“..foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love his name & be his servants..these I will bring to my holy mountain..” God offering hospitality..parity of esteem..to all comers..foreigners, believers, migrants.. into his house of prayer..this house of prayer.. ..how does it sound?..enabling enriching exciting?..or potentially disruptive, inconvenient & threatening.. & the Brexit vote keeps emerging & re emerging, writ large in our Christian gospel, the charter of equality, & our special relationship with the foreigner & the displaced..
“..have a care for justice, act with integrity..” ; Lord have mercy “..foreigners..I will make them joyful in this my house of prayer..” ; Christ have mercy “..my house will be called a house of prayer for all the people..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..he didn’t take well to crowds confrontation & pressure..he’d left them & their demainds behind & was making a break for it with his few chosen trusties..time off & away..when suddenly he’s caught..caught out by a lone woman with an agenda..she has three penalty points on her religious driving licence..she’s a Canaanite [ an outsider ] a woman & she’s from wrong district..Tang Hall..so, poor lass, no wonder she comes out shouting..for too long ignored misheard written off..& listen to her politeness “Sir, Son of David, take pity on me; my daughter is tormented by a devil”..& the tired impatient spent Jesus’ response? “but he answered her not a word” ..the “but” word always portrays a downer in word & mood..so his trusties then intervene to arbitrate a compromise “they pleaded “ ate humble pie to broker a deal..”give her what she wants” wonderful intercessionary prayer until they spoil it with their agenda “because she is shouting after us” she’s a nuisance get rid.. his response, first words “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” sent..it wasn’t my choice; I’m here under obedience..dutiful..are we here under similar terms & conditions?..his duty towards the lost the lapsed of Judaism & Catholicism..& pray if we were asked to point the finger towards the lapsed would it be in direction of Tang Hall or to person we might share sign of peace with in few moments time?..are we not each & all lapsed?..backsliders in decline & serially relapsing?..& once we admit it to ourselves, we place a red icon of an exclamation mark next to our name on his “to do” list..specially loved & cared for ..just as the woman did for him bless her..her “but” lifts moment & its potential “but the woman had come up & was kneeling at his feet” far from taking his insults on chin, she took need of her daughter ever closer to heart & knelt to beg..begged for the red icon against her name “Lord help me”..notice she began with his polite title “sir” then his man Jew title “Son of David”..a mark of respect like being a Catenian..& then his dismissive rudeness brings out very best in her “Lord..” I know who you are.. stop this petulance & short-temperedness..you are Messiah..I know you from the inside.. & even then he keeps up the pretence, intent on keeping his self protective distance “it is not fair to take the childrens food & throw it to the house-dogs”..what pettiness, the spoilt child syndrome “its not fair..I went to the shop this morning & its our Julie’s turn to go”.. ”I’ve been a loyal practising Catholic all my life so why cancer?..why me & why now?.. its not fair”..& bless her then “she retorts” takes gloves off &, in desperation, tells him a few home truths “ah yes sir [ notice the return to his polite title, he’s lost brownie points for Lord ]..but even the house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” a wonderfully humble realistic way out of the impasse..allowing mercy to meet mercy..if it is against your religious scruples to hand me, with my 3 penalty points, the food, the benefits of belonging to your religion, as if such a gesture of love mercy & charity would somehow render you unclean, put the scraps on the table & walk away..& I will wait for a breath of fresh air [ the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit ] to breeze, to draft through, blow them off the altar & onto the carpet..& I’ll then come forward & pick them up..what faith what hope what love..enabling a cure for her daughter, & engineering a way out for her beloved Lord..& then..then “Jesus answered “woman, you have great faith, let your wish be granted.” “woman you..you not me..have great faith..if only my faith had been as strong as yours, I would have healed your daughter 15mins ago”..& who’s healed of her illness? daughter.. & of backsliding, a short-tempered man in decline?..Jesus..he came among us fully divine & took 3yrs to learn, through his mistakes, how to become fully human..the woman, her daughter & us, fully human, taking a lifetime learning, through our grace-filled moments of goodness, how to become fully divine..& as ever, Christ meets us half way..always with a red icon of an exclamation mark next to our name..”you are mine..you are precious in my eyes & I love you..I will do anything for you”..where fairness & measurement are deleted, & where love & mercy will always see us healed & on a journey home..to the divine Tang Hall.. [20thSunYrA Mt15;21-28]