Mark 7:24-37

Mark 7:24-37
The woman was a Greek, a Canaanite, who had a deep, deep faith. This is one example from the New Testament where true faith is found in unusual places.
What is your idea of the reach of God's love? Is God's love and healing power available in all circumstances to all people?
This woman had a sick child whom she brought to Jesus, believing that he could heal the child. She approached Jesus and said, "Jesus, heal my child."
Notice the way this woman prayed. She was not intimidated by silence or the apparent busyness of Jesus. She was persistent, believing that Jesus had the power to make her child whole.
I think God is pleased when our prayers are persistent. God, whose love is persistent, loves everyone without condition, without exception.
Jesus looked at her and said, "Great is your faith, woman. Depart, your daughter is healed."
Almighty God, there is no situation that lies outside the bounds of your love. Give us a heart to see our neighbors as you see them. The world desperately needs Jesus' healing touch. As the story of this woman is our witness, may her faith and her persistence be ours as well. Amen.

Mark 7:24-37 (NRSV)
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,
25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.
26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
27 He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
28 But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
29 Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go--the demon has left your daughter."
30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.
34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."
35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

Ephesians 4:29

Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be verbalized. It is certain that the spirit of self-justification can only be overcome by the spirit of grace; and it is just as certain that the individual judgmental thought can be limited and suppressed by never allowing it to be spoken except as a confession of sin…. Thus it must be a decisive rule of all Christian community life that each individual is prohibited from talking about another Christian in secret. It is clear and will be shown in what follows that this prohibition does not include the word of admonition that is spoken personally to one another. However, talking about others in secret is not allowed even under the pretense of help and goodwill. For it is precisely in this guise that the spirit of hatred between believers always creeps in, seeking to cause trouble.
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Biblical Wisdom

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

James 2:1-10, 14-17

James 2:1-10, 14-17
James saw that the church members were demonstrating an unholy favoritism towards the rich and looking down their noses at the poor. Rather than playing favorites with the rich and offering sympathy to the poor, James is calling us to stand in the place between the rich and poor.
Could it be our calling to introduce the wealthy to the poor? Perhaps it is through such relationships that true change can occur.
God does not show favoritism for the rich. God loves all people without condition, without exception. We, who are filled with the love of God, are called to serve the neighbor.
Actions that protect our privileged status and fail to engage those we serve are not, in truth, faithful works. James asks the question, "Where is the good news for the neighbor?" Filled with the grace of God, our acts of service will flow through us as good news for our neighbor.
Gracious God, thank you for loving all people without condition. Inspired by your grace, help us to express the love of Christ for all people through our good works. Amen.

James 2:1-10, 14-17 (NRSV)
1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,
3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet,"
4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court?
7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Psalm 146

Psalm 146
Psalm 146 tells of the Lord's providential care for creation. In this Psalm, we praise God for what he has done and is doing now. God is faithful as creator and sustainer. It is better to place our trust in God "who keeps faith forever," unlike mortals "in whom there is no salvation."
Psalm 146 declares that the Lord gives food to the hungry, especially for the most vulnerable members of society. So, how do we account for the treatment of the most vulnerable members of society: the homeless and the hungry?
As Christians, our hope is in Jesus' complete identification with humankind and his complete self-giving. God's activity is lived out in our activity as the Spirit of the living Christ flows through vocations that benefit the neighbor. The praise of God sometimes starts in small ways but has the potential of becoming praise proclaimed and heard throughout the universe.
Help us, Lord, to serve those throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, their daily bread. Amen.

Psalm 146 (NRSV)
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

Intercessory prayer

Intercessory prayer is also a daily service Christians owe to God and one another. Those who deny their neighbors prayers of intercession deny them a service Christians are called to perform. Furthermore, it is clear that intercessory prayer is not something general and vague, but something very concrete. It is interested in specific persons and specific difficulties and therefore specific requests. The more concrete my intercessory prayer becomes the more promising it is…
All this proves that intercessory prayer is a gift of God’s grace for every Christian community and for every Christian. Because God has made us such an immeasurably great offer here, we should accept it joyfully. The very time we give to intercession will turn out to be a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation. By Bonhoeffer

Biblical Wisdom
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23

Isaiah 35:4-7a

Isaiah 35:4-7a
As hospital chaplain I met a woman whose life and dreams had been dashed to bits. When she lost her daughter to cancer, it was as if her heart was cracked wide open. She wandered around in a desert of pain. Shortly after she received a diagnosis of macular degeneration, she wonders how long she will be able to drive before she is declared legally blind. Once again, she is facing the dark night of the soul. Are there any words that can give her hope?
When it seems as though daybreak will never come, when we need the promise of good news in a bad situation, Isaiah declares that God will come to save us. For the Israelites who had endured years of exile, hearing Isaiah's words must have seemed a total disconnect from the suffering they had experienced. And yet, Isaiah says, God will appear. God will come to save you!
\Do these words take suffering away? Of course not. Perhaps all they can do is crack open the hard, protective shells we put over our hearts when we are in pain and allow the tiniest glimmer of hope to slip in. But sometimes, that is enough to get us through another dark night.

