understands who Jesus is and what he is doing?  
The demons!  The demons are the ones who consistently get it right, calling Jesus “Son of God.”  Recognizing his power as God’s son, which is rooted in his death and resurrection.  

The disciples keep clinging to some kind of earthly power.  The disciples want Jesus to come blasting in, kicking butt and taking names.  This is the one who’s going to finally make everything turn out right.  The disciples have left their homes and families, and quite frankly, they’ve given up their lives to follow him.  So when Jesus starts talking about how he’s going to suffer and die . . . well, with all due respect, Jesus, that’s not exactly what we had in mind?  And so, they start arguing about who is the greatest.  It does kind of make sense, when you think about it.  Jesus is the one who is being inappropriate, in their minds.  I mean, how can his mission of overthrowing the oppressors, and setting the captives free, and all that, how can that possibly be accomplished if he’s intending to go and die on us?

Right.  So they argue about who is the greatest . . . something.  When Jesus asks them what they’re arguing about, it probably makes us uncomfortable.  I mean, we live in the midwest—or, we’re midwest adjacent at least.  And for most of us, arguing is bad manners, or at least awkward.  We like for everyone to get along, even when it might be good to argue.  Hearing that the disciples of Jesus are arguing doesn’t feel right.  But notice how Jesus responds to their arguing.

He gathers the disciples in a circle.  And he takes a child and places it in the middle of them.  Stop right there and notice the word “it.”  No name, no gender.  A child in that culture has absolutely no power, no status, no worth, no nothing, and can give nothing back.

So he sets the child in the middle of them, wraps his arms around the child and says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  Stop again and notice that Jesus wraps his arms around the child in the midst of the community of disciples.  Jesus does not run out into the desert and wrap his arms around a child.  Nor does Jesus pick out a child already standing in the community.  No, Jesus picks up the child, and sets “it” inside the community first.  What does that mean?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe everything.  But I think it is significant that when Jesus is showing his disciples how to be welcoming, he puts the child in the middle of them.  We move on . . .

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  Think back to what the disciples were doing right before this moment.  They were arguing about who is the greatest, right?  And Jesus has now placed before them one who is the least.  The smallest.  The most insignificant.  The one who is not going to be mentioned by a group of people busy arguing over who is the greatest.  When we think about welcoming Jesus, we probably think about looking busy, or dusting off Bibles, or preparing our humility badges.  It’s really, really hard to imagine welcoming Jesus by welcoming a child . . . isn’t it?  When we look for Jesus, we want to look up, not down.  To the clouds shining in glory, not the kid playing in the sandbox.

But there’s another side to this welcoming the least among us.  And that is, each one of us is also the least among us.  Each one of us is also in need of being the child in this example Jesus gives us.  I need—and you need—for Jesus to pick us up, set us in the middle of the community of disciples, and then scoop us up in his arms.  Though I try to welcome the child as Jesus says, I am also the child being welcomed.  Jesus asks each of us to welcome a child in his name, but he also asks each of us to let ourselves be welcomed in his name.

And, just as importantly, today he asks that you let him welcome you, here, at this Altar.  Jesus promises to meet us in this meal, saying, “This is my body.  This is my blood.”  And the only way to accept that promise is to receive it as a child.  Take it on faith, as a child does, because—let’s be honest—it hardly makes sense to our rational brains.  

We accept it as true . . . or, we hope to accept it as true . . . but the more you try to explain what happens here at this Altar, the farther it slips out of your grasp.

And how fitting it is that we receive Jesus as a child might accept a gift.  Hands outstretched, and empty.  Reaching out our hands to receive him, offering nothing in return.  With our hands held in front of us, accepting what seems impossible: that God’s embrace comes to us in our own outstretched hands.  We extend our hands, and say “Amen” to the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation.  And we accept the embrace of God within this community, gathered here.  And, today, you can accept this gift of life, because God has picked you up, set you in this community, and wrapped you up in the embrace of God’s love.



Friday, September 17, 2021

The Marriage of Maureen and Stephen

The Marriage of Maureen and Stephen
Ecclesiastes 4:7-12
Song of Solomon 2:14-17
John 2:1-11

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

For the past couple years, church weddings have been kind of rare around here.  In fact, this is the first wedding I’ve ever done during a global pandemic.  But that’s not the most unusual thing about this wedding.  

