Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E.)
Mercy–Even For Foreigners
The Sunday Closest to August 17
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
AUGUST 17, 2014
AUGUST 20, 2017
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):
Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, `Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!
2 It is like fine oil upon the head
that runs down upon the beard,
3 Upon the beard of Aaron,
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
4 It is like the dew of Hermon
that falls upon the hills of Zion.
5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;
life for evermore.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):
Thus says the LORD:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance will be revealed.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant–
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord GOD,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.
Psalm 67 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
2 Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
6 The earth has brought forth her increase;
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
7 May God give us his blessing,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 (New Revised Standard Version):
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):
(Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what goes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”)
Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Matthew 15 by way of the parallel readings in Mark:
Portions of my North American culture tell me that I should not show weakness. No, they say, I ought to be “strong,” which is to say, tough. So, according to that logic, the example of Jesus, who showed mercy, is a sign of weakness. But that analysis is far from the truth.
Persistent anger is corrosive, especially to the one who wallows in it. At some point the grudge-bearer must lay down his or her burden, for his or her own sake. Consider the case of Joseph, the foreign-born Vizier of Egypt. He could have taken out his vengeance on his brothers, who sold him into slavery. They would not even have known who he really was, unless he had told them. But he forgave them; the better angels of his nature triumphed.
The reading from Isaiah 56 speaks of the extension of salvation to faithful Gentiles. Unfortunately, the Temple establishment in the time of Jesus kept such believers at the margins. These monotheists followed the God of Judaism, but they were still Gentiles, after all. Jesus, surrounded by Gentiles in the region of Tyre and Sidon, recognized the faith of a Gentile woman. And Paul preached to Gentiles while acknowledging that God had not abandoned the Jews.
Those who have known mercy have the obligation to extend it to others, regardless of meaningless categories, such as Jew and Gentile, native-born or foreign-born. All who come to the Judeo-Christian God sincerely are equal to each other in relationship to God, in sinfulness, and in access to forgiveness. We ought not discriminate against each other.
I was a doctoral student at The University of Georgia from the Fall Semester of 2005 to the Fall Semester of 2006. My program ended when I learned that there would be no third year, hence no Ph.D. I received a letter encouraging me to take a Master’s Degree instead. But I already have one, I said. The second-ranking professor in the Department of History said that I should take a second M.A., this time from a “superior institution.” I scoffed and refused. So I never registered for Spring Semester 2007 classes. Much of Fall Semester 2006 constituted a very difficult time for me; I melted down emotionally, holding myself together with proverbial twine and duct tape until the end, when I exploded in anger and said what I really thought. It was impolitic, unwise, and brutally honest.
Initially I was openly hostile to UGA, especially the History Department. But that was years ago. As I write these words, a sense of uneasiness with UGA and the History Department persist within me, but the hostility has run its course. I am painfully aware that I need to forgive my “foreigners,” namely UGA, the History Department, and certain professors–for my sake, not theirs. I have not “arrived” spiritually, O reader; I am weak. But God is strong, and the fact that I have come as far as I have in my relationship to UGA and the History Department as I have indicates extravagant grace. That grace has more work to do, but at least the process of forgiving has begun.
Forgiveness can be very difficult. It might not even happen all at once. But may it begin then continue to completion, all by grace.
One professor extended me great kindness while I melted down. My stress levels and emotional collapse neutralized me academically during that final semester. But thanks to one professor who cut me a deal, I received a respectable grade in one particular course. Since then, as I have functioned as a classroom instructor, I have been increasingly aware of good students struggling with their own issues. As I have received grace, I have extended it to others. Jesus would have me to do no less.
No, I have not “arrived” spiritually, but, by grace, I have come as far as I have. I wonder how much farther I have to go, and I look forward to the journey.
Forgiveness occurred some time ago. I became conscious of it only after the fact.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
MAY 17, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHAL BAYLON, FRANCISCAN
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY, NEW YORK
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HOBART HARE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SOUTH DAKOTA
THE FEAST OF WIREMU TE TAURI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 11, 2011