Sermon - Robin Wardlaw
Pentecost 15, Year B
Readings: Proverbs 22:1–2, 8–9, 22–23; Psalm 125; (James 2:1–10, 11–13, 14–17); Mark 7:24–30
Crumbs. The nuisance kind seem to spread all over the counter or the table when one is cutting crusty bread, or end up jabbing one in bed no matter how great the care not to let them fall. To be avoided. The appealing kind of crumbs are from brownies or fudge or something, where it seems worthwhile to gather up every one.
Crumbs are what a desperate mother is hoping to get from the rabbi, the healer, as he passes through. Any crumbs. Her daughter is unwell. The bible calls it demon possession. We might call it something different today. What would a parent not do to help a child? Go find the rabbi and somehow get to see him even though he had booked some alone time? Ignore a vicious put down of her and her people? Easy, compared to what she would have done.
Crumbs are all I need. Crumbs of love. Crumbs of healing power. For my daughter. For our dreams for her. Doesn’t your holy book say, “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor?” For God’s sake, let her be accepted by the community. Let her be well. Let her be whole.
She converts him. He is focused on his mission. His people need direction, clarity, a return to desert thinking, when they were all poor and dependent on each other and providence. No distractions. But she opens his eyes to something wider. Who doesn’t need love, healing, acceptance, dignity, wholeness? Did he really believe there was a limited supply of such things, that they had to be hoarded, or dispensed only to one people?
And what happened back in her community, how did she explain her daughter’s new health? And what did happen to make her daughter better, anyway? What was in those crumbs?
The Jesus community tells this story in which Jesus comes off badly. It catches us by surprise. Lets us feel for all the characters in the story with their different needs–daughter, mother, traveling wonder worker. It certainly calls on the Christian community to reach out to non-Jews. “Look, Jesus heard the cries of foreigners, ministered to them.”
We don’t get much to eat or drink in a communion service. Not much more than a sip, a crumb. It’s potent stuff, though. It makes us think of our smallness, and our greatness. It reminds us of those with little, and gives us a taste for a world somewhat different than the one we have concocted so far. It connects us with generations who have been breaking bread together over centuries and millennia, and people doing so even now in very, very different settings all over the planet.
And what do you tell people about it when you get home? You have the same challenge as the woman in the story. You could say, “It inspires us, joins us together, fills us up, leaves us hungry for change. It’s miracle bread.” It’s hard to tell others about communion, though–what happens here and why. Maybe it’s a case of, “You had to be there.”
The world is waiting for people who know the power, the tender power, of a not-so-simple meal shared with others. People like you. The world is waiting for rituals of togetherness, ceremonies of wholeness, recipes for healing. This is ours. Miracle bread. Come and get it.