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Taken Away

Mark 7:24-37

The Rev. Jon Roberts

9 September

2018

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.[a] 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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Jesus and the Woman of Canaan, Michael Angelo Immenraet,
1673-1678

Let not the hope of the poor be taken away.[1]

An elderly man feared his wife was getting hard of hearing. So he called her doctor to make an appointment to have her hearing checked. The doctor said he could see her in two weeks, but meanwhile, suggested a simple, informal test the husband could do to give the doctor some idea of the dimensions of the problem. "Here's what you do. Start about 40 feet away from her, and speak in a normal conversational tone and see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response." So that evening she's in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he's in the living room, and he says to himself, "I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens when I talk to her."
"Honey, what's for dinner?" He calls.
No response.
So he moves to the other end of the room, about 30 feet away.
"Honey, what's for dinner?"
No response.
So he moves into the dining room, about 20 feet away. He starts shouting.
"HONEY, what's for dinner?"
No response.
On to the kitchen door, only 10 feet away.
"HONEY, what's for DINNER??".
No response.

So he walks right up behind her and screams:
"HONEY, WHAT'S FOR DINNER??!?!" His wife turns to him a rage and screams.
"CHICKEN, CHICKEN! For the FIFTH TIME, WE'RE HAVINGCHICKEN!!!"

That poor man.
Let not the hope of the poor be taken away.

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), nearly 4 million hearing aids will be dispensed by the end of this year and approximately 30 million adults in the US could benefit from wearing them. The average age of first time hearing aid wearers is 70 years old and a large number of people wait 15 years from the time they know they have hearing loss until they buy them. Prices range from $1500-5,000, depending on the level of technology. Related health conditions include ear infections, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, hypertension and diabetes. The impact of hearing loss is estimated to be about $12,000 per year per household and $100 billion annually for the US.
There is nothing worse than the feeling of something that has been taken from you; something that is so hard, if not impossible to get back. Let not the hope of the poor be taken away. This saying may be familiar to you. It comes from the Daily Office in our Morning and Evening Prayer cycle from the Book of Common Prayer. It is part of that litany of intercessory prayer known as Suffrages. I merged the versicle and response to emphasize those who are needy, often are not only forgotten but they have lost something of great value. They have lost hope.

We take for granted our blessings in which God has given us. We take for granted so many things, do we not? Our family, our church, our health, our income, our status as free people; more generally the color of our skin and how that is valued in our culture; our gender as it relates to career; what about our degrees as they relate to advancement; our cars as they relate to our ability to travel; our homes as they relate to independence? The list goes on. Take away any of these, and there is a sense of losing hope.
In the Gospel today, Jesus meets this loss. He sees it in the Syro-Phoenecian woman and in the man who was deaf. He healed the woman’s daughter first. She begged him to heal her daughter and he uses what could appear as an insult with his response. He says, “Why should the bread of heaven be given to the dogs.?” In other words, why should a man belonging to the Hebrew class, those who proclaim to belong to the righteous lineage of David, who received such bread from heaven, cast it to the lower class of a syriac blood? You belong to the people who we have warred and prevented access and privilege and are lesser than the dogs. Yet, she responds, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” We need not continue to ask Jesus how we can help those who feel detached from the love of God, from the love of community and the love of self. How can you help? Invite them to church. Give them a good place to sit. Spend time with them and listen to their stories. Be their friend, and… for the fifth time, let not the hope of the poor be taken away.

[1] Proverbs 22:22
[2] 1979 BCP Evening Prayer, p.68.
[3] Mark 7:24-37
[4] James 2:1-17

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