Monday, 21 August 2017

A house of prayer for ALL peoples

Has anyone experienced being deliberately left out of a game in the playground or even worse because it is so public standing in a line waiting to be picked for a team – each time hoping that they are going to pick you and every time being overlooked – even by your friends?
Being excluded is profoundly uncomfortable.
Being excluded by God because you were not born Jewish would feel absolutely awful wouldn’t it?
The Jews were of course the “chosen people” , which of course means that other peoples. Including us were not chosen.
Being marked out like this has been both a blessing and a curse. I remember during one of my favourite films – Fiddler on the roof – after yet another tragedy Tevye looks up to heaven and says “Lord I know we are the chosen people, but just once in a while, couldn’t you choose someone else?”

But the question is “For what purpose were the Jews chosen”?

They were chosen to be a light to the gentiles. God’s purpose was to speak through the Jews to reach the whole world.

We heard Isaiah Today saying that the Temple in Jerusalem was to be a house of prayer for all nations!

Jesus actually refers to Isaiah’s prophesy that the Temple in Jerusalem was supposed to be “house of prayer for all peoples” just before he cleared out the moneychangers if you remember rightly.

Paul in his letter says that God’s promises to the Jews can never be revoked but the promises made to the world through the Jews were answered and fulfilled by Jesus Christ because the Jews were only ever partially successful in being a guiding light to the world.

Jesus uses a term from gardening and agriculture. We are “grafted in” to the vine that was the Jewish nation, but of course, Jesus declares in John’s gospel that the “true vine” is Jesus Himself, who took over the role of being “the light to the gentiles”.

Bearing in mind all this the exchange with the foreign woman is completely out of character.
But one thing the Bible is not able to transmit is tone of voice and context.

Given what we have just said Jesus could never have referred to the lady, and by implication all foreigners as dogs. So what is going on.

And the proof of that is twofold. Not the slightest hint of any offence is indicated by the woman in the text – in fact she joins in the fun and says “well yes, but even the doggies get the crumbs off the master’s table” and the greatest proof that Jesus was kidding is that the woman’s faith is commended and her daughter is healed instantly.
Salvation came to her house.

Jesus seems to have been playing with both the woman and his disciples, by first stating something he obviously didn’t believe in.

“I have only come to the house of Israel – not you foreigners.”

And it cannot convey sarcasm – but scholars do know that the word Jesus uses is a diminuitive form of the word so it is more affectionate term like “doggies” or puppies or house dogs.
He is teasing both the woman and his own disciples and poking fun at the fierce exclusivism that had taken hold in some quarters.

Salvation is for all people, but even the word “salvation” has become a distant, disconnected, plastic, theoretical theological concept that doesn’t immediately scratch where we are itching.

Another word for salvation is healing. The root of the word salvation is “salve”, to soothe, to lighten, to comfort, to ease.

If you can make that connection you have a better chance of personally appropriating the notion of salvation for yourself.

Because the word has accrued a distant, disconnected, plastic, theoretical theological concept kind of meaning that doesn’t immediately scratch where we are itching.

Do you want salvation? Dunno really, do I?
Do you want healing, soothing, rest for your soul, saving from yourself or your enemies, making whole again, have everything put right? Yes, I do.

This is what Jesus offers because it is what God has always wanted to offer to all of us, and God works through Jesus, born a Jew, to speak to the whole world.

Approach Jesus in faith and this is what he offers despite our present circumstances no matter how dire they may be or what nationality you are. 

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