Years ago I was with a Lakota friend and I invited him to have
dinner – I asked him would he would like to have and he said
“talo” – meat. Well, I figured steak and I figured
I better look in my wallet and see if I could cover it. I opened
my billfold and after the moths all flew out I saw that I had enough
– but being a westerner I looked carefully in there so that
my friend could not see -- after all, how much money we have is
often an intimate secret in some cultures. My friend shook his head
and said “wicasha sni” – not being a human! He
didn’t mean I was inhuman but my behavior was. I was hiding-
not willing to show him how much I had! This was decidedly not good
Today Paul tries to heal the factionalism in the community of Corinth
over allegiances – members of the community forming groups
according to who brought them into the Church. The people of Corinth
and I were acting on our normal cultural cues – align according
to leaders and keep your cash secret!
In the Gospel today, the people again do the same thing- act on
their cultural cues. Jesus is healing people and of course the people
of the town do not want Jesus to leave. They want to honor the healer
and keep him available for others in THEIR village.
But Jesus is called for the many and not exclusively for this one
group and he tells them he must move on. He does not simply join
one synagogue, the custom of the day, but is called to visit them
all – to spread the Gospel to all.
The Church reminds us that it embraces all cultures – indeed
there is much in culture that is holy and good and expressive of
God. On the other hand we are also reminded that our faith stands
in judgment and challenge over all cultures also – that like
ourselves, culture, which is a human product, can also be sinful.
My aunt has a favorite story about me. She claims that when I was
a little boy I stayed overnight at her house. In the morning she
asked if I wanted eggs or cereal for breakfast. I looked at her
and asked if I could have a boloney sandwich instead! She said sure
and gave it to me.
But sometimes we go against cultural norms and refuse to join factions
that will endanger communities, or we move on to another town or
task, or we even have a boloney sandwich for breakfast! Our faith
asks us to embrace our cultures but also to go beyond them, particularly
when those norms prevent us from being true human beings –
to heal divisions, to heal the brokenness in ourselves and in the
world, to go out to the other towns, to leave our comfort zone,
as Jesus does today and, as we saw on Sunday, to even go to foreign
towns and heal foreign people. To heed the spirit!
By the way, I still enjoy a good boloney sandwich now and again
for breakfast. It helps remind me of my childhood and growing up
and it helps me remember to go beyond the expected. As we would
say in my home town, that ain’t no boloney.