Tolerance 1

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds
from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil
intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”
Reading or watching the news makes me feel like I live in an age of
defilement. At every turn, people seem eager to inflict pain on other people
in every imaginable way. There doesn’t seem to be room for moderate
views, much less for cooperation. I don’t know if Robert E. Lee had
redeeming qualities or how many good-hearted people one might find at an
alt-right rally, but I am quite sure that the Christian response to hate is not
hate. That made it particularly difficult to read the second half of this week’s
gospel in which Jesus compares someone who is not a Jew to a dog and
dismisses her cries for help. It is tempting to just focus on the first half of
the reading -- that our intentions matter, that good deeds cannot cover for
an evil heart -- and to brush aside this unique look at the humanity of
Jesus. However, my preaching teacher told me to find what you least want
to discuss in the readings and discuss it.
It is easy to identify with Jesus in this passage, isn’t it? We all know
the feeling of annoyance at having our already full lives intruded upon by
those who have no right to claim our time: telemarketers, people who have
all day to visit at the grocery store, that neighbor who keeps dropping over
uninvited… Jesus has just been pursued by over 5,000 people while he
attempted to get away for some quiet prayer, rescued the disciples from the
wind, and spent another day healing the sick. To top it off, the Pharisees
have showed up with accusations of ritual uncleanliness. Besides, Jesus
could only be in one place at a time, and he knew that his time was limited.
Establishing boundaries and setting priorities just made sense.
Tolerance 2

It is also easy to identify with the woman. She knew that Jesus could
cure her daughter, and she was willing to do whatever it took to make it
happen. She refused to be quiet and go away when the disciples asked her
to and when Jesus ignored her. Even the insult of being called a dog did
not deter her. She only wanted what she needed. Just as many had been
healed simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak, and thousands had
been fed with five loaves and two fish, she knew that even a crumb from
Jesus’ table was enough to make her daughter well. While Jesus was
caught acting as though what he had to give was finite, she showed him
that it was infinite.
This is the perfect message for the church today. The first half of the
gospel reminds us that it is our hearts that matter, not the maintaining of
rituals. How long can Christianity survive when we spend our time focused
on our differences instead of our commonalities? How can Christians and
Muslims find common ground when ELCA pastors can’t work with Missouri
Synod pastors? What is in our hearts is infinite, and we are called to share
it. Because we are only right with God when our hearts are pure, we are in
constant need of mercy. “We can never too often remind ourselves that
religion consists in personal relationships and in an attitude to God and to
our fellow-men.” A personal relationship with God means prayer, which has
been defined as: need finding a voice, embarrassment seeking relief, a
friend in search of a friend, a relationship, a way of practicing the presence
of God.” Prayer is a reflection of the attitude we have toward God.