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Find Your Way

Mark 7:24-37

The Rev. Jon Roberts

5 September

2021

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. 25 But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoeni′cian by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone. 31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decap′olis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Eph′phatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

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Canaanite Woman Asks for Healing, Bazzi Rahib 1684

Sometimes you have to go out of the way to find your way. [1]

There once was a man named Dallas, who went down to Houston by first going up to Tulsa. He had to go out of the way, to find his way. Dallas, or “Fr. D” was a priest in Texas who had the good fortune of receiving a three month, paid sabbatical by his church. Most priests take on continuing education, traveling to historic places such as the Holy Land or perhaps Oxford and Canterbury but not Fr. D. He decided to stay closer to home.

Years ago, Fr. D suffered from the loss of his son who died in a car accident. Not too long after that tragedy, his wife died of cancer. People in the parish were concerned not only about his well-being, but the atmosphere and caliber of worship he was expected to lead each week. They encouraged him to take the sabbatical as he was working too hard, and the time off would do him good. There was a retreat center in Houston they recommended, and he agreed to go, but first he had unfinished business in Tulsa. It was the resting place of his family. He first went north to go south. Tulsa was the city where he grew up, and now, both his wife and his son were there in the local cemetery. Dallas was well known in Tulsa, a sort of local legend. People remembered he played football there, beating the rival team years ago with a final Hale Mary pass. They remembered his parents and their contributions. They remembered sometimes the hometown boy sometimes got into trouble. Those who knew him from yesteryear knew him well. Go figure, he would become a priest one day. Everybody knew it was God’s sense of humor.

Many who graduated with him from high school remained local. One classmate in particular was named Henry. Henry was a local handyman. He fixed people’s porches. He remodeled their kitchens and bathrooms and he cut the grass at the cemetery. The same one that Fr. D. would attend each day, visiting his wife and son. He watched Fr. D. put on his headphones when he arrived. strolling with purpose, listening to heavenly tunes stored in his iPod and keeping his head down. Cathedral choirs were singing somewhere in his mind, creating a place of sacredness in his mind. He thought the music would invite God’s presence, and possibly a closeness to his family. It had been a long time since he felt good and the more time that went by, the further off they became.

It just so happened that Henry was working on the house next door and waved generously to him whenever he went by. Fr. D. simply nodded back in return, not saying a word. It was their little routine. Then, something surprising happened. Henry came over to him and said, “Dallas, do you remember me? I live on the west end. We went to school together. I played in the band.” Fr. D. pondered a moment and said, “Oh yes, the drums, right? Your mom and dad knew my mom and dad.” “That’s right”, Henry said and then came the surprise. “You know; I’ve been watching you walk around the cemetery. If you smiled at the living half as much as you sing to the dead, you might not be alone as much.” This comment completely stunned him. “The nerve of this guy,” he thought. “Doesn’t he know how much I’ve suffered? Doesn’t he know I have given blood, sweat and tears to all sorts of people in the church all my life?” Not to be disrespectful, he thanked Henry for the advice, parted company and returned to the gravesites, hoping to hear his wife and son. Staying a while, in the silence, it happened. He felt like they were speaking and this is what they said. “You know, he’s right. You need to live. You know the way.”
To return to the places we love, sometimes we have to go out of our way. Things like pain and suffering, illness and death can afflict us in a round and about way. Everything, and sometimes everyone we loved, is gone. This is what it was like in the miracle witnessed by the disciples in Mark’s gospel today. Jesus and his disciples were in Tyre (Lebanon). Over the stretch of these thirteen verses, it took months to travel north through Sidon, in order to eventually reverse course, and head back south to Galilee. They were not lost, although one may wonder. The disciples may have wondered as well. Jesus always seemed to be on course, but you never know where he is going to take you. Why did they have to go north when they needed to go south? That is where they would find their kind of people.

Did Jesus forget something? Was there unfinished business in the land of the ancient Canaanites? Those miserable, poor wretches? Jesus led them in a direction that seemed out of the way, so that he could show them how to find their way. In these thirteen verses are countless stories of God speaking through His Son, to heal people in need of health and salvation. Blind people, deaf people, broken people, dying people, possessed people. If you see enough of these cases as a priest, it takes a toll. Jesus had every reason to count his losses. He saw many, but he continued to meet all of them, seeing they just needed a reminder as to how to find the way.

What did all of these people have in common? They were dead to the world and they had lost their way. It was like that Christmas children’s scene of the “Island of Misfit Toys.” They were discarded, forgotten and useless. They were as good as in the ground with little importance, meaning or hope. Heads weighed down heavy with burden as they tried to find a familiar tune to get by. They were closed off and isolated. One became crazy. That little girl who was possessed by a demon. What was her story? Her mother heard of Jesus coming to town and she bowed at his feet asking for mercy, healing for her child who was depressed, perhaps suicidal and all alone. Mercy, by the way is far greater, more powerful than justice. Jesus knew people were not going to be healed by justice here. They just needed mercy. The mother and her daughter were members of a distant race that the Hebrews fought and drove away. Why? Because they hated each other. They would actually be spat upon. Imagine someone spitting on you and there is nothing you can do but take it. Don’t you dare look up. Don’t even think about getting angry. You don’t belong. They were bitter enemies and with the plight of the Syro-phoenecian heritage, they became a people destined for poverty. Dogs actually had more of a future than they did. That explains when she said to Jesus, “I am not worthy as to gather up the crumbs under your table.” By such faith, coming out of such depravity, God spoke. “You are healed,” and “You know the way.”

The disciples saw the exchange. They saw how he smiled at the living, showing no partiality and they were astonished beyond measure. Did Jesus convince them by seeing firsthand the healing of this woman’s daughter? Probably not for they did not follow her back home. Later, someone probably told them what had happened. By then, they could have been way to the south, in a mountainous region where great crowds of sick and disheartened people were placed at his feet. The disciples were astonished because Jesus healed one after another. He spent unlimited time, listening to their stories. He knew their upbringing, their family and their loss. There was a deaf man. Jesus spat and took the dirt between his fingers, placed them in his ears. The man could now hear. There was a person who was blind, and Jesus helped him to see. Not figurative, but literally physical. Imagine not having sight, then being able to see. Even in our current day, we have not cured blindness nor deafness, only ways to lessen their severity.

Prophecy was being revealed, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. When we go out of the way, and get a little stuck; when all we can do is revisit the dead, Jesus is there. He may send his messengers, saying the right thing at the right moment. We weep as we know what God is saying. We find it hard to go forward but we know what we have to do. We have to turn away from fear; from sin. We need to sing aloud a song of thanksgiving and tell of his wondrous deeds.

Maybe you are in need of a little sabbatical from the losses of this world forcing you into isolation, division, anger and maybe, turning a little crazy. Whatever it is that possesses you, it can’t be good if Jesus isn’t in your life. He reaches down and finds the right thing, at the right time, and touches us with it. He does this so you can not only remember your way but to be a caretaker for others in need. Do not be troubled if you feel a little lost. Whenever we lose our sight, or can no longer hear maybe it is because we have a little unfinished business. Maybe if we smiled half as much to the living, as we sing to the dead, we might not be alone as much. Maybe it is intentional and OK to every now and then lose your way. Through those moments, you are like the priest, the woman, her daughter and the countless others who truly need Jesus so that he can help you find your way.

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