Oh dear, this week’s lectionary readings are almost embarrasingly rich in wonderful language. The Isaiah passage is a wonderful vision of the restoration of God’s creation. I can just hear Harris’s wondeful musical setting (Strengthen ye the weak hands) as I read it. Psalm 146 feels like the social gospel in condensed form. James 2 is renowned for infuriating Martin Luther. How can you justify a justification by faith alone in view of a Bible passage which says “faith without works is dead” or “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”. Well, Luther didn’t like that very much!
But oh dear is the fact that I’ve really not given enough time to looking at these passages this week to justify anything that might approach a sermon. I have a few thoughts on the gospel passage – two very different miracles compared with many more conventional miracles. The first miracle is interesting for the nationality of the person healed (and that of her daughter). Does Jesus really dismiss someone from the scope of his healing ministry simply because of where they have been born. Is “dog” a racial slur akin to “n*gger” as I recently heard suggested from an african american? Does Jesus really change his mind in this passage? Can God change? Does God change?
The second miracle has none of the racial questions of the first. It is perhaps interesting in that it happens in a very private place. This is not a healing for everyone to see. It is also a very physical healing – the healing action of Jesus is accompanied by physical actions: placing fingers in ears, spitting on someone’s tongue (!) or spitting on your finger and touching someone’s tongue (still !). It reminds me of the sacrament in that an outward physical sign is accompanied by an inner change.
Well, as I said, just thoughts. No time to even think about working them into something useable as a sermon. I continually get the feeling that I am too busy for God at the moment. There’s an expression that is trotted out when people say “I’m too busy to pray” or “I’m too busy to go to church” which goes “You’re too busy NOT to pray/go to church”. Well, maybe, but I’m not quite sure how much grounding that has in the world that most of the populace inhabits. Yes, we are all too busy, yes we all work too hard, yes we all worry about money too much. But we also have to keep up our mortgage and council tax payments, we have to keep putting food on the table amidst rising prices – almost entirely due to shadowy market forces way beyond our control and understanding. Assertions that we’re too busy not to pray/go to church don’t commute for hours every day to boring jobs with unpleasant bosses and work-weary colleagues.
There’s an expression “the God of the gaps”. It’s normally employed in discussions involving science and religion. The God of the gaps is what is required to explain all of those things in nature that are beyond our understanding. Such a “god” has slowly been whittled away as human science has explained nature. But in my recent experience there is another “God of the gaps”. At the moment that “god” for me is the “god” for whom I don’t have enough time, the “god” who doesn’t get as much attention as my job, the “god” who is constantly being pushed into the gaps between the other things in my life. That “god” doesn’t feel much like the God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, the God revealed in Christ. What is worse is that I don’t seem to be actively doing anything about this…Kyrie eleison