Monday, August 8, 2011

Reunited: Year A, Ordinary 20

This Week's Lectionary Texts
Genesis 45:1-15 or Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 133 or Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

This Week's Reflection

Oh dear, we find ourselves this week at that gospel text from Matthew when Jesus calls a woman a dog. If you are a regular reader, you will notice that I'm a bit late this week with this reflection. That first sentence is why. Check out all the great resources at The Text This Week for many more scholarly and detailed exegesis of that text. Honestly, it just confuses me. This is a feeling I am becoming more and more comfortable with, by the way, because I feel it quite often.

If you explore those scholars, you will find varying theories of what is happening in the text. It could be that Jesus was acting out his parable on this particular occasion - behaving in such a way as if to say, "Did you see that? Don't do what I just did!" Others will say that Jesus never really called the woman a dog, that it is so uncharacteristic that it was clearly added by someone else along the way to make a point - the point of which seems lost on all of us! Some would say that he was testing her faith, giving her room to prove how much she believed he could help her daughter. And, others will applaud the woman and her boldness saying that Jesus learned a lesson from her, that Jesus was actually wrong and changed his mind because of what she had to say. Oh dear, indeed!

As confused as I am by the actions of Jesus in the Matthew text, I have to be honest and say that Joseph's actions in the Genesis passage confuse me too. It also makes me start singing (only in my head) that 1979 Peaches and Herb song, Reunited. (I feel it important to point out that I was only 7 years old then!) "Reunited and it feels so good . . ." But, why would it feel good to Joseph to be reunited with the brothers who had wanted him dead and sold him into slavery? I get that he wanted to see his father again. I get that their arrival in Egypt gave him hope that Jacob was still living and that he would have a chance to see him again before his father died. But, Joseph actually seems happy to see the brothers too. This confuses me. He weeps as he hugs on them. He invites them to move nearby where he can take care of them. He even takes time to tell them the ways in which God had worked through the pain and heartache of his life to bring about good, in fact, to save others. I can understand most of this, but the way in which he welcomes them back without question, without apologies, without explanations - it just confuses me because I can't imagine being that forgiving.

Joseph was the son of Jacob. Jacob's name was changed to Israel in his encounter at the river in the middle of the night. Upon refusing to help the woman in need, Jesus replies by saying, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But, Joseph, the son of Israel had reached out to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and through his guidance he was saving them. Jesus points out that what comes out of our mouths is more important than what goes in, but almost immediately slips into name calling when an outsider asks him for help. Whether we choose to believe that it was Jesus or the woman doing the teaching here, what happened was a reunion of sorts. A reunion that, like Joseph's with his brothers, included forgiveness and a bringing together of people from varied backgrounds. "Reunited and it feels so good . . ."

Psalm 33 speaks about living together in unity. Isaiah touches upon salvation and deliverance being offered to all people. Psalm 67 asserts that all people will be judged the same and that God blesses us all. And, then there's Paul.

In Romans 11, Paul throws me for another loop because it seems like he just might be saying that we are sinful people, unable to keep from sinning, so that God has the opportunity to prove how good and forgiving God is. Hold up a minute! I can't quite go there, Paul.

In the same way that I find myself shaky on Joseph's explanation that God had the whole rotten mess of his life up to that point planned out so that he could be brought to the position of power that he finds himself in now, I can't quite fully agree that we are in bondage to sin simply to allow a way for God to show off how forgiving and loving God can be. What I can believe is that God is forgiving and loving and that God works to reunite us with God's self and the community of faith around us.

God transforms horror into honor. God uses forgiveness to create a future. God reunites us with loved ones - and not-so-loved ones - in order to reclaim what was God's all along. "Reunited and it feels so good . . ."

This Week's Artwork
(in order of appearance in reflection)
Divisions by John Shorb
The Canaanite Woman by Jean Colombe
Forgive and Forget by Jim LePage
Joseph Recognized by His Brothers by Peter von Cornelius
Come Together by Cobalt

Just in case you are curious about the song mentioned . . .