We are a community seeking to have open minds, open hearts, and open arms, building community in a fragmented world. Welcome to the Mantua Center Christian Church
Prelude - “Hover O’er Me, Holy Spirit ” [by J. R. Sweney ] Sarah Park
Opening Scripture - Psalm 29:1-4
1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
*Response - Weave
Weave, weave, weave us together, Weave us together, in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together, weave us together, together in love.
*Call to Worship - Ryan & Karly Lind
ONE: The voice of our Creator is heard in blessing, as it echoes in its majestic powers throughout creation.
ALL: We come to celebrate the Mystery and Reality that is God’s everlasting glory.
ONE: The voice of God is heard in all creation – and everything responds with joy to the voice of its Creator, Sustainer and Renewer.
ALL: The voice of the Holy One is heard in the sacred spaces and is a means of grace to be known and received.
ONE: Let us celebrate the wondrous way we are welcomed into God’s glorious presence.
ALL: Let us worship the Lord!
*Opening Hymn - Come and Find the Quiet Center #575, v.1&3
1 Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.
3 In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other's pain,
let our loves and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there's a place for deepest dreaming,
there's a time for heart to care,
in the Spirit's lively scheming
there is always room to spare!
Invitation to Generosity
Invitation - Ryan & Karly Lind
Offertory - “Come to the Saviour, Make no Delay” [by G. F. Root]
The Doxology #46
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise God, all creatures here below;
praise God above, ye heavenly host: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Offering Prayer - Ryan & Karly Lind
Children’s Moment - Rev. Nancy Humes
Pastoral Prayer - Rev. Nancy Humes
Meditation - Sue Wright
Communion Hymn - Bread of the World #387
1 Bread of the world in mercy broken,
wine of the soul in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead:
2 Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
look on the tears by sinners shed;
and be thy feast to us the token
that by thy grace our souls are fed.
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer - Sue Wright
Words of Institution - Rev. Nancy Humes
Music: “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” [by J. McGraham]
“Pour Your Love in Me” [by Stan Pethel]
Scripture - Matthew 15:21-28
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Sermon - “?????” - Rev. Nancy Humes
I always title my sermon at the very last moment because I don’t want a title to direct me in where the scripture might lead me. Today’s title in the bulletin is a bunch of question marks because I didn’t know which title to use. These are at least five of the possible “titles” I came up with when the sermon was finished. So now, I ask that you listen and it’s up to you to decide which title fits – maybe your title’s not one of these, but find one that connects you to today’s message. Here are a few potential titles I came up with:
(Your Name) You Ought To Know Better Than That
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Ignored by Jesus?
Rude, Crude and Just Not Nice
An Unknown Woman of Great Faith
Now please pray with me:
Most gracious and loving God, as we break open your word, we as that you break open our hearts and our minds to new thoughts and ideas. Help us to add the new to what we already know and believe and make us new. Amen.
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
The gospel story we heard is embarrassing. Jesus is rude — he’s crude — and well, he’s just not being nice. And can’t you just hear Mary saying – Jesus – you know better than that! That’s no way to act. (Bet you heard that growing up – I know I did.
But this Jesus – this rude person – this isn’t the Jesus we know and love is it? The one we love said “let the little children come unto me.” So why on earth would Matthew and Mark include something like this — something so embarrassing in their Gospels? I mean they could have simply left it out and, no one would have known! Well, if Matthew and Mark included it, there must be a reason. And, scholars agree — if it is embarrassing to the faith it‘s most likely true. No one tells something embarrassing about the “hero” of the story and therefore it’s considered to be true. That being said, this story sends a powerful message to his disciples then and to us, his disciples, today.
The facts are Jesus reacted poorly when confronted by this woman. Now we often choose to forget that Jesus was human and that Jesus is also a product of his culture — a product of his religious education — and, a product of his family just as we all are. Although it’s not an acceptable excuse, Jesus reacted like many of us would and do in a similar situation.
I mean, how many of us avoid conflict? How many of us let the phone ring when we know it’s a telemarketer? How many of us don’t answer the door when we see the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons? How many of us avoid the panhandler by the stop sign? How many of us simply don’t want to be bothered?
I think we can all agree – we often have acted the way Jesus does – we choose to simply ignore the situation.
But this is Jesus! The one we expect to be kind and loving. The one we expect to be more!
Is it embarrassing isn’t it? YES.
Is it true? YES.
Jesus is rude, crude and not being nice!
Now we might be tempted to excuse his behavior – saying this is later in his ministry and he’s been walking around all over the place – he’s tired – he’s whatever. But can we really excuse his behavior by simply saying he’s tired? Or do we latch onto his words that he “came just to the lost sheep of Israel?” And, make his behavior ignoring it all together ok?
Well, before we go jumping to conclusions or start throwing stones at the gospels, the gospel writers, or even at me for presenting us with a text that makes us feel uncomfortable, I think we need to look at the context in which this confrontation happened — we need a little bit of background about Jesus’ time.
First — 1st Century Judaism was the only monotheistic religion in town and this woman worshipped other gods or perhaps no god at all. She’s a pagan — she’s “other”.
Second — She wasn’t a “child of Israel” and she clearly heard Jesus tell his disciples that he’d been sent only to the “lost sheep of Israel.” The Israelites, the Jews had been through two exiles — one in Assyria and one in Babylonia. These foreign powers tried to either assimilate them to their culture or eradicate their God — Yahweh from their midst. Because of this, these folks were very close knit group and their strict adherence to the Law was their way of responding to these outside cultures and their multitudes — their variety of gods. Remaining separate was the only way their culture could survive so the Israelites/Jews weren’t allowed to “mingle” with non-Jews — those of other cultures. Again – she was “other”.