Mo and Stephen originally wanted to get married on May 1st . . . because, you know, Beltane.  But then, decided to move it to today, the Feast Day of Hildegard of Bingen.  We had discussed using the optional version of the vows where they each would promise, “And thereto I plight thee my troth.”  The original descriptions of the participants in this wedding was . . . interesting.  Stephen asked if one of the readings could be from the book of Job!  And, let’s not forget the processional music from Star Wars.

And with all that is so unusual about this wedding, they went and picked the most obvious gospel reading possible: since this is a wedding, let’s have a story about a wedding.  That story you just heard is not one of the suggested readings for a wedding, so that is unusual.  That story doesn’t tell us about how two people are supposed to love each other, or tell us that they are a shining city on a hill, or that the two will become one.  That reading we just heard is more like a party trick that happens at a wedding.  It is a wedding reading in the same way that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.

Where is the love?  Where is the lifelong commitment?  In that story from the wedding at Cana, who exactly is getting married?  We don’t even know their names!  There is nothing in there about the couple getting married.  There’s just Jesus, and his mother Mary, and a couple of large containers of water that get turned into something else.  So . . . let’s talk about those containers of water.

When you think about it, turning water into wine isn’t that unusual.  I mean, wine is made of water, for the most part.  It’s not like Jesus took the water and turned it into a pick-up truck, or something.  But Jesus takes what is already there, ordinary water, and turns it into something magnificent.  In the presence of Jesus, plain old water is transformed into the best wine the people have ever tasted.  At the very time of the reception when people would be expecting the worst wine, they get the best wine imaginable.  Which is where we get the phrase, saving the best for last.

Which leads me to Maureen and Stephen.  Today, we have all gathered together to bear witness to the two of you being joined in Holy Matrimony.  Like those stone jars in the story, you have been filled to the brim with expectation, and we all wait with bated breath, wondering what Jesus will do on this wedding today.  As the jars were filled up with water, you have been filled up with love, waiting for this most blessed wedding day.  In joining together in the Holy Rite of Marriage, your love will be transformed into something even more beautiful: a blessing to all of us, and to the world, reminding us that in the presence of Jesus, what seems ordinary becomes extraordinary.  This is not an unusual day at all; no, this is an extraordinary day.  And we wish you every happiness, this day, and all the days to come.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 16

Pentecost 16, 2021
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-8
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In today’s gospel reading, Peter calls Jesus the Christ, or the Messiah.  You and I just kind of gloss right over this and say, “Well, yeah.  Welcome to the club, Pete.”  But it’s important to see this reading in the scope of Mark’s entire gospel.  In the first chapter of Mark, in the first verse, we read, “The beginning of the good news[ of Jesus [the] Christ, the Son of God.”  Right at the start, Mark calls Jesus the Messiah.  And then . . . nothing.  All this exciting stuff happens for 8 chapters, healings, and teachings, and feedings, and nowhere is Jesus called the Christ, or the Messiah. 

And then, suddenly, we come to today’s reading.  Chapter 8, verse 29, Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, the Christ.  And we would expect Jesus to say, “Exactly!”  But he doesn’t, does he?  Before that, Jesus asks them, who do people say that I am.  And they give that list: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets.  And then Jesus asks “But who do you say that I am?”  Or, actually, what he asks is more like, “Who are you saying that I am?”  You know, when you talk to people about me, who do you tell them that I am?  And Peter answers, we’ve been telling them that you are the Messiah.  The Christ.  By which, Peter means, We tell them that you are the one who has come to take over the world, and destroy Rome, and restore Israel to its rightful place.  And then Jesus sternly orders them not to tell anyone.

Why?  Why doesn’t Jesus yell, “Yeah buddy!” and high five everyone in the group?  I mean, he is the One they’ve been waiting for.  Jesus is the one foretold by the prophets, the one proclaimed in the Psalms, the one who will finally lead God’s people to victory over their oppressors.  And Jesus says, don’t tell anyone?  What kind of PR strategy is this?  And then it gets even stranger, as Jesus starts describing what he is going to endure. 

And after Jesus describes what he must go through, Peter takes him aside and rebukes him.  And then Jesus rebukes Peter.  And then calls him Satan, for setting his mind on human things, rather than divine things.  I mean, wow.  This story does not go where we would expect it to go, does it?  Instead of heading to the front of the class, for having the right answer, Peter gets called Satan and is told that the right answer is the wrong answer.  How did this happen?  Well, we get our answer in what Jesus says after his rebuke to Peter’s rebuke.

