Genesis 45:1-15 • Psalm 67 • Isaiah 56:1-8 • Matthew 15:10-28 • Romans 11:1-20a, 29-32
The story of Joesph is an amazing story, and, sadly, this time around, we have not had the time it takes to get a full appreciation for this interesting character. You probably feel like you already know this story, however, if you have time, read through it again. It begins in chapter 37 and goes all that way through the end of Genesis (chapter 50 – skip chapter 38 it is an odd detour you can take later). Joseph is a refreshing character – especially if you compare him to basically everyone else in the book of Genesis. As you consider the story of Joesph, remember the brother of Jacob, Esau, who forgives his brother of heinous acts. Consider the power that Joseph ends the story with and the ways that he uses that power – think also of all the ways he could have used the power (how would you have used the power in his shoes?). Joseph chose reconciliation and peace over revenge and resentment. Joseph chose to dismantle the system of vengeance and, instead, responded with redemption and forgiveness.
Our Psalm passage begins with a version of the Aaronic benediction used as an exit blessing,
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace”.Numbers 6:24-26
As we have seen before, a blessing is given in order that the receiver can bless others. Blessing is not just about us. Psalm 67 is about the source of blessings and our opportunity to reflect, and share, that blessing through our lives.
This passage may be one of the most powerful sections of the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is moving the Israelites from a system of ‘institutional ritualism’ to a ‘right heart’ system. Basically, he is telling the Israelites, who have legally rejected any acceptance of Eunuchs and any foreigners into their faith, now, Isaiah is instructing them to accept both of these groups. This is a radical message even today! Eunuchs, often times by choice, were men who had basically become ‘degendered’, think about the ‘trans’ issues of today; also, it doesn’t take much description for us to see the pertinence to us, in our time, that ‘foreigners’ were also named.
Oh my gosh…what a passage! I have to admit that in the past I have quickly read through this passage, primarily because I have been put off by 4 things in the passage.
First, some basic context. Remember Matthew’s chronology of the events up to this point. The parables about sower, seeds, and pulling weeds. Recognize that this passage follows Jesus sending the disciples out to the oppressed and hurting Jews, the feeding of the 5,000 plus people, and Jesus walking on water.
Now, let me share my four points of contention, add your own as you read over this passage.
- Honestly, this is a recent addition to my complaints, in the midst of a pandemic when we have been told over and over to wash our hands and to cover our face, to now hear Jesus say ‘it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person’ is just plain disconcerting and painful.
- Jesus response to the gentile Canaanite woman, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ seems unnecessarily harsh and ‘unChristlike’.
- His response to Peter, ‘Are you also still without understanding? ‘ seems inappropriate since Jesus is the teacher in this relationship – frankly, this is a personal grudge, on my part, that has increased as we have read Jesus’ comments to his disciples in Matthew (remember Jesus said to the rescued Peter, ‘You of little faith’).
- Jesus refers to the woman, and her people, as a dog and she just goes with the bigotry.
I am only going to address concern #3, here, we will hold the others until Sunday (definately #2 and #4 on Sunday, I may just let you stew on #1 for eternity). Jesus’ harsh language is unique to Matthew’s writing, and transliteration. While it sounds harsh to us, it was not heard as offensive then. Think of ‘Are you also still without understanding? ‘ as being, ‘ I need to explain this more effectively, let’s try this again.’or ‘You of little faith’ faith as being, ‘Let’s save such a big faith move to later, after you get to know me better, and can trust me more.’
Read this passage multiple times, go at it from different directions, put yourself in the place of each of the listeners.
Romans 11:1-20a, 29-32
Paul is coming to a close (chapters 9-11) of his questioning, and attempting to understand, what the Jews’ rejection means in regard to God’s promises to them. Chapter 11 is powerful, as Paul asks, “Are we saying that God, rejects God’s people?” his answer is an emphatic ‘NO’.
Paul says that this is a mystery, but in no way can we justify saying that God’s people have been rejected by God. Think about this in regard to the underlying anti-semitism in our country and our world, that frequently raises its ugly head in such violent ways. Paul’s message is a direct attack on those who would think, speak, or act on such a heretical theology.
If God does reject God’s people, what does that say about God? What does it say about those who proclaim such a theology? How does it come into conflict with everything else you know about God?
It is a mystery!