Advent Reflections 2023: Day 7

7 December Mark 7:24-30

A little girl who has epilepsy, perhaps – misunderstood at the time to mean possession by an impure spirit. And a mother desperate to find a solution. Through the ages, people have wondered whether the mother makes Jesus change his mind about who he had come for. In his harsh response, perhaps quoting Jewish folk wisdom, Jesus seems to suggest he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When challenged, Jesus can only agree that God’s love knows no boundaries. But rather than think about how Jesus might have changed his mind, I want to ask how this story might make us change our minds.

For 16 years, I have worked with the deaf community in Indonesia, and I have heard many remarkable stories. One of these was about a woman from West Sumatra in the early 1950s. On realising that her daughter was deaf, she set about looking for a school that would accept her child. There were no deaf schools in the whole of Sumatra, so she travelled by boat to the neighbouring island of Java. There were no deaf schools in the capital city of Jakarta, either, but through her enquiries she found out that there was a deaf school in the city of Bandung – one of only two in Indonesia at the time. So, back home she went, by boat, to fetch her daughter and enrol her in the school in Bandung. It was the daughter who told me this story – she is now 78 years old!

One of the challenges of being human is making decisions about what lies within our power, and what does not. Given the troubles in our world, it is understandable that we sometimes focus on the things we know for sure lie in our control. But maybe, like me, you find yourself playing it safe sometimes. When we doubt what we can accomplish, perhaps the actions of the mothers in these two stories can help us change our minds about what we can achieve, with God’s help.

Nick Palfreyman

Challenging God, remind us of what is possible when we journey
with you. When it all gets too much, grant us refuge and relief. But
show us also how to make a difference, in ways great and small. Amen.