It’s important to keep in mind that Peter has this Hail the Conquering Hero mindset about the Messiah.  And he’s not alone . . . everyone did.  God’s Messiah was supposed to be a great military leader, riding victorious over God’s enemies, because the only way to beat military strength is through greater military strength.  That’s how the world works.  Remember President Reagan’s slogan of Peace through Strength?  The Roman Emperor Hadrian—who was born around the time Mark’s gospel was written—said, “Peace through strength or, failing that, peace through threat.”  To bring peace, God’s Messiah would need to be a powerful warrior in order to overcome a powerful oppressor, called Rome.

But Jesus says, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake . . . will save it.”  This is not how we think.  You save something by losing it?  You lose something by saving it?  This makes no sense to us.  If you want to win, you have to be strong.  That’s how winning works!

We want to stand strong for God.  Stand up for God.  Be the Christian nation that conquers for God.  We want to be the championship 2016 Cavaliers, not the 2017 one-win Browns.  We want to be winners, but God comes to us in our losses.  We want God to see us standing strong; but we need God in our weakness and pain.  The idea that Jesus prevents suffering is a lie.  (We have all suffered plenty in our lives.)  And the idea that Jesus causes suffering is also a lie.  (Jesus spends all his time healing people, and feeding people, and helping people, not hurting them.)  But those are two lies that are hard to shake.  The earliest Christians were tortured and killed.  But in our modern understanding of Christianity, we like to believe that Jesus will keep us safe.  Yet we know that’s not true.  Jesus does not save us from suffering.  Jesus saves us in our suffering.  

So, Jesus says, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake . . . will save it.”  This is radical to Peter.  And it is even more radical to us.  Every message we hear is the opposite of this:  Get more, hold tighter, secure the border, protect what’s ours, take from the losers and give to those who have plenty.  The idea of laying down our life for others is radical, foolish, stupid, and even rebuke-able.

We think that more will make us happy.  Jesus says less will.  We say strength gives life.  Jesus says weakness does.  A world where you win by surrender, and gain by giving away?!?  Who wants THAT world?

Jesus does.  

Look.  Nobody said Christianity is easy.  Well, that’s not true.  Everybody says it is.  Everyone except Jesus.  Which should tell us something about what we think being a Christian is all about.  We must be careful not to tie Christianity to world domination.  Or winning.  Or defeating our enemies through strength.  In today’s culture, that is easy to do.  The military and the cross are two very different things, literally representing victory and defeat.  To conflate the two brings a rebuke from Jesus.  We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

And let me be clear:  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a strong national defense, or that protecting us by serving in our country’s armed forces is somehow wrong.  Every country needs to protect its citizens.  I’m just saying that conquering our enemies is not what Christianity is about.  How do I know?  Because Jesus says so.  Right here.

When Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, he is counting on a righteous military overthrow of the enemy.  He is planning to follow Jesus with a sword into victory.  And Jesus says, yes, follow him.  But carry your cross, not your sword.  Only by walking into death with Jesus will we rise to new life in Jesus.  This is what baptism is all about, and that is why it is the entry point into the church.  We are drowned in the waters of baptism, and lifted up into new life with Jesus.  In some ways, that dangerous, powerful imagery of the Rite of Baptism gets lost in the gentle sprinkling of drops on a baby’s head.  But the message is still there:  Only by giving up will we gain.  Only by dying will we live.  Only in the death of Jesus will we find new life.

Jesus came to serve on earth, and now rules in heaven.  Peter got it backwards in today’s gospel.  But it’s easy to see how that happens.  We worship the one who laid down his life for us.  This is a hard teaching.  This is an upside down teaching.  This goes against everything we know and trust about the world.  But it is what Jesus tells us.  And it is what Jesus shows us.

And you can see it most clearly in the Eucharist.  Only by laying down his life can Jesus be present at this Altar.  The one we gather to worship promises to, somehow, be present in this bread and wine.  He offers himself to us again this morning in a tiny piece of bread and a few drops of wine.  He gives himself to us so that he can live inside us, providing healing, and forgiveness, and hope to a broken world outside those doors. 

