Prayers of Approach
Welcoming God, you invite us to worship you and to be together. Sustain us with your presence, nourish us with your word, strengthen us in your service and send us out to live every day of our lives, in your name.
Lord God, we come to you in so many different ways. We may jump for joy at being in your presence; or we may shamble in, weighed down by the cares of our world. The Gentile woman, overcome with worry about her daughter, fell at your feet and pleaded with you. The deaf man had the people of Decapolis to plead for his healing. God of miracles, however we are feeling, we come to meet you, expectant and hopeful. Whether we are one or many, and whatever our station in life, you welcome us, arms wide open – and we worship you, Lord God of all. Amen.
Hymn: Sing praise to the Lord (R&S 49)
Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7a
Today’s readings explore how outsiders are included in our journey of faith. The exiles who had been separated and cut off from God in the reading from Isaiah will be restored and begin a new relationship with God. The Gentile woman and the disabled man in our Gospel reading are both people who were considered to be outsiders in Jesus’ society. But there are no borders to God’s love and welcome.
Hymn: Bind us together, Lord (MP 54)
When we first hear Jesus speaking to the woman from Tyre as though she was a dog stealing food from the Jewish people, it comes as quite a shock. Jesus is insulting her! The Jewish attitude of superiority over other nations resulting from being God’s ‘chosen people’ seems to have even affected Jesus himself. But it is difficult to understand Jesus’ intentions across 2000 years of history and the great cultural divide involved – is it possible that Jesus might be testing her in a battle of words? We can certainly agree that she stood up to Jesus and spoke well. In other healing stories, Jesus says that people’s faith had made them well. But here, Jesus compliments the woman for her words – and it is because of those words that she learns that God has healed her daughter. In today’s culture, where women are encouraged to speak for themselves, how is this story heard and what difference does it make?
Today’s stories from Mark’s Gospel tell of two people who not only felt that they weren’t welcome but experienced it as a lived reality. Neither of them was welcome in Israel because they were not Jewish. The women was a Gentile – a non-Jew. That was what defined her and made her not welcome. A Gentile and a woman – Jesus should not have spoken to her. But he did.
She had clearly heard of Jesus. She came to find him, to beg healing for her daughter. It may be a bit tricky for us to understand all the ins and outs of the – to us – strange conversation they had, but the result was that Jesus spoke to her and her daughter was healed. Religious and cultural boundaries are no barrier to God’s kingdom.
And the man who was deaf was also not a Jew – he came from the Decapolis, the 10 cities, a region with a mixed population of many non-Jews on the edge of Jewish territory. And Jesus speaks to him too, and he too is healed. Ephphatha – be opened – is not just a restoration of the man’s ability to hear and speak, but is an opening up of God’s kingdom to everyone, Gentiles as well as Jews. And
if we didn’t get it with the women and her daughter, Mark is explicit this time: this is fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 35 – a prophecy about how God’s kingdom will come to the whole world, not just the Jews.
What lessons – or perhaps challenges – are there for us and for our church community in that message of God’s universal kingdom?
Try to put yourself in their shoes – the quick-witted woman able to finish Jesus’ parable, or the deaf man excluded because he could neither hear nor speak properly. What did it mean to them to be welcomed into the kingdom Jesus proclaims? How do you think the disciples reacted to this? What lessons are there for us and for our church community?
Hymn: Let us build a house where love can dwell (Church Hymnary 4th edition 198) https://youtu.be/gKJgcv8SdnQ
Prayers of Intercession
Lord God of healing, we thank you for the different ways you answer our prayers.
The Gentile woman wasn’t frightened to answer you back – and you knew she was right. We thank you for the power of words.
The deaf man had the confidence in you, to jump up and receive your healing. We thank you for the power of actions that speak louder than words.
Thank you that you are available to each one of us who truly believes.
We come to you, Loving God, who rescues us and restores us, to pray for those who need your help today.
We pray especially for those who feel ignored, those whose problems are swept under the mat, whose cries for help are downplayed or devalued.
We pray for those who feel they do not have a place to belong, a safe place to find support and friendship.
We pray for those in situations of captivity, in whatever sense of the word, for those who cannot see a way through the darkness, for those who feel their lives are in pieces.
We ask that you would touch their lives, that they may know you as healer and as friend.
As for us, make us their advocates and their champions; where the world has abandoned them, help us walk beside them, showing your love to all who need it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: In Christ there is no east or west (R&S 647)
God of salvation, you open the way to life by offering us unconditional love. We rejoice in our freedom, our healing and our hope. Teach us to be open to others, to offer welcome, and practise inclusion. Bless us with your all-inclusive love,
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prayers and other material (adapted) © ROOTs for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.