Dear God, come to us and remain with us when our hope is shattered and small. Grant us vision to see the ways you choose to make yourself known. For you are the One who has redeemed and sustains us. Amen.
Isaiah 35:4-7a (NRSV)
4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you."
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel, quoting Micah, says this: "Darkness is not dismal; when we sit in darkness, God is our light" (Prophets, p. 129).

This is the confession of our faith: that God has so fully entered into our lives in this world. We are ultimately transformed. From darkness to light. From brokenness to healing. From death to life. We are want to believe it, yet, to borrow from Bob Dylan, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." This song sings a future into the present, offering a proclamation of faith that is not yet sight.

Father of lights, you have shown a great light to the world in Jesus, your Son, who came into our darkness. There is nowhere and no one you cannot illumine, no past, no present, no future into which you cannot shed light. Bring us into your light, both here and now, and now and forever. Through Jesus Christ, the star of our life. Amen.

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

1 I want to walk as a child of the Light
I want to follow Jesus
God set the stars to give light to the world
The Star of my life is Jesus.

Refrain
In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

2 I want to see the Brightness of God
I want to look at Jesus
Clear Son of righteousness shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father. (Refrain)

3 I'm looking for the coming of Christ
I want to be with Jesus
When we have run, with patience, the race
We shall know the joy of Jesus. (Refrain)

Take, Oh, Take Me as I Am

Take, Oh, Take Me as I Am
Growing up, I was a picky eater. Most of my meals consisted of Spaghetti-O's, toast and chocolate milk. I usually spilled my milk. At church I meet various versions of myself, but I am teaching them to say, "I'm not picky, I'm particular." I like to say the same thing about God. God takes us as we are. God isn't picky. God can use broken vessels like us to do some weird and wonderful things.
God is particular, though. God has chosen you (yes, you). God has worked through you. God will continue to live in you.
God of particularities and peculiarities, thank you for taking us and claiming us as you have made us. Set your seal upon our hearts. Dwell in us. Through Jesus, who showed us that love is stronger than death and passion more fierce than the grave. Amen.

Take, Oh, Take Me as I Am

Take, oh, take me as I am;
summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart
and live in me.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
God speaks a word from the outside in order that it becomes a word inside us, unseating our intentions and seating us to feast on God's grace, God's mercy and God's righteousness. In the Meal, we receive into our own bodies Jesus' body and blood. We receive that which we could not make or earn ourselves: forgiveness and new life. From the table we rise, taking Jesus into our world through our flesh.

God who doesn't look at appearances, you bid your people to listen and understand. Speak to us through your gospel of death and new life, that we may turn from that which defiles, destroys, ruins and mars ourselves and our neighbors. Through Jesus Christ, who defiled himself for our sake, taking on flesh, taking our sin and leading us to you. Amen.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NRSV)
1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him,
2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.
3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders;
4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"
6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;
7 "'in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.'
8 "You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand:
15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.
21 "For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder,
22 "adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
23 "All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Our summer took off with the words from Isaiah: "Holy, holy, holy. ... Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6). The summer shuts down echoing Isaiah. What does it mean to have unclean lips?
Jesus brings us back to Isaiah 29:13, Isaiah's definition of unclean lips: those who honor God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from God. God wishes to draw us deeper, bringing us beyond tradition and into faith. What is the purpose of tradition? To teach us God's commandments and to support us as we live into faith.
God of our hearts, your word became flesh and dwelt among us. We want to put that flesh back into words, back into tradition. Speak to us again and cleanse our lips as you move our hearts to faith. Through Jesus Christ, who abandoned his godly form to hold onto our own. Amen.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NRSV)
1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him,
2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.
3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders;
4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"
6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;
7 "'in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.'
8 "You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand:
15 "there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.
21 "For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder,
22 "adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
23 "All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."