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Evening sermon
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2012
 
Talk of government — and the extent of its foundation in our lives and in our communities — is inescapable these months, weeks and days of the presidential election cycle. Tonight Jesus proclaims that the kingdom of God is built on the foundation of unity. People drawing together; not tearing apart. Embracing difference; not fearing it. Healing old wounds; not making new ones. Jesus proclaims the foundation of the kingdom of God to be unity. And he establishes it, too. Marches straight into opposition territory — the region of Tyre — and brings healing to a little girl he hasn’t even met; a little girl too overcome by a demon to get out of bed; a little girl whose trajectory is death, the end for which so many hope with those they brand enemies.

We don’t have to imagine the reservations of Jesus’ onlookers. Their reservations are writ large in the text. We don’t have to imagine the reservations of our onlookers either. Their reservations are writ large in our own lives, too. Having a reasonable conversation with someone from the other side is risky business. You could be shunned by your own people. Or shamed into denying your own non-partisan convictions.
Saint Mark tells us Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was in opposition territory, talking with the other side, let alone doing anything good with or for a Gentile. Because as far as society is concerned, these people are the wrong religion. The wrong ethnicity. The wrong social class. The wrong nationality. The wrong government. The wrong everything. Less than dogs sitting under a table, willing to eat crumbs. Even the tiniest of crumbs that fall from a bountiful table at which an enemy is no welcomed guests.

I’ve come to believe Jesus has this argument, and that Saint Mark preserves it, because it is exactly the sort of argument we so often have with people different from us. Filled with fear and insults, mischaracterizations and exaggerations. Arguments that lead to division, entrenchment.

Our troubles are many. And many want to intensify those troubles with still deeper gashes into an already badly wounded society. Even making those wounds religious.
Not so with Jesus. He goes straight to the edge and turns another way. “Go,” he tells this mother. “The demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

With that bold choice — a choice that runs against every societal grain; a choice that will push others to crucify him as an enemy. With that bold choice, Jesus establishes the kingdom of God. Lays the foundation of unity. Heals old wounds. Embraces the once non-embraceable. Draws all people together.

Let’s be honest. One of the greatest fears we all have when we think of unity, is that we who have strong voice among the few who are like us, might have a weaker voice among the diversity of many. Less buying power. Fewer opportunities. Reduced influence.

Jesus addresses that fear, too. In the kingdom of God there is plenty for all. Jesus heals this little, demon-possessed girl. Promptly returns to Galilee, returns to his own and heals them, heals this deaf man with an impediment in his speech, too.
Saint Mark tells us that these healings are only the beginning. The beginning of the good news, he says. For the abundance of the kingdom of God continues right down to our own time, and into the future. The future is, after all, one of the many things this little girl represents. This little girl others might have left benignly or maliciously to suffer and die. Unity in the kingdom lives on in her and her Galilean counterpart. Which means unity in the kingdom lives on in us. We who are many, yet in the kingdom of God, are one.

Dear friends, we don’t have to create the ways of the kingdom of God. They are already here among us. Ready for us to practice. Ready for us to live. Even as we pray, Your kingdom come. On earth as it is in heaven. Begun in Jesus. Continued in us. By us. And for us. For all people.

In this religifying of our nation’s wounds we’ve seen lately, much has been made of God and Country, some pointing to the motto of the United States of America, “In God we Trust” — as though no other nation does.
As a nation, we do well to remember the founding motto, a phrase which captures why we trust in God in the first place, a phrase that defines the one truly exceptional thing countless diverse people have set out to do on these shores. It’s a Latin phrase — and therefore not so easily turned into the all-important, political sound bite — E pluribus unum. You might call it a lofty, if not sacred, hope. A hope. A promise. A conviction. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

The conventions are behind us. The election cycle around us. The kingdom of God — well, the kingdom of God is in front of us. Leading the way. Establishing the way of unity. In and by the humble words of prayer. Lived, now. Ours, now. And, in the words of the prayer, now, “and forever.”

And let the church say: Amen