Monday, August 15, 2005

Israel, Gaza and yesterday's lectionary reading

I saw articles and news reports today of Israel's pullout from Gaza. As I considered the long history of hate and war between these two groups, I couldn't help but think of the topic on which I taught this morning--Matthew 15:21-28, titling my talk--"Jesus and the Outsider." The story is about a woman from Phoenicia, a "Cannanite" as Matthew called her, who calls out to Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus walks past her at first, but later engages her in conversation(a radical step in and of itself for a rabbi) and commends her for her faith. I struggled with the text last week, especially the part where Jesus likens her and her people to dogs and states that he is around for God's children--the Israelites. I was trying to think of how to present it. I mean, after all, it doesn't seem to put Jesus in the best light. Matthew's portrayal of Jesus is one who is indifferent to any non-Jew and, particularly, a woman. As I studied the passage in its historical context and looked at various interpretations (my favorite one and the one that makes the most sense to me was John Ortberg's ) Our group interacted with this text this morning and one of the many things we saw in this passage that relates to this news story was:
  • Jesus was using this as a teachable moment for the Pharisees (see the passage above verses 21-28, for the disciples of Jesus, and for those who would read Matthew's Gospel, including us today. He wanted to show how he and His Father felt about outsiders. It was good to see how our other lectionary readings (Psalm 133 and Isaiah 58) gave a good background for this discussion. God loves people of all nations, even though He chose to work through Israel to provide the world with His blessings, love and salvation.
God's love for the "outsider" is still real today. In fact, the way God loves erases any distinctions and means there really are no "outsiders." God loves both Jews and Palestinians and I believe He is most pleased with them when they are practicing that second half of His great commandment--love your neighbor. It is exciting to see some step (even if it is a baby step) of progress in making a way for both groups to move closer to peace and co-existence. It is also notable that Jesus' practice of inclusion still has great relevance for followers of his today.


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8/15/2005 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Johnny Leckie said...

Good stuff, today, John! And thanks for the great link to the Ortberg article!

8/15/2005 12:40:00 PM  

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