January 14, 2018: It Takes Faith to Know When Religion is Wrong.

Posted on : Jan 11th, 2018 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Religion has always had the best intention of bringing people into a deeper awareness of and a closer relationship with the Holy.  Each religion provides different ways of doing that, but basically the goal is the same.  Most of us trust and value the teachings of our religion.  We find them helpful and useful in our everyday lives.  But even though religion has lofty spiritual values, it is nonetheless crafted by humans.

I believe one of the hallmarks of growing in our faith is having the faith to know when religion is wrong.  For some people, the very thought of religion being wrong is anathema.  They just can’t possibly believe their religion could be wrong.  For others it is reality.  Their religion is wrong, or portions of the teaching of their religion are wrong.

The Scripture for this Sunday is a very unique story in which Jesus realizes the religion he was taught and the way he practiced his religion were wrong.  It was a moment of significant insight, enlightenment and transformation.  The context of this story is that a woman from Syro-Phoenicia (a Greek woman) approaches Jesus in a state of desperation.  Today we would say her daughter is mentally ill.  In this story the daughter is described as being possessed (controlled) by a demon.  Jesus is dead tired and trying to avoid “helping” others.  That doesn’t stop this mom.  Her child needs help and she isn’t going to pass up an opportunity to ask Jesus to heal her, as he had healed so many others.

Apart from the fact that Jesus is exhausted, this woman has two strikes against her.  One, she is a woman.  Women at that time were not allowed to approach rabbis or touch them.  That was partly because if a woman was menstruating, she was considered unclean and touching a Jewish man would make him unclean also.  It was a huge social and religious taboo.  But this woman is also not Jewish.  She is “other.”  Pagan was the word used to define anyone who wasn’t Jewish.

Jesus is rather rude to her.  I don’t know if we should chalk it up to the fact that he was tired and cranky or just practicing what his religion taught, but Jesus answers this woman’s cry for help for her daughter with a racist, bigoted slogan.  It’s a little difficult to translate, but he basically says, “Your kid is of less value than a dog.”  Jesus tells a story that in Jewish tradition men are fed first, then women, then children and if there is anything left over, it goes to their dogs.  But the woman, being very wise and insightful, says to Jesus, “Of course, Master. But don’t dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?”  In other words, she asks Jesus, “Isn’t my daughter worthy to have at least the same as the dogs?”

Ouch.  Jesus just got zinged.

Jesus recognizes that he was wrong.  His religion was wrong.  What he had been taught by his religion was wrong.  The difference is, Jesus is changed by this encounter and changed his beliefs and practices.  He admits to the woman that he is wrong, and she is right.  He tells the mother to go home to her daughter who is no longer suffering.  She has been made well (healed).

I don’t believe this story gets told often enough.  It is one of the under=told stories about Jesus.  But is it probably one of the most important for us in the church today.  We all need to learn when our religion is wrong and when we need to change our beliefs and practices.  That takes a lot of faith!

Blessings to each of you on your journey of faith!

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Mark 7:24-30

(from the contemporary translation of the Bible known as “The Message”)

From there Jesus set out for the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house there where he didn’t think he would be found, but he couldn’t escape notice. He was barely inside when a woman who had a disturbed daughter heard where he was. She came and knelt at his feet, begging for help. The woman was Greek, Syro-Phoenician by birth. She asked him to cure her daughter.

He said, “Stand in line and take your turn. The children get fed first. If there’s any left over, the dogs get it.”

She said, “Of course, Master. But don’t dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?”

Jesus was impressed. “You’re right! On your way! Your daughter is no longer disturbed. The demonic affliction is gone.” She went home and found her daughter relaxed on the bed, the torment gone for good.

Copyright © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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