As we spent our days on a beach in Turkey, we became familiar with one particular dog. Each day she came to the beach early. Each day she waded into the sea. Back and forth she went. Maybe twenty yards one way – twenty the other. Never more than a few inches deeper than she could touch.
We learned it was not a street dog. It belonged to someone in a hotel a short distance back.
The beach we love has a wonderfully cooling breeze. It begins each day around 10.00am and is fully up to strength an hour later. It remains until around 5.30pm each day.
By then the dog has long gone – preferring the smaller wavelets of early morning.
This dog was a fascination for many on that beach. The dog’s complete lack of interest simply increased that fascination. She was aware of us. She was content to share her space with us. And she accepted the attention that she drew. I think she knew we would tarry for a few days – a few weeks – before leaving her beach again. We were superfluous. We were part of her landscape. And “we” could not understand why “we” were so unimportant.
We did not get it.
We expected the dog to be grateful for our attention. We expected her to connect – that she should reward our curiosity – that she should live up to our expectations – because she was just a dog – and that is what we expect dogs to do.
I loved that dog (for the few short days we were sometimes on that beach).
“When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.” Luke 9:51-56
The Samaritans. Outcasts by agreement. Too picky for the pedigree of the chosen ones. Avoided by the chosen ones. To the point where the chosen ones crossed the river (twice) in order to go around them.
The biblical land was full of splinter groups. Living alongside each other with the practiced disdain of tradition, culture, and teaching. Oil and water. Ne’er the twain shall meet. Apart from Jesus who finds them as sacred as all others. An approach that has rubbed off on the disciples. But rubbed off in a way that requires gratitude from the outcasts. And the disciple’s response to the obvious lack of gratitude … ?
“Should we fry them, Lord?” (using holy fire from heaven – obviously).
In Turkey, the dog’s “face” was set to its own daily routine. She paddled. She shook. She rolled on the sand. She paddled again. She shook again … But we expected her to connect with us transients – to our few moments in her space – before we found something else more interesting for our precious holidays. The dog had worked it out.
We humans never seemed to.
And today, the inter-faith landscape remains full of splinter groups. Outcasts by agreement, by tradition, and by religious teaching. We still live alongside each other with practiced disdain. We still live as oil and water to each other so much of the time. We (still) so often call for a “holy frying” (from whichever deity to whom we bow).
And those who are too picky for any religion?
We are quick to call them the un-churched (or whichever label applies to whichever god we subscribe). And we almost always expect them to come to us. And when they choose not to … ? We often choose to cross the “spiritual road” just to avoid them.
Jesus has it worked it out always and everywhere – in everything and with everyone. He offers each of us that same choice. We can either be “little-god” followers who never really get it – or we can choose to see as The Living God who does.
There is but One God. And He is big enough for all of us.
No matter what we call Him.