Clean Hands and Crumbs – Shaping Us Toward Sunday

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   Early on in my experiences on the Internet I wrote a piece and made reference to a friend. Now I thought I wrote clearly, if not cleverly. My words did not impugn my friend or question him … at least that is what I thought.
    I received an email from Steve who wondered just what I meant by the article. I quickly replied I meant nothing ill toward him. My explanation helped.
    The incident drove home to me the reality that technology may be good, but nothing replaces real-time conversation – even if by phone. Something is missed in type – voice inflection, intensity and mood. Each reader may interpret what is written according to their own frame of reference. And, this certainly creates the potential for relational fracture.
    Reading this week over at Theoblog I could not help but agree with Johnson, who when reading the Gospel text from Matthew, found it hard to do so aloud. Jesus responds to a Canaanite woman with such a terse reply that Johnson suggested were this the only story he had of Jesus he would not think much of him.
   

The woman’s relentless plea for help for her daughter eventually landed
her at Jesus’ feet. Asking for Jesus to help with her demon oppressed
daughter garnered a, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and
throw it to the dogs.” WOW! Our only hope for this passage is context.
We are reading print. Could Jesus really be so mean?
    We are
without voice infection? We are unable to determine if sarcasm is in
use. At the surface it seems a good proof text for bigotry.
We
know too much of Jesus to leave it there. We long to understand so we
cannot leave it alone. Instead, we look to see just what the setting is
for this statement.
    The religious leaders could not get the lack
of personal hygiene displayed by the disciples before eating a meal.
Jesus wrestled them over the matter and began in Matthew 15:10 with
something of a parable or riddle. He noted a person is unclean not by
what one takes into the body but by what comes out of the body. The
disciples were stumped. Looking for an explanation jesus gave one. It
is this conversation that provides the setting for the story of the
Canaanite woman.
    Who would the religious leaders allow to
worship? If they were nit-picking hand-washing, certainly they would
maintain the ethnic barrier and only Jews could be permitted to
worship, or at least be helped by God. So, it seems Jesus offers the
trendy reply. If we could hear his voice inflection we may detect
sarcasm. We may hear him mocking the religious leaders by using one of
their own responses.
    The Canaanite woman persists. Jesus points
to her great faith that though shunned she presses on. Her daughter
received what she needed instantly.
    Clean hands and crumbs. The
connection lies in the breaking down of any sensibility we have to the
work of the Gospel. And what’s more, we should expect to be made sport
of when we present an obstacle when Jesus opens a highway to our God.

    I hope this sets you to thinking about the texts for Sunday. The Psalms and the Epistle reading all offer similar themes. Let the Scripture take you apart as the Spirit of God shapes us toward Sunday.

Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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