about adolescence and why theology matters

Many people ask me how I work with teenagers everyday, especially those in trouble. Usually when asked, it stops me down for a moment. There is something really natural for me about youth work so with that, I struggle to explain what seems like second nature to me.

Over my years of youth ministry and non-profit work, the drive to do these jobs came from a genuine love of students. However if you asked me ten years ago what it was I cared about, it would have been quite different.

As a young man starting youth work, students had a draw to me. I was young, close to their stage of life, and accessible because of those things. Back then I was single and could really live the schedule of a common teenager. They loved it and I loved being loved.

But, this was a rather immature view of teenagers. Really, it was based upon how it made me feel rather than how they were affected. A time came (around the time I turned thirty and when I got married) where I sensed things shifting. My own youth had passed and the questions started to arise (within myself) as to why I was doing this. It did’nt seem like teenagers were coming to me as much and I felt like it was more work than something I was passionate about.

During that time a couple of books and college classes came into my life helping me understand the life of a teenager and the fundamental issues of adolescence. All of the sudden I realized my work with teenagers had been based upon affinity, not caring for the stage of life they were navigating.adolesence

You see, adolescents have a developmental task. For anyone going through these years, they are charged with (developmentally) figuring out who they are. And, based upon the conditions they are figuring these things out, it could look really confusing from an outsider.

In our work with Teen Lifeline we talk to students claiming to be bi-sexual, homosexual, atheist, Buddhist, anarchist, gang affiliated, or none of the above. Yet, when we come back the next week they could be something completely different.

So what does this mean? So many adults in the life of a student get scared by the many “skins” a teenager wears. We fret over every small decision or change and write them off as lost causes when all they are doing is figuring out who they are in the context they are growing. Why would anyone want to work with such an inconsistent population?

What does this have to do with anything? Our theme on the blog has revolved around a simple question Jesus asked of his disciples:

“Who do you say I am?”

When asked, the disciples gave many standard answers, but Peter nailed it.

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus praised him for his answer, because he knew if Peter saw Jesus as the savior of mankind, not as something else, the true nature of Christ would be known to the world.

My work with teenagers has become so much more fruitful because I understand who they are and what they are up to.

My walk with Christ will be so much better if I simply knew him as the savior of the world, and not something else.

 

As my friends said so eloquently this week, the way you think about God really matters. In some ways it is the only thing that matters. Our theology (way of thinking about God) is the source of our faith and the decisions we make based upon what we believe.

theologymattersIt is not enough to try to change your behavior. Start at the source. What do you really think about God? What drives that theology? Who taught you that? Who is reinforcing that theology? What would it look like if things were different?

The way you think about God matters.

Tell us, what do you think about this? How has your theology changed or stayed the same throughout your walk with Christ? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

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Mark Driscoll and How Our Theology Affects Our Living

Mark Driscoll had a rough summer.

Believe me when I say that one of the last things I want is to add to the cacophony of evangelical vitriol that gets tossed around the internet these days. And I definitely do not want to pile on a man when he’s down. But there is something here, something that is beyond a struggling pastor, something that speaks to the way we all live.

mark-driscollIf you’re not familiar with Driscoll, he’s the lead pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In recent months, he has come under fire from charges of plagiarism and misuse of church funds to get his book on bestseller lists. Former employees of Mars Hill have also accused Driscoll (and others) of psychological abuse and intimidation.

Controversy is nothing new to Driscoll. For years his brash style has been fodder for critics. His authoritarian leadership style over his church, his teachings on gender and sexuality, his support of a machismo-colored Christianity and his disparaging language have often put him in hot water. He’s had to apologize for a quite a lot over the years.

This latest round of scandal has caused him to be excluded from an organization he started and suspended from a church he founded. So yeah, rough summer.

As much as I disagree with his methods and deplore some of (ok, A LOT of) the things he has said, I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of his apologies. I think he has realized he’s hurt people and has displayed penitence. But people question why he consistently finds himself in these situations.

The reason is pretty simple: Our theology affects our living.

