Reversals and Blessings

Monday, February 4, 2013 — Week of 4 Epiphany (Year One)

Anskar, Archbishop of Hamburg, Missionary to Denmark and Sweden, 865

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 946)

Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning) // 64, 65 (evening)

Isaiah 51:17-23

Galatians 4:1-11

Mark 7:24-37

Today’s readings are full of reversals and blessing. What a great way to start a Monday!

Isaiah speaks to Jerusalem; its people have been drinking the cup of devastation. “Thus says your Sovereign, the Lord… See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; you shall drink no more from the bowl of my wrath.”

Paul tells his readers in Galatia that they have been adopted as God’s children and heirs. Once they were powerless, like slaves. Now they can speak to God as Jesus did, saying “Abba! Father!” because “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.”

And Mark tells one of my favorite stories. Hoping to escape notice, Jesus retreats to a house outside Israel in the region of Tyre. A Gentile woman discovers him and begs him to heal her child. He refuses; he understands his calling to be for the renewal of the children of Israel. “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (It was common for Hebrews to refer to Gentiles as dogs — that was Biblical language as well as street talk.) The Gentile woman’s answer is wonderful. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Immediately Jesus recognizes her status as a child of God and heals her daughter. The companion story shows Jesus expanding his ministry actively in a new way — into Gentile territory, into the Decapolis, healing a man who is deaf and mute. Beginning with his encounter with the woman in Tyre, Jesus gives to the Gentiles the same access to grace and compassion that he has given to Israel. The dogs have become children of God.

God delivers us from staggering, sin and division. People who used to be like “slaves” and “dogs” now recognize themselves as God’s beloved children. Good news for us all.

As we read the news and engage life today, we can feel free from the staggering weight of dread and division. We can look around and regard all people as our siblings, especially those we’ve thought of as slaves or dogs. And the slavish, doggy parts of our own being can also know the healing of acceptance. We too can cry out, “Abba!” with the confidence of a beloved child.

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