Rev. Rosemary Webb
9th September 2018
We Can All Learn From Each Other

Two healing miracles both performed on people who could not turn to Christ themselves to ask for healing. First, we have the Syrophoenician woman – a gentile, pleading for a cure for her young daughter, what mother wouldn’t do that.

Then we have a deaf man being brought by friends to be healed we don’t know who the friends were, again they were probably Gentile, but they too pleaded that their friend be cured.

Two people with different needs, not devout Jews but just ordinary local people, unknown except to their friends, who had heard about Christ and had the faith to believe that Jesus would cure them. And we need to remember that it wouldn’t be easy for them to go to Jesus for in the eyes of the people they were outsiders.

In fact, Jesus’ initial response to the women is somewhat surprising, certainly not the response she was wanting, the word dogs was the word Jews used to describe gentiles. In no way a kindly word. So, basically Jesus was stressing he had come to heal the Jews not the Gentiles, but when he saw her faith, her trust in him, he reached out and healed her daughter.

The Gospels focus on Jesus reaching out and healing. Through his initial response Jesus is showing this love wasn’t just for chosen people but for anyone who turned to God in faith. He knew a response like that would make people stop and listen, for many thought he had only come to save the Jews. He was showing that all who have faith and turn to him will be saved. God has never wanted people to suffer, which is why his healing grace is available for all people.

When we hear these healing stories in the Gospel we need to remember the sheer desperation being felt. This mum couldn’t go to a doctor, she knew she had to trust Christ, and persuade him of her faith, that was the only hope she had. Being ill in those days carried so much stigma, if you were Jewish you were banned from the Temple as unclean.

Perhaps it is passages like this one from Mark which made James point out the need to serve God, not just to expect blessings because of who you are, but to earn them because of the gifts God has given us. James is emphatic that faith without work is dead. He was tired of people who thought that saying you believed in Jesus was all that was needed. He had witnessed people coming to the Christian community for help, only to be ignored because of who they were. The very opposite from the message Jesus was giving when he healed the gentile woman’s child. James’ message is that we have to remember Christ’s call to serve, to love all our neighbours, not just to say we believe.

James, in his letter, is calling out to those in the early church who show favouritism to the rich, to think what they are doing, to ask themselves if that is how Jesus would have reacted. He is telling them that Christ showed God’s love to all, not just the powerful and rich. He is asking them if they really are true believers, or is their faith ‘just on a Sunday in Church faith’. an insurance policy for old age.

He is stressing that Christianity is a 24/7 faith, not just when in church. James is stressing to them that if they believe in Christ, they must treat all people equally and that applies to us today. We must judge all people equally, not be impressed by wealth, power, education, we must love all people, even those who hate us.

Last Sunday we had a talk from Challengers, our local Mission this year. They provide opportunities for children with learning, physical and mental disabilities, children who find it hard to integrate, who so often end up feeling isolated and unloved, that one child in the class who is never invited to a party. Probably children like the child that Mum went to seek Jesus out for, so she could be made healthy.

Sadly, small Charities like Challengers can go unnoticed except to the families they help and yet all over the country are children, and indeed adults who are so in need of their help, and indeed our help – not just financial help – but help in breaking down barriers. Tragically some barriers do appear to be intentional but many are not. One example which I am sure could easily be met is that there are still public premises with no disabled entrance. Or disabled people on a train journey unable to access the loo. And yet for thousands of people these are daily occurrences, but of course even worse is the abuse they can get just because of who they are.

One of the lessons in life that we can all learn is that we can all learn from someone else. Not just from people who we regard as cleverer, superior, but people who through no fault of their own have issues which inhibit what they can achieve in life for whatever form their poverty and suffering takes, they have the power to bless us. I know you have heard me say this before but I am sure I learned more in my three months placement at the Spires in South London, a centre for Homeless people, than the rest of my life has taught me.

When we consider those spiritual writers that have moved us most, aren’t they people who have given their lives to reaching out, showing God’s love to the poor and needy, showing us the gifts God has given to those who people despise because of their poverty and their lack of confidence.
At Christmas time I always feel a great joy when some of the people from the Winter Night Shelter come into one of our services. I feel a joy because they are brave enough to do it. Brave enough because they think that they are different from us, but of course they are not. They are as brave as the mum in the Gospel reading. But are they not the people Jesus welcomed first. I hope the time will come when all who come to us for assistance feel they are welcome at our services.

Let us remind ourselves of Christ’s words

Blessed are the poor, for yours in the Kingdom of God;

Blessed are you who are hungry; for you shall be fed.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Amen

Church is God’s house, it should be seen as a home where all are welcome. We should never forget that Jesus was born in a stable, not least because the rich would not welcome him. Through prejudice the Jewish leaders did not welcome him, they were so convinced that God would send some one who was powerful. Of course Jesus is powerful but not as they expected, power achieved through wealth, No Jesus is all powerful for through him we can all be saved.

Mark 7: 24-37
James 2