Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Texts: Matthew 14:1-21; Exodus 3:14; Matthew 14:22-33; Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:1-20; Matthew 15:21-28
Rachel Garlinghouse carries three bags and her six-month-old daughter through the airport gate. Following is her husband who is also lugging several bags and trying to corral their two-year-old daughter toward the plane’s entrance. As they enter the plane, the stewardess asks, “Oh, are your girls sisters?” Rachel anwers, “Yes,” while scanning the half-full plane, trying to choose seats. With over one hundred passengers lining up behind them and the weight of Rachel’s daughter and the bags seemingly multiplying, there isn’t time for conversation. As she attempts to move forward, the stewardess persists: “But are they REAL sisters?” Rachel replies firmly, “Yes,” and then proceeds to find seats for the family.
Rachel sometimes forgets that her family is transracial and that their girls are adopted. Not because they wish to avoid either topic, but because life is just that for them—life. They run errands, travel, play, work, sleep, and eat just like every other family.
They chose to adopt because Rachel was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes—a disease that can make pregnancy dangerous for both the mother and the unborn baby. Their first daughter was born in November of 2008. In November 2010, they adopted another little girl. Both adoptions are domestic (they were born in the United States), transracial (Rachel and her husband are white, the girls are both black), and open (they have relationships with the girls’ biological family members).
As they grew into their role as adoptive parents, Rachel and her husband prepared to respond to each person who asked if their child was “really” their daughter. And most commonly, as with the stewardess, they’re asked if the girls are real sisters. Rachel says, “To this question we always reply, ‘Yes'. Our girls are in the same family, so of course they are REALLY sisters.”1
One of Jesus’ great challenges as He presented the gospel of the kingdom was to instill the notion that we are all members of the same family. Our lesson this week shows the meaningful ways that Jesus ministered to those whom the disciples considered outsiders, while subtly exposing the racism and classism pervading their hearts. The stories of the feedings of the two different multitudes have very understated nuances that don’t readily appear when read separately. When placed side-by-side, however, the disciples’ favoritism toward the Jews and disinterest in the Gentiles becomes apparent. Less subtle is the disciples’ regard for the Canaanite woman as a “dog.”
Jesus could have openly exposed the disciples’ blatant racism for what it was, but as the Creator of all, Lord of all, and divine Parent of all, He chose a gentler approach by helping them recognize this for themselves. After all, a good parent loves all the children in the family equally, without playing favorites.
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