Can you imagine Jesus turning anyone away who genuinely asks him for help? I know times when Christians, myself included, haven’t responded positively to the heart cry of someone in need, but did Jesus himself not say, “… whoever comes to me I will never drive away…” (John 6:37) So how can Jesus ignore a foreign lady who begs him to heal her daughter and, after her persistence, tell her to ‘get lost’ because his bread is for Jews and not non-Jewish dogs (Matthew 15:21-28)?
It’s what Ron Rolheiser calls the ‘tension between being both Son of David and Lord in the region of Tyre & Sidon’. IE. The strain between looking after ‘our own’ family, flock, friends, community, church, employees, shire, nation, etc, and people beyond our traditions, culture, outlook, beliefs & lifestyle. You can imagine Jesus’ thoroughly Jewish team, on retreat on foreign soil, thanking God when Jesus told this ‘heretic’ to ‘get lost’. “Gie us peace!”
But back comes this tenacious ‘tic’, now appealing to Jesus as Lord (of all the earth), not just Israel. Jesus marvels at her insight and faith and heals her daughter, “Jesus gave in. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well.”
Jesus teaches his ‘dyed in the wool’ Jewish followers that the Jews were chosen to be a ‘Light to all the world’ not to keep it to themselves, boasting in their ‘chosenness’, rather than sharing their precious ‘chosenness’ with all the world, and the healing Hope and Good News of Jesus. Jesus illustrates the tough tension between our comfortable assumptions, traditions and ‘way we’ve aye done things’ and truly caring for people beyond our own.
As chaplain in the multi-faith centre in the London Olympics Athletes’ Village I was asked by Muslim colleagues to stand and point people towards the venue for Muslim prayers. Despite a conflict of interests, along with some other Christian chaplains, I cheerfully directed athletes and village staff towards Jumu’ah Friday Prayers and witnessed great appreciation from those who came searching for their sacred space. Of the 40+ funerals Fullarton conducted last year around 25 had no direct church connection. Some from my Fullarton Flock may question the amount of my time given to parish work like this, along with visiting local schools and networking with community caring activity, but I’m simply following Jesus’ lead. Likewise in Fullarton ConneXions outreach, we open our buildings for community use and share the Love of Jesus in down to earth practical ways (EG. Friday night Grub n Gospel & Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre) as well as care for our own.
At our Leadership Away Day on Saturday we discussed and prayed about some of the tensions and opportunities before us as we try to reach out to people identifying in the LGBTQ+ Community and, along with the other churches in Irvine, focus on breaking out of our buildings, traditions & comfort zones to share the Love & Light of Jesus Christ. It’s the tension between traditional loyalties to the family & friends we know and are devoted to, and the people of other clans, colours, cultures, outlooks, & neighbourhoods.
With all the challenges and opportunities before us in the Irvine Churches, the prospect of early retirement is very attractive. But I’ve got that monkey and idol off my back, and now am praying, ‘Let the rest be best!’ Ready to live with the tensions of sharing God’s Love in both traditional and (sometimes uncomfortable) radical ways. What about you? Can you look into Jesus’ eyes to see the smile of divine contradiction, and let him stretch you beyond experience and expectation? Lead on Lord Jesus!