Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

'Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish.'

The two events we have heard today seem to be unrelated.

Firstly, Jesus puts it straight to the Pharisees that they have got it wrong.
He says all their rules about how to go about things are upside down.
What you eat, washing of hands, these are not the things that defile.
Rather it is what happens in here, the heart that will.
It is our intentions that will either defile us, or make us pure.
Jesus will say,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
In the second story, we hear about the Canaanite woman.
She is desperate to save her possessed daughter.
She hassles Jesus and the disciples.
Jesus tells her he is not interested.
She challenges him, and he recognises her faith, and heals her daughter.

But look at the disciples in these two events:
Hear what they says when Jesus attacks the Pharisees:
Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?
Hear what they say about the Canaanite woman:
Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.
In these two events we see how the church reacts to power and weakness.
In these two events, we see how the church reacts to those who are in and those who are out.
In these two events, we also see how we are supposed to be, in the actions of Jesus.

Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?

Watch out Jesus. Keep your voice down. You are saying things that are really going to put us offside.
Be careful what you say.
Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.
Jesus, can you get rid of this foreigner. She is causing a scene. This is not helpful.
Stand up for the chosen…

The disciples are interested in keeping on good terms with power and authority.
They are not interested in a foreign woman who seems to be barking mad.

Their words of concern are about upsetting the powers that be.
Their words of anger are about keeping an outsider out.

To me this is how the church still works.
We are afraid of upsetting the wrong people.
We are afraid of speaking about something that may get us offside with the powers.
There are subjects we avoid speaking about because we don’t want to offend.
We suck up to the council, the government, prominent business owners, wealthy neighbours.
We don’t want to rock the boat.

When we side with the authorities on issues that go against the teachings of Jesus,
we are being like the disciples here.
We are not living or speaking the gospel,
we are living and speaking out of a different place.
A place that keeps our position of privilege.

And when we wish to shun the outsider,
when we wish that person would not cause trouble,
when we wish that person would just leave us alone and shut up,
we become like disiciples with the Canaanite woman.

When someone asks for our help, even if they cause a scene,
we don’t need to tell them to go away,
but rather, ask them to come in.

Instead of looking at the disciples reactions,
we can look at those of the Pharisees and the Canaanite woman, how they react to Jesus.

The Pharisees are upset with what he is saying.
He is threatening to them.
He challenges all they are, he challenges their position, power, and authority.
Their reaction is one of fear, fear that will eventually crucify him.

But the Canaanite woman’s reaction is one of faith:
‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David”
She recognises Jesus as Lord, even as an outsider.
She responds to the presence of Christ with overwhelming hope and faith.
Her situation is desperate, and she believes that Jesus is the one who can fix it.

We as disciples have to look where we stand.
We can’t stand by those in authority who would shun those who don’t fit in,
who make people lives more difficult.
We can’t be scared to stand up to them.
WE need to be careful that we don’t stand up for them against those who are abused by them.

Our place is to be with the Canaanite woman.
To respond to the first steps of faith.
She comes with faith, and her faith pays off. Her daughter is healed.

When someone makes those first steps, we can’t be like the disciples.
People come with all volumes, ideas, attitudes.
What they wear, what they say, the way they say it is of no difference to us.
The fact that they make those first steps toward Christ does make a difference.

We can’t be saying Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.
But rather “great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish’

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