Crossing Boundaries

Mattia Preti (Il Cavalier Calabrese), Christ and the Canaanite Woman, c. 1665-70
Mattia Preti (Il Cavalier Calabrese), Christ and the Canaanite Woman, c. 1665-70

Sermon: “Crossing Boundaries”

Delivered at ARK Community Church, Dalton MA
9th Sunday after Pentecost: August 17, 2014.

Scripture readings:
Isaiah 56:1-8 (NRSV)
Matthew 15:21-28 (NRSV)

Podcast:

Please join me in prayer…

Lord, let it be your voice that speaks through my mouth, and let our hearts be open and receptive to the Word you have for us here, today. Amen.

The story of the “Canaanite Woman” in this morning’s reading from Matthew 15, and also in Mark 7, is a narrative that crosses all sorts of boundaries.

To begin with, the setting isn’t located near any of our other stories about Jesus. Matthew tells us that Jesus has journeyed with his disciples to “Tyre and Sidon.” Doing so means he has left behind the familiar comforts and safety of his native land, moving across Israel’s frontier into the Gentile lands to the North. He’s in a new and strange place. But, is it strange for him, or strange for us?

Continue reading “Crossing Boundaries”

Coming Out as Inclusive.

UCC Open and AffirmingThanks to Army Chaplain Jonathan R. Fisher for making this valuable point in his blog.

Being “Open” to others (and their otherness) is simply not enough. “Open” by itself is a passive state. As Christians, whether we are in the pastorate or the laity, we are called to do more than merely be “Open.” Our faith calls us to action, meaning that we must not only be Open, but also Affirming. We cannot simply welcome those who come through our doors, but must also reach out to them beyond the doors of the sanctuaries we’ve defined for ourselves. We must affirm others for who and what they are, right where they are.

Affirmation is not about accepting someone when they come into my territory, but rather about valuing and loving others right where they are even if they never step outside the limits of the space they have set for themselves.

Affirmation is a declaration that everyone is a child of God, and therefore a valuable, wonderful person loved by God for exactly who they are right now; and that we are called to do the same.

Being “Open” AND “Affirming” is not an easy thing to do, because it calls us to accept that we don’t have all the answers, and never will; and that we therefore must be willing to accept and value the presence of God in others, no matter how it is expressed, and no matter how challenging we may find those expressions to be.

I’ll end with this quote from Fred Rogers, from his book “The World According to Mr. Rogers”…

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

 

Jonathan R. Fisher

It would seem that a post about this would be completely unnecessary in the pluralistic world of the Army Chaplain Corps. It would seem that the directive to perform one’s own faith and provide for all the others would make such a statement redundant.

Only it’s not.

Somehow, this needs be said.

So, I am going to say it: I am a chaplain for ALL my Soldiers. All of them. The gay ones. The straight ones. The fat ones. The skinny ones. The conservative ones. The liberal ones. The religious ones. The non religious ones. The connected to church and the far away. The reason driven and the faith-based. The agnostic and the Christian. The pagan, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the whatever-you-happen-to-believe right now. Everyone I can think to mention and everyone else.

All means all.

This last summer, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of…

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