The scripture for this Sunday describes an encounter between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. The woman pleads for Jesus to heal her daughter, but Jesus refuses with a harsh rebuke: "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." (vs. 27) In other words, Jesus says he has come to help his own people, not Gentile women like her. Undeterred, the Syrophoenician woman responds: "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." (vs. 28). Convinced by her courage and faith, Jesus changes his mind and heals her daughter. Once again boundaries are crossed - Jew and Gentile, male and female - for God's grace and mercy is for all.
The first Sunday of October is designated as World Communion Sunday. On this day, all churches across the globe are called to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion as a symbol of our unity as the Body of Christ. The scripture today is the familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. After teaching the crowds all day, the disciples suggest that Jesus send them home to eat. Instead, Jesus commands his followers to take the food they have on hand and feed them. With only five loaves and two fish, the food is miraculously multiplied and everyone is fed, with 12 baskets of leftovers. We model that same meal as we share Holy Communion with all Christians this day.
The scripture of this Sunday contains two stories intertwined with one another. One involves Jesus restoring to life the young daughter of the leader of the local synagogue. The other is the healing of a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years. In both stories, Jesus crosses cultural and societal boundaries to provide healing and wholeness for those in need. What boundaries are we being challenged by Jesus to cross?
Today we reflect on one of the strangest stories in the Bible: the Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac. Jesus and his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee and encounter a madman, possessed by evil spirits, living among the tombs. Jesus exorcises the demons from the man which then enters a herd of swine that rushes over a steep cliff to their deaths. While the man is grateful and desires to follow Jesus, the townspeople are outraged and force Jesus to leave. Why do the neighbors react in this way? What causes them to reject his mercy and compassion? We will focus on the role of shame in our lives as the fear that drives our responses.
The Holy Spirit empowers Jesus to always be present within us and in the world. Presence makes it possible for us to know Jesus as friend, teacher, Savior, Lord, and Way. We know Jesus through our experience of his presence, which acts as an Advocate for us throughout our lives.
This scripture says that Jesus is the way to the Father, but what is the way to Jesus? The way to Jesus is love, and we are invited to live in the way of Jesus. It’s more about the journey than the destination. During this journey, we experience Jesus’ way of love by tearing down boundaries, uniting with those on the margins, and finding God deeply in the world.
“Jesus is Lord” is more than a personal confession or surrendering our life to God. It is bigger than us. Jesus as Lord requires something of us to bring Jesus’ reign here on earth. To explore a fuller understanding, Bass also explored other names such Master, Ruler, God, and King, which she learned that Jesus is all of these as Lord.
We often think of Jesus as Savior as the sacrificial lamb who died on the cross to redeem our sin. Bass names all six of Paul’s salvation theories and settles for herself that Jesus was born a Savior, long before he died on the cross. She writes: “Salvation is not a transaction to get to heaven after death; rather, it is an experience of love and beauty and of paradise here and now.” Jesus was born a Savior, and he saved people during his lifetime by healing them. Jesus continues to save us through his healing grace.
While we may have experienced “teachers” as the rule givers, homework assigners, and disciplinarians, we may also recall that one special teacher who saw in us what we could not see in ourselves; who helped open our eyes to a world bigger than ourselves, and who empowered us to grow into our strengths. We may have been taught to see Jesus as teacher: as ruler maker, homework assigner, and disciplinarian. Or as one who leads us to know ourselves as God sees and knows us; One who opens our minds to see the world in a different way.
Our language of Jesus as Friend is life giving to some, confusing for many and just a put off to others. Having a close friend can be faught. Bible stories throughout demonstrate that “friendship” with God is deeper and broader than our current use of that word and at its most pure, involves a two-way (or three-way) relationship which at times can feel a bit risky.