Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sermon: More Than Crumbs 2

More Than Crumbs

         He’d fed 5,000+ people with a few fish and some bread, he’d dealt with the fallout from that feeding—a sparring contest about tradition between him and the authorities from Jerusalem—they’d had a food fight about how to eat in a holy way and who was welcome and what was on the menu.
         Jesus refused to let them settle for crumbs
—he refused to let holiness be defined by external actions,
refused to bar people from table, and instead extended and expanded the table
—Jesus offers more than crumbs…
         Jesus offers more than crumbs…
         Sometimes I think Jesus is an introvert—he so often sneaks away from the crowd and the controversy for time alone.
In this case, he escapes to Tyre, a gentile city, far, at least ideologically, from the food fight he had just fought…
         But once there, he is forced quite quickly to consider again the ways in which he is widening the table, feeding with more than crumbs, offering a feast instead!
         He goes to this strange place, and is stopped by this strange woman
—she is culturally Hellenistic, he’s culturally Jewish,
she speaks Greek,
his first language is likely Aramaic,
she lives in the land of the Phoeniciansnow part of Roman Syria,
he is from the land of the tribe Naphtalinow Galilee, occupied by Rome.
         And yet her situation—her daughter possessed by forces beyond her control, she finds herself in the same situation that Jesus had just left back home
—folk fed crumbs,
people separated from holiness,
unclean and captured…
         The five thousand had followed him because he offered healing, holiness, and freedom.
The religious leaders had attacked him because they were chasing past holiness
—and now this, this little girl separatedfrom holiness, separatedfrom God…
         (And just so you know, that’s a classical description of hell—not pitch folks and fire… but separation from God)
         And the icky thing here is that Jesus initiallywidens this separation—he says, in effect, wait your turn… 
         More than that, he uses a common slur for non-Jewish people at the time—“Should I feed the dogsbefore I feed the children?”
         There is a plan, there is a timeline
—God’s Kingdom comes first to the Jews, and then spills over, trickle down holiness
         But she overturns this timeline, there is an immediateneed,
propriety be damned,
“even dogs get the scraps!”
         It hurts, she’s shaming our Savior! She’s turning over the time table
—the only other time I can think that this happens is when Jesus’ mother insists he does a miracle at the wedding in Cana even though he says he’s not ready…
         Isn’t that how it happens? Every soldier can quote that truism by von Moltke, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
         So too, the battle plans of the Kingdom of God, the expanding of holiness, like a water balloon, hits a sharp spot
—Sin oppressing a little child—
and God’s plan bursts open, grace everywhere, overflowing! This child, not a dog, a little childoppressed by Sin—is saved. Jesus is not hording crumbs, he is offering more than crumbs—the very bread of life!

         This whole situation reminds me of the start of Doctor King’s ministry in Montgomery,
E.D. Nixon a member of the local N.A.A.C.P. had bailed Rosa Parks out of jail and, at 5am, he called up the new Pastor in town and asked him if he would lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
King responded that he’d think about it… making any big decision before morning coffee is a bad idea.
So then around 6am Nixon called King’s best friend Ralph Abernathy, who also called King.
Then by 7am Nixon called King again, and he reluctantly said yes, to which Nixon responded, “Well that’s a good thing, I’ve already told 18 church leaders we’re meeting in the basement of your church, and it would have been kinda bad if you weren’t there at the meeting…”
         Sometimes things get out of order, sometimes plans need to be re-ordered
—sometimes even the best of people need a little push to put them on the path to which God is calling them
—sometimes these little Epiphanies, Ah Ha moments, have grand results
—when that happens all we can do is thank God for that!

         And, judging by Jesus’ actions after this healing in Tyre, he had an Ah ha! Moment.
“If,” I’d imagine our savior thought, “If I’m going around feeding multitudes as a sign of God’s grace—if there is enough for everyone…. Then there in fact is enough for EVERYONE, whether in Capernaum or Tyre or anywhere else.
         After this realization Jesus heads back close to home, but not quite home, he goes to the 10 Gentile cities—the Decapolis—and, like the crowd in Capernaum and like the lady whose daughter he’d exorcised, a man is brought to him
—have you ever noticed how often in the gospels a community brings a person to Jesus to be healed.
         In the ancient world health and a person’s relationship to God….
And health and a person’s relationship to their community was directly linked…
not too different from today really
just get sick and you’ll quickly see who your real friends are
—so there is something beautiful in all these stories where people bring sick folk to Jesus—they’re restoring the person to community even as Jesus’ healing will do the same…
Don’t you wonder how you can bring people to Jesus?—restore their relationships? Reconnect them to community?

         And Jesus does this weird wet willy thing, and returns this man’s ability to communicate… and by healing him returns him to community and to relationship with God.
Jesus gives him more than crumbs, he gives him healing and wholeness and return to relationship with everyone around him… what a feast.

         And all these non-Jews at the Decapolis see the healing and are asimpressed with Jesus as the 5,000+ who he’d fed. “He has done everything well!”
         Jesus has gone from his Ah ha moment to action
—following through on the promise of the bread of life
—the promise of the grace and abundance found in his heavenly Father.
         Just as in America, where we read in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We’ve come to say, “Well, shoot, not just property holding men, not just white men, not just men, not just people 21 and older,” as we continue to grow (in fits and starts, to say the very least—God help us) continue to grow into the promise present at our founding… 
so too, we find the promises and hopes of God,
that God is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,
that God offers abundance,
that God looks at us and says, “It is good.”
we find those hopes and promises expanding out
—no one left with crumbs, everyone, all of creation, given more than crumbs, given the very body and blood of God-with-us, Jesus Christ—a feast that is surely more than crumbs.

He leads us, to not make the start of our relationship with him the ending as well.
He leads whole communities to care for hurting folk, to bring them to him.
He leads us to live beyond our current understanding of him.
He leads us to the glory and the depth of God’s promises.
He leads us to lean past the plans we have.
He leads us from separation to health.

He leads us from crumbs to a bountiful banquet…
He leads us to an abundant feast!