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“On Not Being Mad About What God Is Glad About”
The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
As you may have noticed, in this morning’s gospel lesson the people of God were mad about what God was glad about. God was glad to reach beyond the boundaries of Israel’s insiders to embrace in grace those outsiders from Sidon and Syria. But, when Jesus reminded the people of God that the reach of God is that wide and welcoming, they became so angry that they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff.
And, what once made them angry, then, can still make us angry, now. Which I, of all people, can understand. For much of my life I suffered from that same kind of onlyism which made the people in the synagogue that Sabbath so angry at Jesus.
“Onlyism” is my name for our need for God’s grace to operate only within the boundaries which our religion has established for God. For much of my life, that way of thinking formed the foundation of my faith. So, I understand how unsettling it can be to hear what the people of God heard that Sabbath in the synagogue; the truth that our boundaries are not God’s boundaries.
But, if we walk in the Spirit prayerfully enough, and stay on the path to depth carefully enough, for long enough, we can, eventually, move beyond onlyism, and come, not only to tolerate, but, actually, to celebrate, the boundless reach of the grace of God; at which time we will come out into that wide and wonderful place in life where we are no longer mad about the boundless grace God is glad about; redrawing the map of our welcome, to more nearly match the wide embrace of the expansive grace of God.