Bible readings for Sept. 5, 2021


James tells us to stop showing favoritism in the assembly, treating the rich visitor with more honor than the poor one. Jesus himself seems to show partiality in his first response to the Syrophoenician woman in today’s gospel. Was he testing her faith in saying Gentiles don’t deserve the goods meant for God’s children? Or was he speaking out of his human worldview, but transcended those limits when she took him by surprise with her reply? Either way, the story tells us that God shows no partiality. Everyone who brings a need to Jesus is received with equal honor as a child and heir.

Readings and Psalm


God Is Partial

Again and again throughout biblical history, God is partial to caring for the poor, the weak, and the outcast. Which is why, perhaps, Jesus’ response to the Syrophoenician woman takes us by surprise: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27).

The Syrophoenician woman acts in faith. She engages Jesus with what she believes to be true about him: that through him God’s mercy will extend even to her. Despite the distinctions that separate them (including race, gender, and religion), she believes Jesus is a Savior who has the power to heal all people and that she, although not a Jew, is a member of the household of God.

The second reading, from James, reminds hearers then and now that the Christian community’s actions are to be shaped by God’s partiality. God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith. While the world values the rich, the poor are God’s own treasure, made honored guests and royal heirs through baptism. The community is called to a partiality based on God’s values, not the world’s.

The waters of baptism wash away all distinctions. Like streams breaking forth in the desert, these waters surprise us with mercy in unexpected places. These waters open our eyes, unstop our ears, and loose our tongues to see, hear, and speak God’s partiality for the poor, the weak, and the outcast. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, the Spirit fills us with faith—a faith active in showing mercy that knows no limits.

Around the table, rich and poor, haughty and humble, all who gather receive a feast fit for the family of God. All are honored and all are fed, because the Lord is the maker of them all.

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