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I suspect that most have of us has had this experience. We suffer some loss or property damage.

We contact the insurance company who take great delight in pointing out some overlooked clause in the policy. And as a result you get nixie! Well to some degree the fault in ours. We did not read the insurance documentation as carefully as we should. In fact, we should have got out the old magnifying glass and gone through the ant-like print with the proverbial fine tooth comb. Yet in this busy world the practice of close reading as its called is a dying art. We moan we havent got the time. There is too much else to do. In truth, we have too many distractions to really read paperwork, documents and books. Result then is in terms of insurance - we dont have the money, in terms of a who done it thriller - we dont have the plot or with the Biblewe do not have - understanding. Lets take todays passage from Mark and read it ultra carefully. Because it may be only then we realise that at its heart is a really problem - a barn stormer of an issue in fact. And it is this! Why did Christ call the woman seeking his help a dog? Certainly, its general use at that time did not refer to the todays western idea of the family pooch. It was back then pretty derogative terminology. Possibly Christs tone made all the difference. Maybe it was indeed a miscalculation which he immediately regretted. If so that takes us into a whole new area of theology. Or was it Marks, the gospels author, own gloss on the original story. Why would he do that? Well, he had a huge interest moving the early church into the non-Jewish population. He was therefore emphasising somewhat unsubtly the vast honour of being included in Gods guaranteed promises to the Jews. Whatever the reason for this use of a difficult word - strong

language as they warn on the telly - it leaves us in an uncomfortable place. And that is fine by me. Since Christ was in an uncomfortable place that day. Since you see he was well inside the gentile territory of Phoenicia . The woman was in an uncomfortable place asking a foreign and potentially hostile holy man for help - help she was desperate get for her daughter. Yet it was - as so often in the Bible - in the uncomfortable place that God acted and acted decisively. Jesus the Jew helped the Syropheonician woman. And as an outcome of his working at the border of comfort, he extended his zone. So too the woman having faith at the edge of her relaxed space also enlarged it. The result being of them both working at the edges of the boundaries of what the held certain, was that they morphed them together - faith was expanded - they encompassed each other. Above all, a wee girl was made well. Here then is the point for us today. For if we continue to try and keep the church as a zone of comfort then we will not expand or include or even heal. But if we have courage and faith and possible a brass neck, we could even at this moment do some fine work at the fence line of ease. We could travel as Jesus did into alien territory and make just a smidge of it our own. We could cross over and even find freedom. There is a great quote about crossroads. Its by Justina Headley in her novel North of Beautiful. It goes like this: There must be a few times in life when you stand at a precipice of a decision. When you know there will forever be a Before and an After...I knew there would be no turning back if I designated this moment as my own Prime Meridian from which everything else would be measured.

Well I am now at a cross roads in this sermon. Do I turn left and suggest that we should be work at the edge of comfort in terms of good works, charity and social causes? Or do I turn right and insist you go to the border armed with perceived religious truths and cow those just outside into your domination? Actually, I am not going to turn in either direction since strangely both lead steadily back into the bastions of comfort. No I am going to follow the true meridian of Christ at the borderline. And I am going to do that by some close reading - to do some fine print digesting - to do some uncomfortable thinking? Specifically, I am going to ask you and myself to truly read your newspapers and very carefully listen to the news. Next closely read a gospel in our bibles. Let them take us to the barrier between what we are comfortable with and what we are not. Then with a bold step, let us cross over. Let us come to your own conclusions about what the latter really has to say the about the former. Indeed, let us let God tell us what he wants done just over there. And why am I saying this? Well, if Christ and his followers had stayed in the comfort zone of the Jewish lands of 1st Century Palestine we would never have heard of him let alone be sitting here today. If he had not healed the child, he would not have proclaimed a gospel for all people and all times. If he had not cast out the demon at the verges of human comprehension, then the modern world with its stuttering steps towards rationality and humanity and morality may not have been possible. More pointedly, at the recently discussions with our presbytery over future parish plans, it was pointed out that in terms of

numbers we are losing the equivalent of one congregation a year in Dundee. Put simply, the churchs comfort zone is spiralling in with a giddy momentum. Yet we have so much to say to those in the growing hinterland beyond our borders. We just need to think what that is. We just need to move to the edge and get to grip with the demons of this age and show we have an answer. We just need to risk leaving the laager a few yards. Since then we will encounter and absorb other comfort zones back into the realm of God - back into a real future with Christ - back into life with a genuine meridian of meaning. It was a strange fact that the heavily guarded barrier between the old East and West Germany had ways through it. For you see the electric fences, mine fields and automatic machine guns were about 100 metres inside East Germany. In the open space between the two hostile states, East German border guards would patrol looking for escapees. And to allow them come through there were highly secure gates in what the communists called the anti-fascist barrier and we the iron curtain. We indeed from the comfort zone of our western democratic freedom wondered why these Aufklarer didnt defect. But from their point of view their home, family and comfort zone was behind them. And so two world did not meet or change until the wall fell in on itself through irrelevance. Let us then go to the wall between Christs world and the worlds of those beyond. There to work with courage, prayer and thought so as to pull down the apparently impenetrable barriers. There as they say on star trek to boldly go where no one has gone before. There to encounter and meet and encompass the new found children of God in the role of loyal dogs of faith. Amen

HYMN...