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    Aug 20, 2017

    Broken Boundaries, Broken World

    Broken Boundaries, Broken World

    Passage: Matthew 15:10-28

    Speaker: Father Will Lowry

    Series: All

    Category: All

    What comes out of the Canaanite woman’s heart is faith – her words and willingness to change the encounter, as well as her steadfastness, demonstrate that the boundary separating her from the “the house of Israel” must be reconsidered.

    At the beginning of this gospel lesson Jesus is debating with the scribes and Pharisees about the boundaries of clean and unclean or righteous and unrighteous practices. He declares that it is NOT our outward actions that make us “clean or righteous” but what comes from the heart or our intentions that makes one clean/righteous.

    The scribes and Pharisees were acting in the traditional way of the elders – honoring the customs and beliefs they had grown up with. Much like we do on Sundays in our liturgy. We have a prescribed order in which we choose to worship, and I quite like it.

    But what is most important about our actions and the order in which we worship is the meaning behind what we do. In Jesus’ answer to the scribes and Pharisees, “And why do you break the

    commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” he might as well have been asking you or me why do you cross yourself at the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to you? Is it coming from your heart?

    A few months after Ivee and I started dating I was at her house and she was fixing sandwiches for lunch. I was doing some sort of fixer-up project at the house and went to wash my hands before lunch. I heard her say from the kitchen, “I’m putting your sandwich on the coffee

    table”.

    A few moments later I walked into the living room, sat down on the couch and picked up my sandwich. Just as I went to take a bite I noticed the sandwich didn’t have any meat on it, just bread, mayonnaise and cheese. I took the plate back into the kitchen laughing and said, “I think you forgot something here....You didn’t put any meat on my sandwich.”

    “What are talking about, I put a whole bunch of ham on it”, she said incredulously.

    “No you didn’t, look...”, I said as I separated the bread slices. She was adamant; “I put ham on that sandwich!”

    About that time I saw our yellow lab, Jackson, slinking through the hallway trying to stay out of site. I was infuriated at him. I scolded him and put him outside and was just plain mad. (A few days later he also ate one of my favorite hats, but that is another story.) I was really ticked-off, that was good deli meat, and it was for me – a human: a smarter, better, more deserving being that a stinky adolescent yellow lab! (Later, I was quite in awe at the skill he had to pick-pocket my sandwich without even budging the bread.)

    In his encounter with the Canaanite woman Jesus has travelled outside of Israel to Tyre and Sidon. He and the disciples’ travel is interrupted by the Canaanite woman, who literally shouts at Him to get His attention. She begs for Jesus to have mercy on her, to heal her daughter, and she recognizes him as the Messiah. This is curious considering that Jesus is outside of the territory he has become well known in. So one would not expect her to be a believer in this Messiah.

    The disciples want to do what they always seem to want to do – send her away. This woman, this Syrophenician, who would have been regarded as an enemy by the disciples. And while Jesus does not speak to her immediately, he does not send her away either. Instead he seems to be intrigued by her and draws her in. There are boundaries he says; his mission is “only to the lost sheep of Israel”.

    Still, she remains, pestering Him. Jesus pushes back at her a little more – “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (That’s kinda how I felt, too.)

    Make no mistake; this is Jesus using strong language, excluding those outside of Israel. This language is biblical, foreign enemies were called dogs. He is identifying her as a traditional enemy of Israel, as unclean, not worthy of the scraps given to those dirty, low-down yellow labs, I mean, begging dogs at the dinner table.

    Her response had to have been surprising, even to Jesus. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” This gets Jesus’ attention. In the end, she gets that scrap from the table. Jesus heeds her request and heals her daughter.

    Symbolically, a thousand years of hostility and strife is also healed. It is clear, that from this point forward Jesus performs the same healing and the same miracles to the Gentiles as he did for his own people before. His mission was no longer just to the lost sheep of Israel, but to ALL people, ALL of humanity.

    Our World today, perhaps under the surface, isn’t all that much different from the 1st century. We have inherited our own complicated attitudes and judgments that separate us. In different ways we “dog” others. For some the dogs are the immigrants or Muslims. For some it’s the family down the road or across town. For others it is the religious fundamentalists or the non-religious. Maybe it those blankedy-blank liberals or frickedy-fraken’ conservatives. Sometimes we don’t even know we have a bias – that is until we are faced with an anomaly. And we are surprised!

    A Baptist preaching from the lectionary! An Episcopalian that prays without his BCP! A Canaanite with Faith! Holy God what is the world coming to?

    What comes out of the Canaanite woman’s heart is faith – her words and willingness to change the encounter, as well as her steadfastness, demonstrate that the boundary separating her from the “the house of Israel” must be reconsidered.

    It’s not all that different from what Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees – it is not about what or how you do it, it’s about what is in your heart. God is constantly entering new territory and breaking boundaries. This God is in the business of meeting outsiders and granting them not just a crumb, but also a seat at the table.

    These conflicts however have not been resolved by any means. The conflict continues in Israel and Gaza, and in the Ukraine and Russia, in Iraq and Syria and of course here in the U.S.

    In a week with frightful images of horrific acts - more rhetoric and finger pointing and continued debate about civil unrest we have to ask the hard questions again... “In the ever evolving community of humanity, who are God’s people?” “Are we all created by God?” “Why is there so much hatred and division in the world?”

    Many people, have spoken out about the hatred and violence happening in the US and many other places, calling for an end to it all. I was reminded, that it was the same week several years ago that then Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, called for this Sunday to be a day of prayer for those in the Middle East and elsewhere living in fear of their lives, livelihoods, and ways of living and believing. Her call for prayer was in response to violence in Iraq that included the slaying of thousands, Christian, Yazidi, and other religious minorities.

    She asked that we, “Pray that all God’s children might live in hope of the world of peace for which we were created”. While it is a shame that we are at the same place exactly three years later, her words are nonetheless appropriate. I usually only take about 10 minutes or so of your time for a sermon. Today however, I’m not worried about time. I’m going to ask that we all spend the next few moments praying for ALL people around the World who are suffering whether it is from violence, hate, disease, conflict, or need of reconciliation with God and others. I will then close our prayer time with a collect.

    Holy God, your Holy family was driven into exile and many of your holy people are hurting, we hold before you today the suffering people of your creation; those affected by violence, war, hate, sickness and all of us who are in need of your grace and healing. Hold in your loving arms, all those who have been caught up in these conflicts. We pray for those forced to flee their homes, all who have lost friends, family and possessions and who now face an uncertain future. We pray for those who have been threatened, attacked, and treated as less than. You teach us Lord to pray for a friends and family, but also our enemies and those who harm us. Sometimes that it hard to do; give us grace that we might pray for every one of your created beings O’ God.

    Lord, we pray for healing, peace and restoration of your Creation. Bring light out of this present darkness and hope from despair that guided by your Holy Spirit, all your children may find a new way forward together based on your love for us all.

    Amen.