You see, this is not about simple behavioral mistakes. This is more than lapses in judgement or honest missteps. Those types of things are easily corrected.

No, this is a pattern that has deeper roots.

The reason Mark Driscoll continually shows a pattern of abusive behavior, scorns women, bullies people with opposing opinions and displays misogynistic attitudes is because that’s the way he believes God treats people. He believes God rules with an iron fist and disregards those in opposition. He’s a bully because he sees God as a bully.

He’s not struggling with bad behavior; he’s struggling with bad theology.

That’s why this question that Jesus asks in Matthew 16 is so powerful. When he asks his apostles “But who do you say I am?“, he’s asking for more than an intellectual hypothesis. Because he knows that their answer to that question will affect not just their thoughts, but radiate out in their words and their actions.

Trevor mentioned a famous quote by theologian A. W. Tozer the other day: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  This may be one of the truest statements I have ever read.

If we believe that God is a misogynist, we will display misogyny. If we believe God rules with power and authority, we will pursue the same. If we think God values both women and men, then we will seek to honor both genders.

6a00d8341bffb053ef0133f4b1a99c970b-500wiAnd if we see a God who humbles himself by taking human form, who welcomes outsiders and children and Samaritan women and lepers and tax collectors, who laid down his life as a servant, who washed feet rather than demanding homage as a dictator, then we will try to show humility and grace to one another without regard for gender, race or social status.

Our theology – what we think about God – affects our attitudes, our words and our actions.

Mark Driscoll doesn’t need another opportunity to apologize. He needs a chance to reexamine his beliefs on who God is.

So today may we all take a hard look at Jesus. May we see the ways he talked and moved and treated those around him. May we see his attitude and his values.

And may our words and actions be shaped by who we believe him to be.

[Update: David Hayward wrote something very similar a few days ago. Plus he has a great cartoon to illustrate, which is awesome. Go check it out.]

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The Mighty Women of the Exodus and Our Response to God’s Character

What I have always found as one of the most stunning verses about the nature of God occurs as the Exodus narrative begins. It is the verse where God hears the cries of the people of Israel and moves into action. So when I saw the section for the week, I had years of youth ministry lessons to draw from in order to write on this verse. But for the careful reader, you will notice the absence of this verse.

In fact, other than God being good to the midwives, you might notice an absence of God’s activity all together.

When we think about Exodus we think God the Liberator showing His strength and might. This flexing of divine muscle takes place between God’s servant Moses and the unnamed faceless leader of the oppressive empire – Pharaoh. Again, a careful look might notice the masculine energy associate with this story.

Yet Exodus begins in a different place. We meet the generic Pharaoh and we see the cruelty he brings to Israel. But we haven’t gotten to the “mighty works” of God. And Moses is just “the baby” until the very last verse.

So who drives the narrative?

qnBV3690250Women.

A woman gives birth to a baby who turns out to be pretty important. A girl keeps watch over this important baby as he floats the river. Another woman draws this baby out of the water (notice the woman’s action gives Moses his name) and then the girl convinces Pharaoh’s daughter to allow her mother to nurture and care for this baby.

And if that doesn’t beat the women thing into your head enough, jump up a few verses.

Other than Moses, again in the very last verse, the only two proper names are Shiphrah and Puah – the Hebrew midwives.

These women should have been the faceless unnamed ones. They were low on the totem pole for who was important in their day. But they get mentioned by name for their heroic act.

Exodus is a story of heroic acts. But before Moses, and even before the recorded actions of God, we have Shiphrah and Puah.

God working in subversive fashion through lowly, rejected, and unrecognized people doing their ordinary every day jobs. Without the heroic, ordinary acts of these women, we don’t even get to the extraordinary stories we came to love on the flannel graph.

No Shiphrah and Puah, no courage for a mother to rescue her own son. And without a sister, mother, and surrogate mother to watch over and care for and protect him, we would have no Moses.

We want to rush to burning bushes and plagues and parting seas, but the writer here wants us to slow down and pay attention to what happens BEFORE the narrative we all know and love.