These mysteries are hard to understand.  Christianity is not easy.  Jesus told us so himself.  And it’s okay that we get it wrong.  But today, may God give to each of us the courage to surrender, the strength to serve, and the will to lay down our life for others.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 15

Pentecost 15, 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 146
James 2:1-10, 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, I think we can all agree that we don’t really recognize the Jesus we just heard from in this gospel reading.  A woman whose child is dying comes to Jesus looking for help, and he says to her, “. . . it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  Who even is this person?  And what has he done with the real Jesus?  That is not how Jesus behaves.  That’s not how Jesus treats people.  Jesus changed.  But let’s start here.

God can change.  Now before you go reporting me to the Bishop for heresy, let me say more.  There are aspects of God that are unchanging.  God’s mercy endures forever.  We say, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  We pray that we may rest in God’s eternal changelessness.  We refer to God as the unmovable mover, and so on.

And yet, back in Exodus, Moses goes up the mountain, the people ask Aaron to make a golden calf.  And God gets angry and decides to kill them all.  But Moses pleads on their behalf, and reminds God of the promises made to Abraham and Issac.  And then we hear: “And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”  An argument from Moses changed God’s mind.  God can change.

In the book of Jonah, God sends Jonah to Nineveh and tells them they need to repent.  And they put on sackcloth and ashes and they repent.  And then we hear:  “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”  The actions of the people of Nineveh changed God’s mind.  God can change.

Now, let’s go to the gospel reading we just heard, with that seemingly imposter Jesus fellow.  As we heard, “he entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there.”  Did not want anyone to know he was there.  Why do you suppose that is?  I think it’s because he is exhausted.  Before this, Jesus has spent every waking moment either healing people or arguing with the pharisees, and I think Jesus is just hoping for a little down time to rest and recharge.  It’s important to remember that Jesus is fully God and fully human.  Jesus takes naps.  Jesus eats food.  Jesus gets burned out.  So he goes into the house, not wanting anyone to know he was there.

And as we heard, he could not escape notice.  In comes a gentile woman of Syrophoenician origin whose daughter is possessed by a demon.  Everything about that description screams outcast, outsider, and unclean.  This woman is far removed from the levers of power in her society.  Nobody would be willing to help her or her daughter.  Jesus is exhausted and wants to be left alone.  And here comes this unworthy woman, asking him to help her.  And . . . Jesus just snaps.

He says, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  Let me take care of my own people before I help the likes of you.  There’s only so much to go around.  And I have to be careful not to use it all up on the wrong people.  And she says, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  This is what we call a mic drop.  She says that . . . and Jesus changes.  Just like in the story of Moses and the golden calf, we could say Jesus changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.  An argument from this woman changed Jesus’ mind.

You know what I think happened here?  I think Jesus forgot who he was.  In his exhaustion and frustration, Jesus forgot that he came to save all the people.  He lost sight of the expansive nature of love and compassion.  The universal love of God is for everyone . . . even the outsiders . . . especially the outsiders.  God lifts up the lowly and casts down the mighty.  Jesus came to save sinners.  God cares deeply about the so-called dogs under the table.  And it took this gentile, Syrophoenician woman to remind Jesus of that.  The reminder of inclusion comes from the very one who is excluded.

If you think back to last week’s gospel reading, you’ll remember that Jesus declares all food clean.  He says there is nothing that goes in that can defile a person.  Today, by going to a Syrian city and healing the daughter of a gentile Syrophoenician woman, he is declaring all places and people to be worthy.  There is nothing and no one outside the reach of God.  In a sense, you could say now nothing is secular.  There are no godless lands or godless people.  As we saw last week, the circle just gets bigger and bigger.

And, just as Jesus needed to be reminded of who he was, we do too.  And the first part of that is to remember who we are not: we are not Jesus.  Because there’s a danger that in hearing this story we might conclude that we should never get any rest.  That we should never take time to be alone and recharge.  That we must devote all our energy to helping people.  But that’s the wrong message for you and me.  Because we are not Jesus.

The message for us here is to remember our own identity as children of God.  Created in the image of God, and redeemed in the resurrection of Jesus.  There is no one and no thing beyond the redemptive work of God’s healing touch.

Listen again to words from Psalm 146, which we recited just a few minutes ago:  The Lord gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.  The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and widow.

After hearing the words “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” Jesus remembered who he is, and who he came to save: the oppressed, the hungry, the stranger, you, and me.  May God constantly remind us who we are:  the redeemed children of God, who are welcome at this table, where even the crumbs are enough to bring life and healing to all God’s people.  All God's people.