A sermon on Mark 7 v. 24 – 30, published in the Baptist Times on November 26th 2009
The sermon outline
Most of us are not nearly as complex or sophisticated as we would like to think we are. In fact, we can only chart our way through the world by simplifying it into good things and bad things, or nice ones and nasty ones. The trouble is, we sometimes do the same with people – dividing them into those who are acceptable and those who are not. We even do it occasionally with the same person – treating them as nice when they behave according to our tastes and nasty when they do not. This is a trend encouraged by the ‘tabloidization’ of the news – which divides the world up into heroes and villains.
In Mark’s story Jesus crosses over from ‘here’ to ‘there’ – entering the Syrphoenician territory where people deemed unacceptable by the Jews lived. In so doing he sets an example for us in including those whom tradition or circumstance excludes. However, the key character in the story, a woman with a demon-possessed daughter, sets us an example of how to behave when we are feeling excluded. It is only her combination of unashamed humility and unshakeable faith which prompts the miracle of her daughter’s healing. When others are excluded we must go out of our way to reach them – as Jesus did. When we are feeling excluded we must come to God with humility and faith if we want him to help us.
- This woman was an outsider on so many counts. Her gender, her birthplace, her language and the affliction of her child all made her the kind of person others would avoid.
- A quick look at a Bible map will reveal that this area was really out of Jesus’ orbit in the rest of the Gospel. What made him go there?
- If we are honest, whom would we find just as unacceptable as this woman if she came into our church?
- Even simple things such as in-jokes, or conducting church business on a Sunday morning can lead to visitors feeling excluded.
- If the woman was wrong to ask – why does Jesus grant her request?
“I don’t know why he did it. Perhaps he tired of the religious people scrapping with each other, tearing each other’s holiness like a tom cat leaving a torn ear to show where he has fought. Perhaps the father drove him there – propelled him to our godforsaken corner just as once he’d propelled him through the stars to land on our little clump of humanity. Either way, the rumour of his presence was all I needed”