Notice how often gender is mentioned. Notice how often Israel and Egypt are mentioned.

This is a story about gender and ethnicity.

This is a story about radically crossing the boarders of gender, race, and culture.

This is a story about resisting the powerful forces of darkness when they rear their ugly heads.

This is a story about nurturing new life into being, right in the midst of that darkness.

This is a story about the liberating presence of God in the ordinary, everyday moments.

This is a story about overlooked people doing something colossal for God.

This is a story about standing up for the dignity and well-being of those others deem as second class.

This is a story about what it means to be the people of God.

So what can we learn about the nature of God here?

1. God cares about all people. God does not discriminate between male and female. Egyptian and Israelite. God cares about dehumanization in all forms. God cares about gender issues. God cares about race issues. We know this because God gets involved!

2. Sometimes God’s most important work happens behind the scenes. The story of Exodus does not happen without Shiphrah and Puah. Yet how many of us are familiar with their story?

3. God works in our response. There is no burning bush for Shiphrah and Puah. They simply knew who God was and who God cared about. Because of this, they actively resisted the dehumanizing power of Pharaoh.

So this tells us something about our response as well.

1. We should be people who constantly examine the status quo, and resist when necessary. Shiphrah and Puah could have easily just gone about their business and done what the powers that be told them to do. But they didn’t. They understand their situation, and they understood their God and this required them to resist the status quo. We need to people who are in constant and critical thought about our lives and the systems we find ourselves in.

2. We should be people who enter into issues of gender, race, or any other oppressive ways of looking at the world. There are no second class humans in the Kingdom of God. Any time we create a system or way of being which makes people second class, we have missed God. The story of salvation begins with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the forgotten, and the ignored.

3. God wants our ordinary lives. Shiphrah and Puah resisted and served God right where they were. They don’t have the extraordinary story Moses does. And if we are honest, not many of us do. We talk about this a lot on our blog, but it is because this is often where we get tripped up. People are often looking for a Moses experience and therefore miss being a Shiphrah or a Puah. The question we must ask is how does God want to work, resist, and bring new life right where we are?

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Ordinary Days: Who Do You Say I Am?

It is perhaps one of the most important questions a person can ask themselves. Tozer said that what we think about God is the most important thing about us. I couldn’t agree more.

who-do-you-say-i-am_3166_1024x768Because who we say God is determines how we live in the Ordinary places we find ourselves. The Scriptures we see this week are pointing us both toward seeing God more clearly, but also helping us see that a clear picture of God requires a response.

Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah. Now he has some gates to knock down.

Shiphrah and Puah know God is FOR both Egypt and Israel and resist the dehumanizing acts of Pharoah.

Paul takes a more theological stance. He spends 11 chapters explaining the goodness and mercy of God, and now he shifts to what our response should be by becoming living sacrifices.

It’s an Ordinary question with extraordinary results.

Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the gates of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Exodus 1:8-2:10

Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”

So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.

Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.

So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”

“The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”

So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”

About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.

Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.

Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked.

“Yes, do!” the princess replied. So the girl went and called the baby’s mother.

“Take this baby and nurse him for me,” the princess told the baby’s mother. “I will pay you for your help.” So the woman took her baby home and nursed him.

Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses, for she explained, “I lifted him out of the water.”

Psalm 124

What if the Lord had not been on our side?
Let all Israel repeat:
What if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us?
They would have swallowed us alive
in their burning anger.
The waters would have engulfed us;
a torrent would have overwhelmed us.
Yes, the raging waters of their fury
would have overwhelmed our very lives.
Praise the Lord,
who did not let their teeth tear us apart!
We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.
The trap is broken, and we are free!
Our help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Romans 12:1-8

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Prayer

God, gives us ever clearer eyes to see you.
As we approach our week and as we approach the Scriptures this week,
May we bring you more into focus and begin to be people who respond.
Give us the courage and strength to accept you love and grace
And the courage and strength to offer that love to others.
May we resist evil and dehumanization where we find it.
And may we break down the gates of the evil one.
Bless us with courage and clarity this week.
Amen.

