The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sermon: Change your Mind

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Changing one’s mind is not a popular idea in American culture. 

Especially for Politicians. We call them flip-flippers and waverers.

 I know as a Parent, changing your mind is seen as a weakness. If my children see even the slightest notion in my eyes that I might change my mind about something, they pounce on me like a wounded animal on the Serengeti.  
Changing your mind is not widely appreciated in our politicians, our judges and juries, military leaders, our clergy people, or basically any leader in our culture.

It is because we view changing your mind as a sign of weakness.
And yet, the more I read scripture, I wonder about God. Does God change God’s mind?
Whatever the answer is, this is a problem!
If God doesn’t change God’s mind, then we have a problem. If God is immovable, then what’s the point in asking God to intercede on our behalf. I believe in intercessory prayer. When I got to visit people in the hospital, I pray that God may intercede, that God may offer healing and mercy for the person in the bed.
But if God does change God’s mind, then we have a different problem. Then, it seems like God can be manipulated. It seems like if I pray the right way, then I can get that sports car. Or, if I dance a certain way, then I can make it rain. Somehow we need a God who is flexible but not too flexible.
One thing is for sure, the God of the Old Testament isn’t afraid to change his mind.
In the 18th chapter of Genesis, we Find Abraham pleading with God to save the righteous people of Soddom and Gomorrah.
Abraham asks God, “Suppose there are 50 righteous in the city, will you destroy it?”
And what if 5 of the 50 are lacking?
What if there are only 40 faithful, will you still destroy the city?
Eventually Abraham haggles with God to save the city if God finds 10 righteous people there. As the story goes, indeed the only people who are found righteous there are Lot and his family, and God intercedes on their behalf.   
Even earlier than that, in Genesis chapter 3, God indeed changes God’s mind. He tells Adam and Eve that if they eat from the tree of knowledge they will die. We sometimes interpret this to mean that God meant that he would make them mortal and kick them out of paradise. But that’s now what the Hebrews meant. The story goes that God said they would die if they ate, and after they ate, God saved them from death and instead exiled them. This is a God who changes his mind.   
In our Gospel lesson today, God the Son makes a trip far way to Tyre. He goes out of the way, perhaps for some rest and relaxation, to find a place where no one knows who he is. But his reputation precedes him, and this woman comes asking for help with her daughter who is dying. Jesus says:
27 He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
This is a grave insult, in any culture.
And she answers: "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
This is Mark 7. Earlier in this gospel, Jesus has already preformed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 where there was food left over. Apparently this woman believes that Jesus has salvation in abundance.
Jesus says, miraculously, “"For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter."
She gets him to change His mind and convinces him that she was capable of receiving his grace. The word “table” shows up twice in Mark’s gospel, here, and when Jesus is turning over the tables in the temple. There is a parallel to that scene here, whereby the woman is “turning the tables” on Jesus.  
After that, Jesus continues his journey to the Decapolis, another Gentile area.
He goes there in hopes of R and R. Again his reputation precedes him.
A man is brought before him who is deaf and mute. Jesus speaks the words to open the heavens, and the man is healed.
Jesus puts up no fuss this time. Is it that Jesus was in a better mood this time, or did that woman in the previous story change Jesus mind about all gentiles?
Think back again to that phrase from last week’s text, “It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that makes them unclean, it is what comes out of it”
The woman’s tongue changed Jesus’ mind, just as this man’s tongue, which was unusable previously, can now go and preach the gospel. What comes out of the mouth in both stories is profession of faith in Jesus.
The heavens have opened up, and God has expanded his chosen people to all people, even the most marginalized because of nationality, gender, or handicap.
By healing this man, Jesus has fulfilled the promise read in the Old Testament lesson of Isaiah and guaranteed that he represents the same God of the Old Testament.
The God we worship today is the same God willing to change his mind for Adam and Eve, for Abraham and Lot, for the Woman and her Daughter, and this man and his friends.
Because the one thing that has never changed about God is God’s willingness to go to great lengths for us.
But make no mistake about it- God does Change.
He started with a covenant with Israel, a covenant which they broke. So God did a new thing, he sent his Son to save us. You could say, if you wanted, that that was the plan all along, that God doesn’t change.
But throughout scripture, God listens to his people and reacts out of love for them. God listens to us, because, well, that is what a relationship is.
Being in a relationship is about , making room, making time, making space for the other. God made time. God made space. Literally.
And remember this:   
Once upon a time, God changed his mind about you. You were a condemned sinner, a gentile unacceptable for salvation. But by the grace of God you were saved, not because you deserved it, but because God interceded on your behalf.
So today, let’s take a lesson from God.
Being willing to change your mind is not a position of weakness. It just means that you are in a relationship with other people. And that’s a good thing.
How many of us men would go unloved if we hadn’t convinced a good woman to change her mind about us?
Let’s face it. You’ll do crazy things for the people you love.
Just ask him.

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