Mark 7:24-37

An elderly woman who was a member of the church I
pastured once invited me over for a gathering of her friends. She
answered the door and showed me to the living room, her aged dog with
yellow teeth, growling at my heels, which I was certain any moment
would become milk bone biscuits.

“I’ve just invited some friends over for a little luncheon,” the lady spoke up, ignoring the sweat forming on my brow.

The doorbell rang, startling both me and the
pooch. The woman went to the door. But yellow fangs just sat there,
his dark eyes fastened on me. I was relieved to hear other human
voices. Alas, my hopes were dashed. The visitors had brought their
own dogs!

“Oh, it looks like I might be intruding,” I spoke
up. “Not at all,” she assured me, to my dismay. “I told you we were
having some friends over and I wanted you to meet them.” And she
introduced them to me, even their dogs. They went on to tell me about
how they met once a week, a kind-of doggy club, they said, giggling.
Seems they also were active in the SPCA, especially finding dogs good

The lady of the house had excused herself a few
minutes earlier and then returned. “Luncheon is served,” she
announced. We all went out onto her patio, which had one of the most
unusual tables I have ever seen. It had a regular size table and a
small lower one attached to it. I saw four plates set for us and, to
my disbelieving eyes, there were four dog bowls on the smaller table,
each with the name of the pooch on it. The dogs also had little stools.

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “I’m either on Candid Camera or I’ve entered the Twilight Zone.”

So there I was eating lunch with four elderly
ladies and four pooches, mutts, really, not a pure bred in the bunch
– all at one table. Even my beloved childhood dog, Trixie, never got
a place at the table – under it, sometimes, but most often out of
sight and mind, where dogs belong, you know. But not these dogs, not
to these ladies, all who had adopted, saved, rescued, if you will,
these dogs from the animal shelter. These ladies weren’t crazy,
really; they just loved dogs, all dogs, even mutts. Strangely, I
began to feel like a most honored guest to also have a place at their

I can’t help but think that this is what the
Gospel reading is all about this morning. In it we find a woman, a
Gentile woman, who many looked down on as more lowly than a dog.
Maybe even she saw herself that way. People see you and treat you one
way long enough it sometimes sticks, even in your own heart and mind.

But she was hungry, not for herself, but for her
starving daughter, a daughter who needed healing. She dared not ask
for a place at the table. The best she could hope for was a few
crumbs from the floor, for she was a nobody, a mutt, if even that.
But how surprised and pleased she was to find that Jesus pulled out a
chair for her at the table. Set a plate there and a bowl. Gave her a
full course meal! The mutt, the dog in the eyes of many was now
sitting at the table.

No matter who you are, who people say or think you
are, or how you see yourself, there’s a place for you at this table.
Your place isn’t under it, isn’t out of sight out there somewhere in
the yard. No, come on in. Come out from under the table. There’s a
chair, a place for you now at this table. For the Host doesn’t look
at pedigrees, just your hunger, just your need, just your faith. And
thank God for this, for when it’s all said and done, not a one of us
deserves to be seated here. We are all mutts, all sinners in need of
grace. So he invites us, he welcomes us, he sets before us a feast of
God’s love and acceptance.


Sermon brief provided by: Bass Mitchell, an
Elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church
serving in Charlottesville, VA.

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