The Canaanite Woman Challenges Jesus to See Her Worth as a Child of God
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant —
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just 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.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
This Gospel reading is a little difficult to take, isn’t it? Although we hear people insulting each other all the time, it seems so much worse when the insult comes from the mouth of Jesus. “It isn’t fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Wait! Isn’t Jesus the one who taught us to love unconditionally? To forgive and share hope with all of God’s children? Yes — and that’s why this passage is so striking. It’s so out of character for Jesus, it’s almost as if he is trying to teach us something through his words and actions. First he ignores her; then he excludes her; then he insults her.
Nevertheless, the Canaanite woman persisted. And by reminding Jesus of her inherent worth as a human being, it’s almost as if she was holding a sign that said, “Canaanite Lives Matter.” And Jesus opened his heart and his ears to this woman, and even praised her for her great faith.
What is it that Jesus is trying to get across to us through this strange story? To begin with, we see something here that was common for the day. The Israelites saw themselves as the chosen people, to whom the promises of God were guaranteed. They also saw the Canaanites as lower than human; NOT chosen; and often called them “Dogs.” Can you believe the Jews’ hatred of the Canaanites actually goes back to after the flood? Read all about it in Genesis 20. So it was perfectly acceptable for the disciples, even though they had been with Jesus through his teachings and admonishments to “Love one another”, to call this woman a “Dog.”
It’s easy to see the connection to our modern day dilemma, isn’t it? We live in a time where it has somehow become acceptable again to publicly decry other races, genders, lifestyle choices and more. But Jesus’ admiration of the Canaanite woman should redirect us to open our ears and hearts to those who are trying to draw our attention to their plight.
Like Jesus, when we take notice of injustice, we can choose to ignore it, acknowledge it, or work to stop it. I’m certainly glad that Jesus let the “Gospel go to the Dogs” of Canaan; it reminds me that even I am worthy of God’s deep and merciful grace.
May this story be a reminder to you that we cannot be deaf to the cries of our brothers and sisters who are still being oppressed by systems of injustice, even if it is “the way it has always been.” In Christ, we need to engage our heart before our mouth, so we speak in love; engage our ears before our fists, so we listen in love; engage our minds before our feet, so we act in love.
With Great Hope,
Gratitude and Opportunities to Lend a Hand
Good Stuff Happening — Come Join Us
Prayer Path Completion!
Many years ago, Bud Crawford imagined a path that would wind through the forest behind our church. Over the years progress was made — slowly and surely — but most of the work was done by Bud alone. For the past two summers, our youth have carried buckets and buckets of left-over mulch up the hill and have dumped them on the path. But thanks to Tyler Brown, the grandson of Jane and Dale Brown, the path is now finally complete. It’s even better than we could have imagined. With the help of Bud and a whole host of Brown family, this Eagle Scout candidate worked hard to finish our prayer path and a seating ring up in the forest. We will have a dedication for this new prayer path soon.
Thank You for Jim Childress Service:
Thank you Nancy Henry, Sue Perkins, Judy Schowalter, and Deacons Kim Jacobs and Stephen Eddy! ! ! You did an excellent job providing love and support to the Childress family during the service on Saturday, August 19. Thank you also to those who brought cookies or desserts for the reception!
Practice Radical Hospitality and sign up to serve and clean up fellowship for our social time after the 10:00 Worship Service. There are always extra hands to help you get ready! Food is provided — all you need to do is put the cheese and meats/crackers/cookies on the platters and make coffee, lemonade and water. Call Sue Perkins to sign up.
Please begin signing up for your small group using the sign up sheets in the Fellowship Hall. Your help is greatly needed because we want to hear from all voices in the congregation. You do NOT have to be a member to participate! Small groups are being offered at various times throughout the day, so you can find one that fits your schedule!
Also, mark your calendars now for our first New Beginnings Session, on Sunday, Sept 17. Our first meeting will feature a catered lunch following church. We’ll meet as a big group and go over the materials before we break out into small groups for discussion. We will be finished by 1:00 to allow for your afternoon activities.