|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|➤Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
|Pentecost 10, Year A||August 9, 2020||Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A||I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 9, Year A||August 2, 2020||Pentecost 9, Proper 13, Year A||Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22; Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year A||July 26, 2020||Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 2020||Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52|
|Pentecost 7, Year A||July 19, 2020||Pentecost 7, Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30,36-43|
|Pentecost 6, Year A – Evening||July 12, 2020||Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23|
Pentecost 11, Year A
Sermon Date:August 16, 2020
Scripture: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A
“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” – Jean Colombe (1485-9)
In today’s gospel, Jesus is teaching and training his disciples as he talks to the crowds. In the first part of today’s gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles.
These words must have been terribly shocking to people who observed the food laws and were careful not to eat unclean or improperly prepared foods—and that includes the disciples.
The disciples just couldn’t figure out what Jesus meant, so Peter asks for an explanation. Jesus explains that what comes out of our mouths is reflective of what is in our hearts.
When we don’t carefully tend our hearts, evil intentions that lead to behavior that goes directly against God’s will for our lives can grow and be released into the world.
Not what we eat, but how we act with faith in God is what matters.
Now comes the curious story of the Canaanite woman, someone who acts with faith in God, who comes to Jesus and begs for mercy. Jesus ignores her. The disciples want Jesus to send the woman away because she’s being a nuisance. Jesus tells the woman that he was sent only to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Even when she kneels in front of him, Jesus says that it isn’t fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.
In his book, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Kenneth E. Bailey says that the reason Jesus treats the woman in such a seemingly callous way is that he wants the disciples to see the deep prejudice that resides in their hearts, in this case toward women and Gentiles.
Here, the disciples are following the norms of their time. Even today, as Bailey points out, in conservative areas of the Middle East, men and women do not talk to strangers across the gender barrier.
Also, the disciples are Jewish, and Jesus is Jewish, and yet this woman, a Gentile, is asking a favor from a Jew. As a Gentile woman, she shouldn’t even be speaking to Jesus, much less asking a favor of him.
So by responding to the woman as the disciples would have him do, Jesus is pointing out to them that they will be happy if Jesus gets rid of the woman and limits his ministry to Israel.
The disciples see Jesus act in a way that is “authentic to their attitudes and feelings, but shocking when put into words and thrown in the face of a desperate kneeling woman pleading for the sanity of her daughter.”
And then they get to witness the response of this Gentile woman. She does not strike back at Jesus with an insult of her own about haughty Jews who despise and attack Gentiles.
Instead, she accepts the insult that Jesus throws at her about dogs not getting to eat the food from the masters’ table, and renews her request.
Bailey says that “This woman’s faith is expressed in her unfailing confidence in the person of Jesus as the agent of God’s salvation for all, both Jew and Gentile. She confesses him as Lord and Master. And she is willing to pay any price, even public humiliation, in order to receive healing grace for her daughter.”
Jesus praises the woman for her great faith, and says to her, “Let it be done for you as you wish.”
In his summary of this passage about the Canaanite woman, Bailey makes the point that “evil cannot be redeemed until it is exposed. In his dialogue with the woman, Jesus exposes deep prejudices in the hearts of his disciples. Jesus honors the woman by giving her a difficult test which she passes with flying colors, never wavering in her faith that Jesus is the agent of salvation and healing for all, both Jew and Gentile.”
This story gives us a lot to consider as we current day Christians in the United States come to grips with the reality that we are a people divided by deep prejudices of all sorts against one another.
This year has felt like one long difficult exam. COVID has placed its own circle of anxiety around each of us. Not being together has taken its toll on us and brought the temptation for division as we try to sort through how best to weather this pandemic. Economic disparities divide us. We have seen injustices against our black and brown brothers and sisters clearly and tragically.
As we Christians hopefully keep our faith in Jesus, knowing that Jesus is the agent of healing and salvation for all the brokenness in us and round us, we are trying to act out of our faith to reach across the barriers that divide.
Here at St Peter’s, twenty of us have joined 11,000 people in 932 groups around the country to enter into the difficult conversations about race with one another. We are using the Sacred Ground material put together by the church to help us reach out to one another and be part of the ongoing work to break down the racial divides in this country as we work toward being part of God’s Beloved Community in this nation, here on this earth. This material is helping us to tend our hearts so that we can grow in God’s love and share God’s love with one another, hopefully in healing, reconciling ways.
As the Lord says in today’s reading from Isaiah, we are to maintain justice and to do what is right, to hold fast to God’s covenant, and to remember that God welcomes those we would consider “foreigners” to God’s holy mountain, for God’s house is a house of prayer for all people.
So as we come face to face with the deeply held prejudices in our own lives that we maybe never recognized before now, and respond to those who come to us seeking mercy, and as we go to others seeking mercy, let us pray, using the collect appointed for today.
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of Godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming word, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
What deeply held prejudices do you face in your own life that Jesus is asking you to reconsider?
How does your faith in Jesus as the one who heals and saves shape your response to those who come to you seeking mercy?
Resource: Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL. IVP Academic, 2008.