11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 16, 2020
~ “Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.” Matthew 15:21 ~
With these words, Matthew introduces a scene that occurred between Jesus and a Canaanite woman. But these simple words betray a scene PACKED with significance, controversy, and importance; and they continue to provide ample debate-fodder for scripture scholars and theologians. Fortunate for us, we hear this beautiful story this weekend. Unfortunately for me, there are so many topics from which the preacher can choose, it feels as though any which way I go with this reading, I will be missing out on so many opportunities! Either way, it’s all meant to get us thinking.
For purposes of this communication, I want to highlight one element of the story: the source of the persistence from the Canaanite woman.
This unnamed woman single-handedly represents so many objects of scorn by the likes of people like Jesus, that it simply cannot be accidental. She was from a wealthy neighborhood, unlike Jesus’s humble roots in Nazareth. She was not Jewish, but a Roman citizen who did not believe in Jesus’s God. She was ethnically impure (a Canaanite). She was systemically shunned by Jesus’s people as being less than a pack of dogs. Most glaring and most objectionable to those of Jesus’s time – she is a woman! Even the women in Jesus’s own clan, religion, and family were systematically relegated to being mere property to a husband or father. They had few rights and were separated from males in almost every facet of daily life. Abuse of women by their husbands or male family members was no crime because it was surreptitiously encouraged and maintained in both religion and culture.
A prisoner of her culture, ethnicity, religion, and gender, she should have stayed on the fringes of the crowds following Jesus and should never have raised her voice, let alone have spoken to Jesus – a teacher. Even with the urgency of her need — a sick daughter — the expected behavior of someone in her position was to accept her plight, keep silent, and move along.
Yet she persisted. She would not be quiet. She would not accept her status and step back. Even when Jesus ignored her and then insulted her, she did not “have the common sense” to be quiet and walk away. Her retorts, “Lord, help me,” and “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table,” wins her an odd reprieve from Jesus: “Woman, great is your faith!” I say ‘odd’ because despite Jesus’s words, the woman expresses nothing that could be construed as “faith.” She has a sharp wit and quick tongue; but faith – in God, in Jesus, in the Covenant? I don’t see it.
Whatever we think about the reason why Jesus gave the woman her wish, can you see this person as brave and heroic? Something motivated her to break the many boundaries meant to ‘keep her in her place.’ What motivated her?
How we answer that has much to teach us.
• When she spoke, she spoke the voice of liberation, of freedom, and of growth.
• Where did that come from? That strength, that voice, that motivation?
• Was she acting on maternal instinct to protect her daughter?
• Was she simply obstinate and stubborn?
• Was she so smart that she knew she could test (and beat) Jesus by trapping him by his own preaching?
• Was she trying to destroy the system intended to keep her subservient?
• Was she too dumb — or have no appreciation — to see the importance of the imposed social strata?
• Did she not respect social structures in place for thousands of years?
• Was it her faith in God?
• Did God inspire her to speak?
• Does it matter?
We have begun celebrating Eucharist live and in-person at the Church on Saturday evenings in the fountain courtyard. This week, however, we canceled because of the hot weather. From this point forward, the invitation to Saturday night Eucharist includes the proviso: “Weather Permitting.”
Reservations for Saturday nights are necessary and can be found on our home page. Registration for Saturday, August 22, opens this Monday morning at 9 a.m.
Our schedule of ZOOM services remains the same:
While we observe the shelter-in-place guidelines, St. John’s is worshiping online via ZOOM:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we pray Morning Prayer at 9 a.m.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Bible Fellowship (open to all) continues on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish the Zoom link; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links; reach me here.
We’ve posted all Zoom services since mid-March under the “Miss a Service?” button on the website’s home page. Search for a service you missed and get caught up. Go have a look.
Rev. Karen Maurer and I are holding ZOOM office hours. These meetings are a place to do a virtual drop-by to say, “Hi,” or to ask any question on your mind. This will not be a confidential setting. If you wish to have personal time with us, simply speak to us about this and we can calendar with you.
Please keep St. John’s School in your prayers. This week the teachers continue with professional development in the age of hybrid teaching techniques. We also await word from the county on our submitted waiver to hold in-person classes from the start of the school year. Let us pray for health, safety, and grace to students, staff, and families.
Be at peace, Christopher+