Track 1: Favoritism
Today we are blessed with wisdom writings from both the Old and New Testaments. We will start with the New Testament. Reading from the Book of James:
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? (James 2:1-7)
How does what James writes apply to the way we greet new people in church?
Let us look at an apparent act of favoritism on the part of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:24-30)
Was Jesus saying to the Syrophoenician woman that he only came to save the Israelites? Not when we read other texts in the New Testament. From the First Epistle of John:
And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14)
Notice that the Syrophoenician woman was not discouraged by what Jesus said to her. She had faith in him or she would not have pursued him. She must have have understood his mission because, by her remarks, she humbly included herself as one to whom he would minister.
Jesus tested he faith and she passed. The Apostle Peter wrote:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
This much we knew. God shows no favoritism. Reading from Matthews Gospel:
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. (Matthew 18:12-14)
God desire is to save the whole world. Is it our desire that he do so? If so, then all favoritism on our part is ruled out. Let us celebrate with God the saving of each soul.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah:
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water; (Isaiah 35:4-7)
In the NewTestament reading Jesus heals the deaf man with the speech impediment Those who witnessed this miracle said:
“He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 7:37)