Sunday 5th September - No borders
Opening words: Isaiah 29:18
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.
Hymn 94 Come let us sing of a wonderful love
Welcoming God, you invite us to worship you and to be together. Sustain us with your presence, nourish us with your word, strengthen us in your service and send us out to live every day of our lives, in your name. Amen.
Lord God, we come to you in so many different ways. We may jump for joy at being in your presence; or we may shamble in, weighed down by the cares of our world. The Gentile woman, overcome with worry about her daughter, fell at your feet and pleaded with you. The deaf man had the people of Decapolis to plead for his healing. God of miracles, however we are feeling, we come to meet you, expectant and hopeful. Whether we are one or many, and whatever our station in life, you welcome us, arms wide open – and we worship you, Lord God of all. Amen.
We pray for this service, that you might open our eyes to see you and ears to hear you and hearts to welcome you in. May this hour be to your honour and glory. Amen
Hymn 502 Oh let the Son of God enfold you
Isaiah 35.4-7a Psalm 146 James 2.1-10 (11-13) 14-17 Mark 7.24-37
Hymn 151 Building a people of power x 2
Last week and this week the images on the news of people coming from Afghanistan have been shocking, many people were fortunate enough to have left but we have seen from the scrabbling and the crowds at the entrance to the airport how desperate those people must be to actually leave and yet have been left behind. Across the other side of the world on Haiti there has been an earthquake followed by a tropical storm, around 2000 people have died with 15,000 people injured and many on the island having lost their homes, yet you have to search the news to find this information. Tragedy that we cause is uppermost, tragedy caused by natural disasters is left forgotten, or maybe Haiti is not as important as Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Our government is taking refugees from Afghanistan, and Leicester City has pledged to take a certain number of those, but what help have we sent to the people of Haiti? How will we view the refugees and how will they integrate into our culture and our society?
During this week I spoke with a church member who said that they felt disconnected from the church. I found this very sad, because we all want to make people feel welcome and feel part of this community and we have worked really hard in lockdown to try an include everyone, to communicate with everyone, to speak with everyone, but despite all of our efforts we perhaps haven’t succeeded. It made me wonder how many more people felt that way about our church and haven't voiced it?
Have you ever been in a situation where you don't feel you belong? A situation where you perhaps feel out of your depth? Well, that is the situation for the two people in the Bible passage that we have read today. They don't feel part of the Jesus community, there is some barrier stopping them from taking a full part. But let's look at Jesus’s response to these two people.
These two people weren't welcome in Israel because they weren't Jewish - and yet Jesus welcomed them. For a moment put yourself in their place. The quick-witted woman able to finish Jesus’s parable, the deaf man excluded because he couldn't hear properly. What would it have meant to them to be welcomed by Jesus?
The woman of Phoenicia
Jesus is in Gentile country. He wants some space to spend time with the twelve (something he’s wanted since 6.30). But when he enters the house, He is visited by a Greek woman from further north. She has obviously heard of Jesus and knows where to find him, and she comes begging for her demonised daughter’s healing. Jesus tells a brief parable about boundaries – the mealtime boundary between the family and their animals (v.27). She completes the parable: the animals get the leftovers (much like the disciples did in 6.43!) and Jesus is stunned. Even the disciples did not always understand His parables, but this woman did!
It’s not her faith that Jesus commends but her word. She’s got what the disciples don’t seem to have grasped: that the boundary between God’s reign and everywhere else is porous and all sorts of people can come in and out, including this Greek woman. She did, of course, have faith. It was faith that sent her on the journey to seek Jesus out, and faith that kept her going on the journey back to see whether Jesus’ word was true and her daughter had been healed – that faith was not disappointed (v.30).
The deaf and dumb man
The next story is also set just beyond the boundaries of Israel. Jesus was mindful that Herod was wanting to kill him and so mindful of that he skirted Galilee so that he wasn't captured but that meant that he was in territory outside of Israel. It is also a remarkable story of practical compassion. Jesus takes the man away from the prying gaze of others for dialogue and for healing. He asks them to tell no one, but the good news is so amazing that it cannot be contained.
It is again a remarkable miracle — and one that is regarded as a fulfilment of Scripture (7.37 and Isaiah 35.5-6). For in our reading in Isaiah it clearly states that the Messiah will open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the dumb and loosen the tongue of those who cannot speak, so it is a direct reference to Jesus being the Chosen One the Messiah. Although not in Israel it is thought that those people who lived on the periphery just over the boundary would also have been aware of Jewish law. What is clear from this is that there are no boundaries in the Kingdom of God, to God and Jesus we are one nation, one world and within that world all are invited into his Kingdom.
I have been watching snippets of the Paralympics this week and I am amazed at what someone without limbs can actually do, and in this 100-metre race that I watched they were only one second off people who have complete limbs - whoa amazing. But then I listened to an interview with a swimmer who came fifth, and although she didn't win her story of just getting into the pool in the Olympics, to her was like winning a medal, she had literally gone through so many pain barriers to be there, 5th in the world was an amazing place to be, more importantly for her she was doing it on her own terms. There are so many forms of disability in our world, some we can see and some we can't see. But God welcomes all of us despite our inadequacies to take a full part in His kingdom and if God calls who are we to turn away. We are called to remove all barriers and to welcome ALL into His presence.
How would you feel to be in a world with no borders?
Where do you draw borders in your own lives?
What could our church do to foster inclusion?
Hymn: In Him there is no East and West.
God whose peace knows no borders, as we watch the aftermath of the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan and see the chaos at Kabul airport and bewilderment on the faces of people left behind, we pray urgently for your peace to descend. We pray for those who are fearful, for people whose circumstances have suddenly and radically changed. Help them work out what to do and find the ways and means to do what is necessary to stay safe. We pray for those now in charge of the country. May our anxieties about the way they will rule move us to pray with passion for Afghanistan.
Lord bring peace, and may your love be known by all.
God whose comfort knows no borders, hurricane Ida has left a trail of destruction in Mississippi and with a rising death toll we pray for the communities that have been deeply affected by the storm. Give the emergency services resilience and patience as they work to rescue people and restore their vital services. For those families who have suffered loss, please bring them support and kindness as they come to terms with what has happened. As communities rebuild we pray they would have the resources to regroup, restore and recover from this natural disaster and be able to move forwards.
Lord bring comfort, and may your love be known by all.
God whose compassion knows no borders,
with the new school term just getting going for some and looming for others we pray for everyone moving on this September. Whether changing year groups, schools or heading off to university for the first time help our young people as things change this autumn. We are particularly mindful of those for whom last year was very difficult – with covid, disruption to routines, difficult times with home learning and personal loss. May all of the children who have had a hard time know compassion and care and may this year be calm and ordered, filled with fun and purpose.
Lord bring compassion, and may your love be known by all.
God whose care and concern knows no borders, Covid still dominates all of our news cycles. It feels like there are very big differences across our world with some places heading out of restrictions and people feeling life is getting back to normal, and others still struggling with the disease and a lack of vaccinations. Please give world leaders the motivation and determination to help everyone manage covid. Help those who make complex decisions about vaccinations work out how to provide jabs for the poor as well as the rich. We pray for wisdom and calm as we approach the winter, for timely and sensible decisions and for the health and safety of our friends, family and neighbours.
Lord bring care and concern, and may your love be known by all.
God of joy, we thank you for the joy the Paralympics has brought to us in the last couple of weeks. W