Thursday, August 21, 2014

Justice for All

The Rev. Lee M. Miller II
The English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity
Buffalo , NY
August 17, 2014

Matthew 15:21-28

Vacation was a blessing.  It was beautiful, sacred time with family.
But the roar of the ocean only muffled for me the sounds and cries that continued throughout the world.

And that’s where we meet Jesus this morning…

As Jesus has been travelling throughout the land he has, until this time, remained in predominantly Jewish settlements and cities. Teaching in Jerusalem and preaching in Galilee.
Now Jesus travels northwest along the coast; to present day Lebanon, the region of Sidon,
Where a Lebanese woman, dressed in robes and wearing a traditional head covering, comes to Jesus. Though she is a Canaanite, she knows something of the promise of the Messiah – that one day, God would send his anointed one to all the world; and that Son would bring justice and peace.
But she’s a woman.
Of a different race.
Trying to get through a group of men.
And reach Jesus.
And find healing for her daughter, tormented by a demon.

So she shouts!
“Have mercy On Me! Son of David!! Have Mercy on Me!!”
Others who knew her in the crowd, knew her to be a bit eccentric.  They wish she’d stop.
“Have mercy on Me! Son of David! Have Mercy on Me!!”
She was getting louder; shouting over Jesus’ teaching; shouting over those who would hush her.
“Have mercy on Me! Son of David! Have mercy on me!!!”

Jesus did not answer the heckler at all.
His disciples encouraged him to send her away.
But she elbowed past the men,
She pushed through the crowd – it was not pretty.
Don’t get between a mother, and her sick child, she will do anything – cut through red tape, wrestle with insurance companies, debate with doctors. A mother caring for a sick child is a powerful force!
A mother will do just about anything to find justice for her child.
Alonzo Ashley
Gwendle Allen
Johnathan Farrell
Eric Garner

And now Michael Brown joins an already too long list of unarmed black men who have been shot and killed by police.
It is still under investigation over what Michael may or may not have been doing leading up to his confrontation with police.
But at the time he was killed witnesses say,
He was unarmed.
His hands were lifted in the air.
And shots from police continued to fire.

This reality for African American men; particularly young men, is heartbreaking for their parents
who teach their sons on a daily basis why they need to be careful at all times.

This reality for our young, black, sons, is uncomfortable for many white folks. (Uncomfortable is probably the easiest word for me to choose.) Maybe folks would like to push the story back in their minds. Convince oneself that is happening in someone else’s city;
in someone else’s neighborhood;
and…we don’t have to drive there anyway.

But this problem…
is a problem for all of us.

The incidents this week are not isolated to Ferguson.  It is not a problem for St. Louis alone. It is a window into one of our continued struggles in this country.

And so mothers join fathers and sisters and brothers,
and they shout, from the back of the crowd...

For Justice and for Peace
For answers, for solutions.
For Just Action.
For safety for all people; for all children; 
for ALL.

That’s why protestors pour into the streets.

(This does not excuse looting and those who would do violence.)

But that’s why you have a crowd.

They are mothers, crying out,
 "Have Mercy on Us, Son of David. Have mercy on us!"

And mothers won’t be stopped until they find healing for their children.
She knelt before him, pleading the case for her tormented child.

What happens next is debated by scholars and theologians alike, and you can enter into the story here as well. Jesus responded to the woman, “I was sent only to the lost house of Israel.”
But she was persistent; and Jesus says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Some scholars suggest Jesus was only “testing” the woman; arguing that his words are not as rough as they sound.“Kynarion”, the word in Greek translated here means “house dog, or little dog,” and I’ve heard it taught that Jesus was not calling the woman a dog…he was just calling her a cute dog, like a puppy.

I don’t know about you, but I was taught you never someone, a dog. Period.

 Some surmize that all of this was a test of her faith – an “in your face” challenge to see if she would step it up.

Sisters and brothers, I don’t believe in a God of grace who is trying to test us and trick us into seeing if we love God enough in order to receive our blessing.

Certainly, the woman WAS challenged.
She responds…
“But even the dogs eat the crumbs of the master’s table.”

 Now I know that God is the SAME, yesterday, today, and tomorrow…

But I believe Jesus really meant what he said. It wasn’t a trick. He earnestly believed up until that point he was going out only to the house of Israel; but in this moment,

Jesus himself is challenged.

Christ is challenged by that radical call to grace, which comes through the Canaanite woman.
The Jar is cracked and broken, and light and healing and justice for the woman and her daughter come pouring out.

Maybe in that moment Jesus remembers the words from the scroll of Isaiah,
“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

In that moment; Jesus is pushed – but he stops and listens.

We are challenged by the shouting of the crowds,
By the cries of mothers who call out for justice.

This week in Missouri the authorities were challenged.
Hopefully, with the appointment of State Troopers,
with a federal investigation underway, officials are taking time to stop, to listen, and to respond. 

We pray and we can stand with the residents of Ferguson asking for fair representation; for a review of policies and procedures, for just action, for peace for all people.

What is our role here?

Who do we hear crying out for justice – it’s not just in Ferguson.

Who is not at the table?
Who longs to be heard, to be seen?
Who is kept silent?

Where in our communities are mothers and fathers clinging to justice?

And what's our role?

We may think our voice doesn't make difference, but we are still called to speak up in the face of the injustices that we witness;

We may think our presence is powerless, but our absence is even more powerful.

We may think all is too far gone;
but faith is the assurance of things hoped for, evidence  of what is unseen!

And so we press on.

Because once...
Once...we too were on the outside.
Once....we too, longed for a seat at the table...

Luther wrote, "We are all beggars in search of bread."

And through Christ, God invited us in...
pulled up a chair to the table for us...

Not that we would eat the crumbs off the floor, but that we might feast! That we might ALL Feast!

Thanks be to God that there is enough.
Thanks be to God for Hope that is everlasting.
Thanks be to God for Justice that pours out like a river, and flows like a mighty stream.

May it be so. Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers all people together. Amen.