This coming Sunday’s readings speak to God’s absolute impartiality along those lines that we might use to separate ourselves one from another, as well as highlighting the difficulty of practicing what you preach.
“Listen and understand,” Jesus says. “It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth – because that which comes out of the mouth comes from the heart.” A few verses later he meets a foreigner who asks for his healing on behalf of her daughter, and these are the words that come out of his mouth, “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” – implying that his healing, his promises, were good news only for those who considered themselves God’s chosen people.
Preaching impartial love, justice for the oppressed, and a full welcome to people of every stripe isn’t easy – but it’s easier than living those words. When we conclude our worship each week and the assisting minister charges us to “go in peace – live the gospel!” it is a challenge for us to live up to the best of what we say we believe. That’s why we keep coming back week after week – not because we have figured out how to live with this kind of integrity any better than the rest of the world, but because we know we need the strength to keep trying.