“Room at the Table”

Sermon September 6, 2015

Mark 7:24-37

“Room at the Table”

 

My friend Mary has a cat named Leftovers. I’ve always wondered about his name, but never asked. I just assumed it had something to do with food. This week I asked and she told me that he was the last kitten chosen from a big litter. She described him saying, “he looks like he was put together from the spare parts kitty store. His tail is too long and his head is too small for his body.” Our first story in the gospel lesson today is a story about leftovers. When this woman who is an outsider shows up begging Jesus to help her daughter, he replies in a way that really takes us off guard. This isn’t the Jesus we hear about all the time…the one who ALWAYS stops to take care of people and who is the perfect model of caring and compassion. This Jesus is just downright rude. This Jesus is clearly showing some prejudice. This Jesus is NOT showing us how to be loving to every person we meet. Fortunately, the desperate mother will not be deterred by Jesus’ rudeness. The stakes are too high to walk away hurt or in a huff. Jesus tried to put her in her place, but she will not stay there. She is focused on one task alone…saving her daughter. She knows Jesus can do it and she is determined to stick this one out until he does. It’s rather unique that the model of faith in this story isn’t Jesus, but the woman who is considered a castoff by society.

 

When she approaches Jesus, he calls her a dog saying in essence that she doesn’t deserve the food that is intended for the people who matter. The woman points out that even dogs get leftovers. Something is triggered in Jesus and he realizes that this woman with no status in society is God’s beautiful beloved child as well. He sees her faith and he realizes that he needs to add another leaf to the table to make room for her. He heals her daughter on the spot. We will never know what was really going on with Jesus and why he responded in a way that was so rude. I, for one, take heart that he was changed by his encounter with this woman. Sometimes the people we least want to face are the ones who have the most to teach us.

 

Mary posts pictures of her cat Leftovers and he is always basking in some goodness – usually laying on his back with his feet in the air napping away or savoring some flowers. I love that cat and I love that his name isn’t “First Choice” or “#1”. His name is Leftovers and he has a sweet life. This cat knows he is loved and he is full of contentment. Perhaps we can treat the people who are leftover with the same kind of love. Perhaps we can create a world where those who are leftover can bask in the goodness of being alive.

 

A few years ago the Christian Century asked people to describe the gospel in seven words. I’m guessing my description might change depending on the situation, but today I’m thinking we could describe the gospel as “this table is big enough for all”.

 

Anne Marie sings: There is room at the table for everyone

 

 

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has asked all churches to call for confession, repentance, and commitment to end racism today in worship. It is well past time for that. We cannot pretend that racism doesn’t exist. We cannot wait for someone else or some other church to step up. The task is ours. As we learned reading the book Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving, the key to overcoming racism is confronting it in ourselves. I learned a new word this week – microinvalidations – comments that intend to exclude or nullify the feelings or experiences of persons of color. I read an article about the ways we perpetuate racism and it suggested we learn to take an inventory of the ways we unintentionally invalidate others and consider the impact of our words and actions. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-sachs-psyd/10-ways-white-liberals-pe_b_8068136.html)

 

John Dorhauer, former SW Conference Minister just became the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. John’s doctoral work is on white privilege and he has committed to making this subject the priority for the denomination. John calls our churches to take a “white audit”:

  •                 How many pictures of God and Jesus portray them as white?

  •                 Of the books in your pastor’s office, how many of the authors are other than white?

  •                 How many vendors that the church uses are companies owned and operated by whites?

  •                 How many sermons were preached in the last year confronting white privilege and/or racial injustice?

  • (http://religiondispatches.org/racial-justice-will-be-top-priority-for-new-prez-of-the-united-church-of-christ/)

     

    If we are serious about making room at the table for all, we are going to have to pay attention to the ways we really make room. It’s a bit more complicated than just adding another chair. It begins with us noticing who is not at the table and asking how we can create a table that truly welcomes those who are missing. In text study this week, we talked about the miracle of making someone feel worthy. Too often, we find ways to communicate that people don’t matter, but our task is to really see people and say, “you are a beautiful beloved child of God. We need you at this table. We are incomplete without you.”

     

    Anne Marie sings: There is room at the table for everyone

     

    These texts come in the midst of the staggering statistics from the Syrian refugee crisis. There are more than 11 million innocent displaced people and half of those are under the age of 18. Today before we eat, let us stop and remember those who are fleeing. We may be a church in Albuquerque, New Mexico – far from this story, but these are human beings who deserve our love and care. I read an article this week called ‘5 Ways to Stand Up and Be the Church in the World’s Worst Refugee Crisis Since WWII’.  The author suggests that we be moved by this crisis, each one do just one thing, support grassroots efforts, purchase specific needed items, sign a petition calling for action, and sponsor a refugee. There are concrete ways we make room at the table for these refugees. (http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/09/5-ways-to-stand-up-be-the-church-in-the-worlds-worst-refugee-crisis-since-world-war-ii/)

     

    Anne Marie sings: There is room at the table for everyone

     

    This morning, we are invited to feast at the communion table. Then we leave the Sanctuary to feast at the potluck table in the fellowship hall. It is my prayer that we will live the gospel that “this table is big enough for all.”

     

    Anne Marie sings: There is room at the table for everyone

     

    One of my favorite singers is Carrie Newcomer. Carrie writes about soulful issues and speaks the truth to the human condition. One of her songs keeps running through my mind today. It is called “Room at the Table” and the response is “there is room at the table for everyone”.

     

     

    Let our hearts not be hardened to those living on the margin

    There is room at the table for everyone

    This is where it all begins, this is how we gather in

    There is room at the table for everyone

     

    Too long we have wandered, burdened and undone

    But there is room at the table for everyone

    Let us sing the new world in, this is how is all begins

    There is room at the table for everyone

     

    There is room for us all

    And no gift is too small

    There is room at the table for everyone

    There's enough if we share

    Come on pull up a chair

    There room at the table for everyone

     

    No matter who you are, no matter where you're from

    There is room at the table for everyone

    Here and now we can be, the beloved community,

    There is room at the table for everyone

     

    There is room for us all

    And no gift is too small

    There is room at the table for everyone

    There's enough if we share

    Come on pull up a chair

    There room at the table for everyone

     

    There is room for us all

    And no gift is too small

    There is room at the table for everyone

    There's enough if we share

    Come on pull up a chair

    There room at the table for everyone

    (http://www.songlyrics.com/carrie-newcomer/room-at-the-table lyrics/#D7AqsFgGd7WOuVMl.99)

     

    May it be so.