My Syro-Phoenician Dog

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His name is Miloh and he’s Italian actually – a water retriever called a Lagotto, once common to the Romagna marshlands, not Syro-Phoenician at all. Cute huh?

He does have one annoying habit however (several surely?! – pet hater Ed), which is to constantly scope the kitchen floor for crumbs.  Given that our kitchen is large and floorboarded, it is heaven for a dog. The floorboard grooves trap all sorts of tasty scraps, never mind the food that falls effortlessly and frequently from my four year old’s plate. Given my OCD nature there is only one thing worse than a crumby kitchen floor, and that is a licked clean kitchen floor, still shiny and wet where Miloh has done his vacuuming.  It’s disgusting really. (How did he ever get talked into buying a dog? wise-after-the-event Ed).

Yet I have, on the basis of the gospel, decided to allow the hound to hoover. Whilst almost everything within me wants to get him to stop, I have decided that, for my sanctification and holy thankfulness he can continue.  Why?  Because he is providing me with a visible expression of an important gospel reality. Now I am going to be careful here so as not to seem sacrilegious, but in just the same way that Martin Luther described the Eucharist as a visible expression of an invisible reality, so too with Miloh’s floor food.  What reality?  Well, read this story about Jesus from Mark 7:

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Every time I see Miloh licking crumbs from the floor I pause and remember the grace of God to me.  You see, any of those of us who are not Jewish by birth are just like that woman – so called “dogs” getting grace that fell on the floor.  How so you ask?  Well, salvation was not ours by birthright.  Ephesians 2 reminds us that we Gentiles were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”. In other words, just like that woman, not fit to eat from the table.  However in the gospel God has “brought us near”.  Indeed, no longer are we simply eating the floor crumbs, we are seated at the table with Jesus and all of those who belong to him, “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”, as Ephesians 2 goes on to say.

I don’t know about you, but I forget easily.  I forget the grace of God.  I forget the love of Christ. I forget the life of the Spirit.  I too easily live my life unaffected by just how poverty-struck I was when Jesus met me.  But Miloh and his floor crumbs are a constant visible reminder to me and every time I am tempted to sweep them up before he gets to them I recall that story.  It’s just another way in which to ensure the reality of the gospel remains sticky like Velcro, rather than sliding off like Teflon and leaving me unaffected in my workaday life.

What visible reminders of the gospel do you build into your life? Is there an everyday gospel “trigger” that brings you back to humble gratitude and awe?

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