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Binary Views and the Value of Us

A friend of mine recently interviewed for a job in Alabama. As he met with several different groups in the church, there was only one question that came up every single time: “Auburn or Alabama?”

iron_bowl

The funny thing is that they weren’t searching for a correct answer. There were plenty of fans of both teams. What they were searching for was a choice. It did not matter what side he selected; it simply mattered that he chose. One or the other. There would be no middle ground.

We live in a world that operates in binary terms: In and out. Right and wrong. Yes and no. Black and white.

It’s why we see more name-calling than issues being discussed. Why our news channels are full of pundits screaming opinions past one another. Why our power structures and politicians violently defend old systems instead of entertaining new ideas.

It’s why we label each other and dismiss those who do not agree with us.

Christians are not immune. Too often we see the world as one where there are only two options available. Either you are in or you are out. Holy or secular. We take a world that is full of gray and try to fit it into simple black and white categories.

In Matthew 5, Jesus speaks about some of these lines we like to draw. As he is speaking to the mostly religious crowd, he says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:43-48)

The message is pretty clear: God does not show favorites. His blessings fall on those who are in and those who are considered out. The clean and the dirty. Everyone is included.

It’s such an obvious message, but an oh-so-radical one in its day. And it still is.

We see Jesus living this ethic out in the flesh. He reaches over cultural lines to bless the Canaanite woman and the Samaritan woman at the well. His miracles even extend to the servants of Roman soldiers.

We draw lines; God leaps over and around them.
We exclude others; God brings them back in.

Earlier this week Trevor wrote on the power that is available when we recognize that God is for us.

Us 4Us.
Not you.
Not me.
Us.

God’s desire is for everyone to experience his love and grace. It’s a powerful message that Christians should be shouting from the mountaintops. But too many times we get caught up in an “us vs them” narrative. It affects how we interpret history. It affects how we read the Bible. And it affects how we treat one another.

But here is the simple truth we need to sink in fully: God is not on your side.

God is not for me at the exclusion or detriment of anyone else. He’s not on your side. He’s not on my side. He’s on our side.

He’s not just for me. God is for us.

As Christians, we are supposed to be the people who are for everybody. Especially those who are not Christians, those outside our lines and in the margins. We should be at the forefront ready to jump over those lines and include the outsider.

Because we all have our hangups. We’re all dirty in some way, no matter how much we’d like to hide it. We’re all addicted to something. We’re all in need of recovery and grace.

In reality, we’re all both insiders AND outsiders.

And part of what Jesus came to free us from is more than our own sins and hangups, but a binary system that seeks to separate and exclude us from each other. Jesus came to save us from our parties and lines as much as he did from our shortcomings.

So today may we all experience the power of US. May our lines be blurred so that we see each other as Jesus sees us. May we escape the binary systems of the world and all bask in the love of a God who blesses us all even when we don’t deserve it.

Because we’re all in the same boat.

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For and Against: Getting Mad at Jesus

The three of us had a conversation a couple of weeks ago about how there are times when we are sad to be a part of the Christian blog world. The last few weeks have been filled with all sorts of vitriol over Ebola, Mark Driscoll, Robin Williams, modesty and sexuality, Israel, ISIS, beliefs about the Bible, and Ferguson, MO.

It is exhausting and hard to watch.

I feel like much of this comes from several people who devote themselves to policing blogs and social media to make sure other people are Christian enough for the internet. These people devote their time to finding the people they need to be against – the people they need speak out against and call to task and exclude from who they consider to be orthodox.

Sadly, Christians are often most known for who they are against. Mainly because we are good at it. We are good at railing against the ones who do not meet the criteria for good, holy, Christian, orthodox people. Watching people battle for who Christians should be against is sickening. Because it misses the message of Jesus.

fororagainst-a6a66f7d-5596-4738-92de-f7ab49ea5f17The message of Jesus is that God is FOR human beings. Jesus comes not to tell us who God is against, but who God is for. And we find out that we human beings have often excluded and set ourselves against the very people God includes and loves and welcomes.

