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August 14, 2005 (Sunday 20 · Time after Pentecost)

Intern Pastor Katy Grindberg

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Brothers and sisters, grace and peace to you from God our loving creator and from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

The common theme that runs through the three lessons for today is that of welcome of the outsider. We're missing four verses from Isaiah, and in those four verses, there is concern over welcoming eunuchs into the worship, due to restrictions in previous Levitical laws. The prophet speaks for God and says "all who keep the Sabbath and hold fast my covenant"--they are welcome.

In Romans, Paul is writing about the Jews and whether God has abandoned the covenant with the chosen people. Paul says no, God has no abandoned the Jews--they remain God's chosen people, for, Paul reminds us, "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."

And so with these two lessons before us, we arrive at the gospel, where Jesus encounters a pagan woman in a pagan land--and we likely expect her to be welcomed unconditionally and without question by the one who welcomes all...but she isn't. In fact she is insulted and told to go away--and not only by the disciples, which we have come to expect, but by Jesus as well.

Have you ever been so intent on a task--a calling--a mission--that you develop tunnel vision? Anything that seems to detract or distract you from that task is unwelcome and in fact something to be rejected.

And maybe that is what is going on here. Maybe this is one of those times where we encounter the entirely human Jesus. A man who is focused on his calling to the people of Israel, a man who sees an interruption by this pagan woman as something that pulls him away from what he is supposed to be doing. This woman, who it seems is the only person in the gospels to win a theological argument with him, reminds Jesus of the need and the faith of those outside of the children of Israel. But we are left with, what is for some of us, an uncomfortable image of Jesus. He is not supposed to act like one of us.

We are now at the end of the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly. An assembly where about 1000 voting delegates struggled with what it means to be the body of Christ in the world and what it means to direct the policies of a 4.9 million Lutheran Christians. Through faithful consideration and debate, the delegates passed overwhelmingly two strategies for evangelism to African American and Middle-Eastern descent communities. And, they passed a statement condemning the Wall of Separation in Israel that is being built on Palestinian land and causing hardship to countless Palestinians. At the same time, keeping before them the knowledge and Israelis live in fear of terrorism on a daily basis.

When it came to the recommendations from the sexuality task force, they passed recommendation number two which essentially affirms a statement the council of Bishops made in the 1990's, making the blessing of same gender relationships a matter of pastoral care--the Honolulu Advertiser didn't get that part right in their article yesterday. The Assembly delegates did vote down the resolution that would have made it possible for gay or lesbian persons in relationship to be ordained or rostered in the ELCA.

As I looked at the lessons, the Churchwide Assembly and LCH, there is a common thread among all--and that is welcome to those who are often unwelcome. I have discovered that LCH is a place that works at living out the call to be welcoming to all--it's the first line of the mission statement. When I first arrived, I was welcomed warmly, especially when you found out who I was. But, time and again, I have watched as visitors to this community are warmly welcomed. Whether as one time only visitors, vacationing in Hawaii, or people seeking a church home, I have seen you welcome them all.

When I first arrived, I had a lot of people on the mainland asking what my internship congregation was like. One comment that I made a lot, was that every week, I got to see a variety of ways family is lived out. There is the Hawaiian way of adopting and making family of everyone; and there are those of you who are families of one; you are partnered, but some with spouses or partners are what a friend calls "spiritually single." Some of you are parents, some alone or some share the joys and challenges. And what makes this a joy for me, is that you come together every week as members of the body of Christ and make a new kind of family. A family where you seek to follow the calling of God in the world and in this community.

God's blessings are for all, we are reminded today. As you think about the future of the ministry at LCH, as the Ministry Plan Task Force continues in their work, don't be surprised if someone or something comes up unexpectedly, demanding the attention and the work of the community. Not all people are going to be as insistent as the Canaanite woman--and it is easy to be wounded by rejection--especially from those who are supposed to welcome all.

When you know the joy and the blessings of the love of God and the acceptance of a community, as you all do, it should be something that you want to share. I pray that you will keep your eyes and ears open for the interruptions in your work; that you will keep working for justice, keep praying for each other and the world and keep loving each other--and discover and nurture your passionate spirituality along the way.

Amen.


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