Sunday, August 17, 2008

She changed my life

Mt 15: 21-28 Aug. 17, 2008

think of an encounter with someone who may change your lives. Think of a time when you met someone, and from that relationship formed or that encounter, from that experience, your life was changed forever (in a good way or a bad way?)

This morning’s passage from Matthew tells of an encounter Jesus and his disciples have with a Canaanite woman: Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 28Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

And they lived happily ever after. Is that what really happened? Is that the story we know? Well, that is certainly what we would expect from Jesus according to our understanding of him. WE certainly don’t expect what happens in between this woman’s plea and Jesus finally granting her her wish to have her daughter healed.

Let’s listen to the entire story as told by matthew: Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ (silence) 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ 24He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ 26He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 27She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ 28Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
La palabra del Señor. Gracias a Dios.

What is going on here? Did Jesus just ignore and exclude this woman? Maybe it’s okay for us if the disciples are guilty of a little discrimination, but not Jesus. And on top of that did Jesus call her, and her people dogs?

Paul: What happened to: In Christ there is not east or west, no slave or free, no jew or gentile, male or female? Can we still sing one of our favorite songs in light of this passage: Jesus loves the little children…all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white they are precious in his sight Jesus loves the little children of the world, except for the Canaanite woman.

This really has puzzled me. Let’s try to figure out what was going on; pull out your pencils and notebooks for a brief history lesson of the ancient middle eastern world.

Canaanites claim to be descendents of Noah’s grandson Canaan. Canaan’s father Ham had seen Noah’s nakedness, which was a disgrace. So Canaan, and the Canaanites carry this legacy according to the Israelites. The Canaanites inhabited their country Canaan, which is present day Lebenon. They were indigenous to the land, when the Isralites having fled Eygpt, were eventually led by the commander Joshua, and invaded and conquered the land flowing with milk and honey. So now, they not only have the disgrace of being descendants of Ham and Canaan, but also they are a conquered people.

Jesus heard these stories growing up…right? And Jesus knows, just as the Canaanite woman did, that he is from the house of Israel: a proud son of David. Jesus heads north from Galilee toward two coastal cities—Tyre and Sidon—on his mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of heaven.
He’s entered borderlands…he’s crossed from the familiar to the less familiar. From the place where social structures and appropriate behaviors are very well defined, to a place where the lines are blurred…the black and white become a little grey. Conquered before a conquerer. She is shouting, begging, pleading for Jesus to do Something, Señor, ten piedad.
Jesus doesn’t say a word.
She kneels before Jesus and begs him, LORD, Help me; Ayudame por favor! Boy is she persistent. She demands a place at the table. And Jesus responds that the food intended for children’—in all fairness—shouldn’t be thrown to dogs. What?

I think we balk at this reaction of Jesus because deep down, deep down, we know that we have this tendency. Easier to be around certain “kinds” of people: Weird hair cuts. Wear their clothes funny. Poor and Rich. Skin color, sexual orientation, marital status.
Annoying. All the categories people fall into in our own minds.

We know quite well this tendency to discriminate and exclude. But Jesus? Jesus isn’t allowed to be this way. (pause)

Do you ever wonder why certain stories are included in the bible and why others aren’t?
Why this passage…? of all the stories that could have been told or not told about Jesus why did matthew include this passage for his early community, and for us today?

Jesus was and is an example for the church. It’s clear that he felt he had a specific call. A clear mission, focused on the people of Israel. MT 10 – Do not go among Gentiles
it’s important for those in Matthew’s community, mostly Jewish, to hear that God has not given up on them. That God still has a purpose for them. To be a blessing to all the nations. Somehow From mt 10 to Mt 28. And I think about our own lives.
At work, at home, in the schools. in the neighborhood. Our specific callings. Our mission and purpose: To be a light, a witness to God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ wherever you are.

caught up in what it is that we think we’re supposed to do, that maybe we are blind to a world of possibility around us. fall into routines and patterns, We don’t have time for distractions. But what happens when a Canaanite woman shows up? Demanding your attention, when she’s really not part of your usual routine? She’s not part of your calling….It’s easy to know who she is…she’s that person we might have a tendency to overlook; who needs help on a project. She’s that child who demands attention, but we haven’t really made time for her or him.

Ken called this morning; but I didn’t make time for him.

Maybe Jesus was right. Not to call Canaanites dogs, but to focus. If you try to please everybody you don’t please anybody right?

And what about the mission of the church? On Monday of this week, Trasie and I had 9 people from the congregation at our house to discuss the mission of the church. Many talked about the past: Spanish Presbyterian Church. So much has changed since the congregation came to 841 W. Manhattan. Libby Naranjo married Gaspar and was the only Anglo in the congregation for many years. Slowly, more anglos became part of the fellowship (libby opened the floodgates). Ms. Johnson was the first African American woman to join the church, back in the late 70s.

But now things aren’t so clear….What is our church identity? To whom are we called?
Who are our lost sheep of Israel? Residents of Rancho Viejo or Tierra Contenta?
We need a new roof, maybe we can witness up in Las Campanas? Is this a place for homeless, for immigrants, for anglos, for hispanos?

It could be a good thing for us to focus! But just be ready…before we get too caught up, to focused on a specific mission…that Canaanite woman might show up and demand a place at the table. Calling us out for our exclusion. I think this story about Jesus is preparing our hearts for just such an encounter..!

We may balk when we think that Jesus might have possibly treated someone this way.
Do we balk when we do the same?

When we exclude, condemn, and maybe are just mean; Because someone has distracted us or thrown us out of our routine or focus. Because someone is a woman, or someone is gay or lesbian? Because of skin color? Political ideology? Class?

Crazy thing, some of these people, these Canaanite women out there, keep showing up, shouting, demanding to talk to Jesus. Demanding that the church be the church.
That you and me live up to our really calling in the world. To be a light of hope where there is so much darkness. To be love and peacemakers where there is so much hatred and violence. TO help out those who are in need, especially those who have no voice. Persistent folks. do we dismiss them. Or do we see that maybe, just maybe the Spirit of God is reminding us that we are to be light and love for the world…for any Canaanite woman who demands to see Jesus.

Prove it that you’re the savior! Heal my daughter! Proclaim release of the captives, and be good news to the poor.

How might encounters with the Korean church or the Mexican Church, Iglesia Betesda, change our perspective about mission. Cruz…kept coming by the church…hermano!

Live up to the slogan Communications Care has give to us:
Little church with a big heart.

1How good, oh how very good and pleasant it is when kindred,
the whole human family, live together in unity!
2It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard running down over the collar.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life for evermore.

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