Humanity Is Our Tribe. Love Is Our Principle.
#HumanityIsOurTribeLoveIsOurPrinciple is the podcast for Aug 20, 2017. The outcasts and unwanted are highlighted in our readings for this Sunday. Amazingly, in the face of White Nationalism at Charlottesville, Jesus has something to say, and it is rude. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew15 #Auschwitz #WhiteNationalism #Nazis #Canaan #Woman #Foreigner #Isaiah #Tribe
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For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/20/2017 The 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 15:21-28.
Humanity is our tribe. Love is our principle. (repeat)
There are thirteen people in the list of names of those who perished at Auschwitz named “Kurowski.” That is my name. I have told you this story before, but I remember when my oldest son was studying in Germany and went on a tour of Poland on his break. He called me to tell me he had just been in Auschwitz and that there were 13 people with our name who had been killed there.
I didn’t know them. I didn’t even know there were people with MY name who died at Auschwitz. I don’t even know if they are related to me. Yet, I remember when he told me, we both got teary eyed. It has made an impression on me ever since. In some way, I am a Jew. Even if those people with my name who died at the hands of Nazis, unnecessarily I might add, even if they were Christians, they were Jews on the day their lives were stolen from them.
The readings for this Sunday are all about the foreigner, the eunuch, the Canaanite woman, the alien, those rejected by the chosen people, who observe the laws of the Jews. Isaiah tells us that we are not to reject the foreigner who wants to worship with us and live by our ethic. We are not to reject the outcast, the eunuchs who could not produce children and others, who want to worship with us and live by our ethic. Christianity is based in the ethics, the history, and the lineage of the Jews. We believe that we are the fulfillment of Judaism.
So, if we were to read the story, we are the Canaanite woman, we are not the disciples. We, most of us, are not even of the House of Israel. Jesus did not come first for us, we are the ones who have been eating the scraps off the table for 2,000 plus years. (Lest, we Christians, get too big for our britches!)
The readings for today pop up every three years. What are the chances that these readings, about the inclusive love of God and the invitation to those outside of who we may label as worthy, would pop up this week after the events of Charlottesville, VA? In 30 years of preaching and teaching, I can tell you that this happens all the time. God has a message for us: the meal and the scraps are for us all. There is a place for everyone at the table to be included in having their lives changed.
Look at the apostles and even Jesus himself in this passage. It is painful to see. I can only hope that there is a lesson in our Lord’s rude behavior toward the “Canaanite Woman”. Her persistence, cleverness, and faith show what Our Lord is looking for in a disciple. More than the tribal nature of the apostles, who now see themselves as part of the in crowd, Jesus does something we see over and over again in the Scriptures.
Our reading from Isaiah includes the foreigners that are with the Israelites in Babylon. Yes, this part of Isaiah is written to those who are in Babylon. It is inclusive of those who worship the Lord. The Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke is included in the people of God. Jonah, a Jewish prophet, is sent to Ninevah, an Assyrian city. Now, we have a woman who is referred to by the term “Canaanite,” which is what the people who were called that occupied the Promised Land before the Hebrews overtook them. There is nothing more adversarial than that!
I cannot but think that the whole story is about people who are completely polarized who the Father in Heaven is telling should come together under in his house. Gee, polarization, let’s see, can we relate to people who are totally polarized?
We have tribes for everything: when I was a kid, we lived less than ten miles from the Michigan/Indiana line and we would say, “Ugh! Michigan drivers!” It is as if where you lived had something to do with how you drive, rather than your personality. Ridiculous. Yet, I believe that we will latch on to anything. Seriously, do we really believe that the amount of melanin in a person’s skin dictates their personality, their ethics, their behavior? Couldn’t I, as a white man in America, say that I would be concerned if I was a black man stopped by the police? Couldn’t I, as a black man, understand the fear of white men who are wondering where they fit in our society? Yes, we could, if we could see each other’s burdens as each other’s burdens instead of everything as a zero sum game with winners and losers.
There is a third option. We could begin to see each other as humans, created in the image and likeness of God. We could act from the abundance of the Lord. We could see each other as people seeking, searching, hoping to make our lives better. Seriously, I have lived in white communities and black communities, everyone wants the same things. We want our children to be loved, respected, safe, educated, hard working, and respectful. I would imagine the same is for Jewish people, Muslim people, brown people, Asian people.
Seriously, if you stopped for a second and thought about the stereotype of living in West Virginia with low unemployment and high drug use, wouldn’t you want something better? Wouldn’t you be frustrated by the economy and the distribution of goods? Wouldn’t you be frustrated that your hard work in a coal mine seemed to be sloughed off as being ignorant and not honorable? If you were a black man in Gary, IN, wouldn’t you be frustrated about the stereotype that people had of you because of where you were from and the color of your skin? Wouldn’t it be exhausting to wake up everyday to have people think that you were a thief, dishonest, lazy, and no good, even before you opened your mouth? West Virginia ignorant white trash and Gary, IN insert n-word here: Isn’t it interesting that the people in West Virginia and Gary, suffer from similar characterizations, but think they are so different from each other? Amazingly, the Father in heaven sees them the same: created in the image and likeness of God.
The mistake we make is that our tribe is not local, it is global. Our tribe is humanity. We are Jews. We are blacks. We are West Virginians. We are humans of the same tribe. If we got out of our own heads and stopped hording the goods, then there is enough to go around. If our focus was on love, which includes charity, generosity, kindness, goodness, and self control, then we would be able to get over ourselves, beyond ourselves.
As we get ready to set the table of the Great Banquet of the Eucharist, the message from the table where the scraps fell to the dogs is clear: all are welcome. That is who we are as Christians: anyone who comes in the Name of the Lord is welcome in our lives. They are welcome in our places of worship. They are welcome in our places of work. They are welcome in the world. They are welcome [here]. They are welcome because humanity is our tribe and love is our principle. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian