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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Midweek Lent, 2017: Justice, Kindness, Humbly Walking

Week 4: “Christ in All”

Vicar Kelly Sandin
   Texts: Matthew 15:21-28; Colossians 3:1-11

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Humans were created in the image and likeness of God. We are diverse and collectively represent the many facets of God. Each one of us is part of the beautiful mosaic needed to complete God’s creative image. Yet, we’ve decided certain pieces are of little value. We’ve tossed out some, with preference over others, and in doing so we’ve distorted the likeness of God.

Even Jesus seemed challenged by this when he went into Gentile territory and encountered a Canaanite woman. She had two strikes against her, Gentile and female. Social and religious customs would dictate not speaking to her, but since she shouted so loudly, she definitely got attention. At first, Jesus ignored her disturbance. It was the disciples who couldn’t take it. To them, sending her away was the only solution. But Jesus, instead, decided to give it to her straight. She was outside the realm of his mission and he wasn’t sent to help her people. Not having it, she knelt before him pleading. Again he retorted and she persisted, finding loopholes in his analogy until, amazingly, he changed his mind.

It may not have been Jesus’ timing to include the Gentiles, but that didn’t prevent him from having a conversation with the Canaanite woman, even if forbidden. Jesus learned from her and was moved into action. Imagine the life change for the woman and her daughter. What Jesus modeled was the willingness to learn another’s point of view. Rather than send her packing, he engaged her intellectually. He spoke truth and she countered it. She was desperate for the one thing she knew he could do. Her persistence and his readiness to listen and learn made all the difference.

While not exactly like the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, racism continues today and we lack the dialogue necessary to learn from it and change it. Similar to Jesus, some of us might not be ready for an encounter, but we must, nonetheless, listen to the voices in our community that are shouting. We need only walk out the front doors of our church to see the diversity in our neighborhood. We live and breathe around families worried if one or more of their family members will be deported or incarcerated. Children fear their parent will be taken away. Families are struggling with multiple low paying jobs, while learning English, getting their kids to school, and trying to put food on the table. We have many neighbors of immigrant status needing the Diaper Depot each and every month to save what little money they can. Our black community fears being pulled over because of their pigmentation. There’s discrimination in the housing market and job market based upon race. There are countless judgments toward people of color, whether overt or covert, on a daily basis. And, as a white person, I’ve never had to live like this. I’ve never feared being pulled over. I’ve never thought I might not get a loan if I needed one or get the house in the neighborhood of my choosing. I’ve had to face the fact that because I’m white, I get to walk in this world differently and there’s no way that’s just.

I understand what it’s like living in an area with overt racism. I moved here from Detroit where there’s a huge black and white divide. White flight from Detroit to the suburbs happened decades ago. I learned much later in life that the Detroit neighborhood I was raised in, on the very street I played with my black and white friends, was thought to be lower class white, yet, at the same time, upper class black. I still grapple with this thought.

After being in the Twin Cities for a month or two, I felt this area might be different from Detroit. Maybe it might even be safe for my black friends. I was optimistic. I openly shared my observations with folks. I talked with black friends about their experiences in this area and, to my sadness, what I was hoping for wasn’t true. It was simply more subtle here.

Humans have created a social construct called “race,” never intended by God.

Let’s look again to the theme of our Lenten series from Micah 6:8: “With what shall I come before the Lord?...“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

What is God calling you to do as we live in the tension of racism today? We cannot pretend it isn’t there. That will not create equality. That will not change minds. But, there are many ways to learn more about social justice issues to put racism behind. We can work for a more just and equitable society. We can become aware, if we are not, of our attitudes and actions that perpetuate racism, so we may be challenged to change. We can learn through the power of listening, and through it see the personhood in the other. This exchange will bring life, both to the person sharing and the person listening. It will connect us as humans and bridge our divide. In the midst, God will be present. It will be sacred ground.

As children of God, created in God’s image, we have been clothed with a new self which is being renewed in knowledge according to the likeness of God. In this renewal, Christ is all and in all! Let us remember whose we are in all of our diversity. Let us love all the pieces back into God’s beautiful mosaic and restore our distorted image of God.


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