Wednesday, September 9, 2015

God Is Our Champion!

It is back to school time.
I often think that a kid going back to school is often harder on parents than the kids.
Having your kids go up a grade is bitter sweet because it means that they are growing up.
They are going out on their own.
And it means that they are one more year closer to adult hood.
They are closer to being out in the world that we all know is hard and sometimes cruel.
One mother put it really well when she wrote this about her son going off to Junior High, We need a word for the feeling that overtakes a mother after saying goodbye to her infant who is somehow masquerading as a young MAN and who is walking away from her into his adolescent life.
A word to describe the phenomena that is a mother sitting helplessly in her empty van while her heart silent screams her daily PLEASEPLEASEPLEASES!!! PLEASE be good to him.
 Please see his strengths and overlook his weaknesses.
Please sit by him at lunch.
 Please smile back when he smiles.
Please want to be his partner.
Please be gentle.
Pleasepleaseplease. PLEASE.
We want our kids to do well.
We want them to make it in the world, but most of all we want them to be understood.
We want others to see their uniqueness, their gifts.
Rita Pierson who is a teacher that gave a TED talk on education said, “Every Child needs a champion”
In fact, I believe that every person needs a champion.
We need someone who believes in us, who cheers us on, who knows our faults and failures, but cheers us on through them.
Today I want all of us to know that God is our champion.
God is the one in our lives who knows us enough to know all of our deficiencies and imperfections.
But God cheers us on; God wants what is best for us.
God wants us to know that God is on our side.
God is a like a parent on the first day of school, putting us on a school bus, and waving goodbye, secretly dying inside as we venture out into the world.
God is hoping along the way that we meet people who will sit next to us, will care for us, will show us what God already knows that we are loved and cared for in a special way.

This morning our Gospel story is about a woman who knows that God is her champion.
She knows that God roots for her and her daughter.
And that struck me this time as I read the story.
It struck me that what we have is a mother who is championing her daughter.
This mother is relentless, daring, and full of faith.
This mother will not let Jesus dismiss her so easily.
This mother changes Jesus mind with her faith and tenacity.
But what also impresses me is Jesus, because Jesus allows this uppity woman to change his mind.
Jesus allows her faith to turn him around.
She says to Jesus that yes God even cares about me.
God cares about a single woman from a foreign land.
God is my champion; God is my daughter’s champion.
Jesus has enough humility to listen to her, and in compassion reach out.

This story is one of the reasons I love the Bible so much, because this story escapes easy lessons, and easy explanations.
This story challenges what we think about other people different from us.
This story challenges the ways we think about Jesus.
It is complex, and every time I read it I am confronted with something new and different.
Today it is of a mother fighting for her child.
Today it is about faith in a God who champions the lost and forgotten.
Tomorrow who knows what nugget of wonderful grace it will reveal to me.

I mention this because it is political season and we all know that this means it is time for politicians to pander to us.
It is time for politicians to tell us what they think we want to here.
It is especially time for politicians to pander to us who are religious by telling us that their favorite book is the Bible.
I wonder have they read the story of the Syrophoenician woman?
Have they struggled with its meaning, with what it says about us, about God?
I don’t think that one needs to love the Bible to be president.
But if you are going to tell us that the Bible is your favorite book I hope that you have read it, studied it, and heard it preached.
Because I would like to challenge any politician to tell me where in the Bible Jesus talks bad about the poor?
Where does Jesus say that we should shun the foreigner?
Where does Jesus say that we are perfect enough to never have done anything wrong, and therefore we never have to apologies for anything we have done?
In fact, even Jesus in this morning’s Gospel is humble enough to know when he has made a mistake.
What the politicians don’t say is that Jesus is the champion of the people they have to talk bad about to get elected.
I can say that to you this morning because I am not trying to win your vote, I am trying to get you to see that God is your champion.

And I know that is hard to believe sometimes.
It is hard that God even loves you.
That God loves not because you are good.
Not because you are successful.
Not because you have done something awesome.
God loves all of you.
God even loves the failures.
God even loves the stuff that we don’t want to talk about.
And God even uses that stuff to make a difference to make us humble, and give us perspective.
God is the one who came here and walked with us.
God is the one who even listened to a desperate mother.
God is the one who walks with us every day.
God is the healer of our every spiritual ill.
It is hard to believe that God is our champion because we live under the idea that if we are ruled by shame and intimidation that it will make us better.
If we tell people enough all the things they do wrong then their behavior will change.
I don’t really believe that, because shame simply leads us to fear not to higher purpose.
Shame does not lift us up it drags us down.
Perhaps this fall as we all go back to our routines of school and work, as we leave behind vacations, we can champion each other.
We can champion our kids.
We can champion the people around us at work.
We can champion our neighbors and friends.
We can champion our spouses.
We can find ways to speak of what they do well.
We can find ways to rejoice in their particular gifts.
We can see each others strengths and overlook our weaknesses.
We can be gentle with each other.
We can want to be each others partners on this ride of life.

Most of all we should remember what the Syrophoenician woman knew so well, that God is our champion.
God is the one who is our healer, friend, confidant, and cheerleader.
God is the one who wants us to use both our strengths and weaknesses for each other.
God is the one whose love and grace give us strength.
God is our champion!