9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
21st Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 27 November 6, 2011 Sermon, Proper 27, Year A, All Saints’ Sunday Matthew 25:1-13; Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20
20th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 26 October 30, 2011 Proper 26, Year A Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12
19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 25 October 23, 2011 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
18th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 24 October 16, 2011 Proper 24, Year A Matthew 22:15-22, Psalm 96
17th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 23 October 9, 2011 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-12; Matthew 22:1-14
15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21 September 25, 2011 Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
13th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 19 September 11, 2011 Sermon, Proper 19, Year A Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12
12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 18 September 4, 2011 Sermon, Proper 18, Year A Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
10th Sunday After Pentecost – “But who do you say that I am?” August 21, 2011 Proper 16, Year A Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman August 14, 2011 Sermon, Proper 15, Year A Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat August 7, 2011 Proper 14, Year A Matthew 14:22-33
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Feeding of the 5000 July 31, 2011 Proper 13, Year A Matthew 14:13-21
Third Sunday after Pentecost July 3, 2011 Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 8 June 26, 2011 Second Sunday after Pentecost Romans 6:12-23; Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday June 19, 2011 First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20


9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman

Sermon Date:August 14, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Liturgy Calendar: Sermon, Proper 15, Year A

Around 3PM this past Tuesday I went downtown to meet a friend at a local coffee shop in Fredericksburg.  I got there a minute or two early, so I bought a book from the one dollar rack at the  used book store up the street,  and then I settled down on  a bench outside the coffee shop to wait for my friend, full of gratitude for such a beautiful summer afternoon.

And then my cell phone rang. 

I answered it and heard T.C.’s voice, and I could hear the edge of panic in it.    He told me that he and Jennifer and Tyler were in Charlottesville, in the emergency room at UVA and that the doctors there had determined that Tyler must have brain surgery on Thursday because tests had shown a leakage of brain fluid around the injury site. 

“Lord, have mercy,” I prayed. 

This family has been through so much.  And I knew that this was also the prayer of TC and Jennifer.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord have mercy on us, by having mercy on our son.

This cry was the cry of the Canaanite woman who had heard about Jesus and the incredible powers of healing that he had.  Even though she was not a Jew, she came to Jesus, begging for mercy. 

“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 

And Jesus, who must have been having a bad day, ignored her.

But this Canaanite woman continued to plead with Jesus. 

“Lord, help me.” 

“Now, wait woman,” Jesus said.  “You aren’t a Jew, you don’t follow the rules of the Jews.  Why should I grant mercy to you? 

But this woman– because she was pleading for her daughter—was not about to give up. 

She continued this conversation with Jesus from a place of expectant gratitude. 

And that expectant gratitude went like this—“Lord, I am coming to you with the hope and expectancy that you can heal my daughter.

And I will be grateful for whatever you do for me.”

Expectant gratitude.

On Friday morning my cell phone rang. 

A friend was on the phone.    I rarely get to talk with this friend, so I’m always grateful to hear from her.

She quickly shared the news that she was in Michigan with her mother.  And when I asked her how her mother was, she said very matter of factly that her mother was dying.

My friend said, “You know, all of this is rather unexpected, the result of a series of calamities at the hospital.  But my mother is at home now, and we’re grateful. “

“My mother can’t talk any more, but before she lost the ability to speak, she said, ‘This is the best summer of my entire life.’

And when I asked her why, she said, ‘Because I’ve gotten to see everyone.’”

For my friend’s mother, the summer hadn’t been a disappointment, a mere crumb.  In the very face of death, this woman had sat down at a proverbial banquet table.  “It’s been the best summer of my life.” 

And then my friend said, “I’m so grateful I can be here with my mother.  We’re in a place between earth and heaven, and my mother is ready and waiting.” 

“I’m so thankful I can be here with her.”   

To my friend, what others might consider a crumb, what could be a bitter disappointment, energy spent being angry about the series of calamities, being bitter that this vibrant mother has had her speech and her vision taken away and is having to spend these last days in bed waiting for death because of what my friend indicated might have been mistakes on the part of others, because of a situation that did not go according to plan,

In spite of her many reasons she may have to be bitter, my friend does not experience this situation as receiving a crumb from the floor. 