All of the readings this week focus on this inclusive “for-ness” of God and what it means to be God’s people. But none stick out to me more than the story of the Caananite woman. I love this story. I actually used it for my interview lesson with my church in Kansas seven years ago. It is an amazing story.

But I get mad at Jesus almost every time I read it.

Jesus comes across as a real jerk. He basically tells the woman – your daughter’s suffering is not my problem because your race makes you a lesser human. It’s hard scene to watch.

But I went back and read the chapter from a John Ortberg book that first turned me on to this story, and noticed something new.

I think we are supposed to get mad at Jesus.

What Jesus does here is contrary to the entire message of what Jesus is preaching in Matthew. It goes against the embracing, inclusive view of God Jesus promotes, and shows us what exclusionary practices really look like.

Jesus is trying to show his disciples the ugliness of their exclusion.

He is showing them what exclusion looks like when it happens to real people. Each time he pushes back against the woman’s request, we need to groan a little. Someone stand up and say something!! We want to be for this woman and the slow process of Jesus’ arguments is excruciating because we see her pain and her agony and suffering and just want someone to step in and help.

I think that is what Jesus is waiting on as well.

In essence he is telling the disciples: You think this woman is not worthy of my love and care and grace. But hear her story. Look into her eyes. See her as a person. See her as a mother in agony for her daughter. Then tell me she doesn’t deserve my love.

Several months back, during a significant lectureship for the Churches of Christ, a friend of Allen’s gave a talk about women in ministry. He got ripped a lot because he did not spend all of his time working through theological issues, but rather told stories of women and girls who had been hurt by not being allowed to take part in church services because of their gender.

While theology has its place, I would argue there are times we need less theology and more stories like these. Before we sit behind our computer screen and rail at the heretics, we need to hear the stories of the people who have been affected. We need to know what the pain of exclusion looks like. We need those stories, and often we need them much more than we need another blog/social media/theological/doctrinal debate. We need to look into the eyes of another person and decide who is really deserving of grace.

Christianity looks a lot different when we start with who God is FOR, rather than who God is AGAINST.

Even when God in the OT or Jesus comes “against” people (usually the exclusionary religious elites by the way), they do so because of who they are for. Because God is FOR people, certain practices and attitudes and systems need to be done away with. But it always starts with who God is FOR.

I hope as Christians we can start spending a lot more time and effort communicating who we are for rather than who we are against. I actually think this is the essence of what it means to be a Christian.

I hope we can avoid the silence of the disciples in this story. God is patiently waiting for someone to step in and show compassion and love and grace to those who need it more. And the longer we sit in silence, the longer the suffering continues.

But we are assured of this. God will step in. It is what God does. God rights wrongs and is close to the brokenhearted. The pause is for us. God is making room for us to step in. The question is: are we willing to drop all this nonsense about who we are against and who should be excluded, and take on the task of embracing those desperate for the grace and love of God?

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Ordinary Days: In and Out

Who’s in? Who’s out?

GatekeeperThese are questions that Christians really seem to like to answer. When we know who is in and who is out, we feel safe and the world makes sense. We can see clear lines and understand which side we stand on.

We like clear definitions and boundaries. We like clean categories that people can fit in.

And yet we know life is infinitely more messy than that. We love clear boundaries only when we are on the correct side. Then we cry out for mercy and grace.

Our scriptures this week deal with some of these cravings we have and the sometimes surprising ways that God can blur our neat lines and categories. May God bless us all in our reading and prayer this week.

Matthew 15:10-28

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

This is what the Lord says:

“Maintain justice
    and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
    and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
    to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
    and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
    a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
    he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
    besides those already gathered.”

Psalm 67:1-7

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.

…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Prayer

Holy God,
You are a God of order and not chaos.
I thank you today for making sense of this chaotic world.
But thank you also for your grace and mercy
that reaches beyond simple rules and categories
and lets me be included in your kingdom even when I am not deserving.
Amen.

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