Instead, she has sat down at a banquet at the Lord’s table—because God has been merciful, and she knows that God is in that space between earth and heaven with her and with her mother, even as they wait on death.  She and her mother are experiencing the joys that the psalmist knew and immortalized in the closing words of the 23rd Psalm

 “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

How do we live with expectant gratitude in the midst of the aggravating and death-dealing situations that all of us face in our lives? 

We Christians find that we can live with expectant gratitude when we have faith. 

Faith, as I said last week, is taking a chance on hope, and hope fills us with expectant gratitude. 

How does this sense of hopefulness and expectant gratitude play out on the street? 

On Wednesday, the disappointing  front page headlines of the Free Lance-Star and the Washington Post read as follows. 

“Guard recruiter guilty of rape….Caroline approves mine permit…..Riot battered London asks itself why….”

 There was the headline about stocks rallying, which may have seemed to be a banquet which didn’t last since it was followed the on Thursday by a headline that read “Market Chaos Contines.”

In the midst of all of these upsetting headlines, another headline caught my attention—a small article tucked into the lower right hand side of the front page of the Post….

“Debt crisis, sure.  But a good day for life’s tiny joys.” 

Monica Hesse

Monica Hesse, the reporter who had written this article, had gone out onto the streets of Washington looking for people who had created banquets out of crumbs. 

I want to share this paragraph of the article with you. 

“The world appears to have hit a particular nexus of awful:  debt ceilings, credit ratings, London riots.  One is tempted to go searching, full of hope, for pin pricks of light that poke holes through the black.  If one is willing to look hard enough, to go small enough, to recognize that people often don’t measure life in Dow points but in tiny pleasures……then Tuesday was an extremely good news day in Washington.”

In her article, Hesse detailed how people had found banquets of joy in simple things like extra cream, friendly dogs, pumpkin curry, a Facebook conversation with a long lost friend, a cranberry-almond cookie, a cool breeze, eating lunch outside. 

Hesse goes on to describe what we Christians would call faith, taking a chance on hope—living with expectant gratitude, in this way.

Grateful people are resilient people— having resilience is having “the ability to keep marching on, despite the fact that bad things are happening.” 

Instead of feeling helpless and hopeless, resilient people, as Andrew Shatte, a professor at the University of Arizona puts it, “sort through the muck and find the things we can control.  The things we can take pleasure in.  It’s not ignoring the larger problems of the world; it’s finding a way to see them,  then see beyond them.” 

Because when we can see God’s  goodness in a small thing, we know that God’s goodness is also in the big things that we can’t control.

The Canaanite woman didn’t argue with Jesus about their differing viewpoints on religion.  Jesus didn’t say to her—“You have to become a Jew and do it my way before I’ll have mercy on you.” 

Instead, they both looked beyond the larger problem of differing understandings of the world and their differing cultural backgrounds, and they saw beyond those differences. 

“Lord, help me.”

“Woman, great is your faith.”

The story of the Canaanite woman of faith challenges us to search through the crumbs that we find under our own tables.    Consider how the crumbs that we would normally just sweep up and throw away— might really and truly be a banquet if we take those crumbs in our hands and see them through the eyes of faith. 

And as we look for God’s goodness and mercy, and realize that God wants to help us, in even the smallest things, we’ll find that we are truly, here and now, in the house of the Lord, with a banquet spread before us.

On Thursday at the hospital at UVA, Jennifer and TC and I waited through the surgery, and finally the news came.  The surgery had been a success.  And then after another wait, we were allowed to go into the ICU and see Tyler.

And there he lay, coherent, actually cracking some jokes with the beautiful young nurse who was caring for him.

When I left that night, TC and Jennifer were in a hospital room several hours away from home, next to their sleeping son, eating take out food from those uninviting take out containers.   But what a joy!

The food was NOT from the hospital cafeteria! 

And at that moment, I could feel it, as I took in the scene.  Expectant gratitude!  Gratitude for the successful surgery.  Expectation that Tyler’s healing will be complete. 

I knew at that moment that the four of us were then and there in the house of the Lord, with a banquet of God’s goodness and mercy and love spread before us.

I said one simple prayer over Tyler as I left that room. 

Thank you, God. 







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