Third — in Jesus’ culture – women didn’t approach men. Women were “less than”. Again, she was OTHER.
So here’s the situation — Jesus was with his disciples — his students in a foreign country. He’s confronted by someone “other” — a person who before she spoke had more than three strikes against her.
This woman’s . . .
a Canannite — foreigner.
And then to top it off — she’s a screamer — a total pest! She (excuse my pun here) she dogs Jesus – she won’t leave him alone.
And she has the nerve to argue with him. She actually takes his words and uses them “against him.”
Shake this situation well and we find Jesus in an uncomfortable, embarrassing situation and he responds just like any other 1st century Jew would — he treated her poorly — he treated her like a dog. Yes, Jesus is being rude, crude and not very nice.
I think it’s safe for us to say — Jesus is out of his element here — out of his own environment. He’s in the Tyre and Sidon area — that’s Canaan, a Gentile area. He’s the outsider here. This woman is with her “own” and on her own turf. Now we don’t really know why Jesus was in Canaan in the first place. We know Jesus has become a popular teacher and healer and his reputation precedes him. Wherever he goes crowds gather.
So here Jesus is, in a foreign country. Away from the relative “safety” of home. But why? Was he on a vacation? Don’t think so. And when confronted by his disciples, he tells them that he’s come only to the lost sheep of Israel. It doesn’t make much sense does it because there aren’t many “lost sheep of Israel” in Canaan.
SPOILER ALERT (or a reason for the story?) Remember Matthew and Mark’s gospels were written to both Jewish and Gentile Christians. They’re emphasizing that Jesus’ mission — his words are for all people and not just the children of Israel.
So here Jesus is, in a foreign country — in the “wrong part of town” — so to speak, having a confrontation with a “native.” He’s a Jew — she’s a Canaanite. It’s hard for us to relate to Jesus and how he feels in this situation. It’s hard for us because most of us are a mixture of nationalities as are our most of our friends. We typically don’t isolate ourselves as Italians, Irish, Germans, English associating only with the same unless it’s taking time to go and enjoy one or more of these festivals! AND. I’m also betting that very few of us have experienced being the “minority” in a foreign country — on someone else’s turf in a similar situation.
But I think that if we found ourselves in that situation we’d like to say that we wouldn’t behave the way Jesus did.
And, I think we’d like to say that we wouldn’t be attracted to or want to follow someone who acts like this either. But look around us — how do we treat what’s often called “the other?” How do we treat those who are living different lifestyles — Gays and lesbians? Families with 2 moms or 2 dads? And what about those of different faiths — our Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Agnostic and Atheist neighbors? Or better yet — how about the news media, politicians, political foes, family and friends even we ourselves label as other or our “enemies.” And how do we treat them? Like ourselves or as “other”? Or simply ignore them?
But let’s get back to this woman — the one asking Jesus for a healing. She wasn’t a lost sheep of Israel — she was a Canaanite — an outsider, and all she wanted was a healing. Not for herself — but for her daughter. She didn’t show any interest in becoming one of Jesus’ followers. She didn’t make a “confession of faith” like Peter. She didn’t drop everything and join the disciples and follow Jesus. She didn’t give up her gods to worship Jesus’ God. But as Jesus says — she has great faith. And we need to remember that those of other faiths have great faith too and sometimes we’re the outsiders just like Jesus was. Sometimes we go to great lengths to make others the “outsiders”. We either don’t know or often forget that there are three Abrahamic faiths — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Christians, Jews and Muslims all call the God of Abraham our God — we just call God by different names — God, Yahweh or Elohim, and Allah. And what about those of other faiths? They too have great faith — they too have been created by God making us all children of the same God — none are “outsiders.”
This woman is being ignored by Jesus. That’s exactly what Jesus is doing. She shouts at him and he just keeps on walking. He probably figures if he ignores her she’ll just go away.
But she persists — she “dogs” Jesus. What would we do in her sandals? Let’s put them on and see.
It’s like were walking into a room full of total strangers and no one even sees you or speaks to you. They ignore you. The disciples see you and crowd around Jesus trying to keep you away from him.
She pushes past us and faces off with Jesus. We gasp — what are we supposed to do?
We hear her speak. My daughter is demon possessed and suffering terribly. Lord, help me!
Isn’t that what any parent would do for their child?
But how many of us would be so old as to put on her sandals on and face off with Jesus?
We listen to see what Jesus says:
And Jesus’ response? He’s rude and crude — and not nice. He calls this woman a dog. Now he’s not calling her a cute poodle or an award winning purebred — he’s insulting her. He’s calling her a dog — a miserable cur! I tried to think of some of today’s insults that might give us a better idea but I couldn’t think of any that I could say and not offend people or that would be appropriate for me to say from the pulpit. I really couldn’t because that’s exactly what an insult is supposed to do —offend. Jesus wasn’t worried about that — he wanted to offend this woman. He wanted her to be so hurt she’d just go away because he’d come ONLY to the lost sheep of Israel!
Yes, this woman confronts Jesus and he ignores her. But she stands her ground. She speaks to him using the appropriate terms — we might say she’s “done her homework.” She says “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.” She’s right there with him. She’s close enough to hear what the disciples say — they tell Jesus to send her away. She hears Jesus say to them — “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And rather than back down — what does she do? She stands before him and drops to her knees saying “Lord, help me.” And how does Jesus respond? He insults her — he calls her a dog. And her response? She persists! She humbles herself even further. She accepts his insults and counters it by saying “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She’s telling Jesus if you’re gonna call me a dog then at least treat me like one of the dogs — the dogs at least get the crumbs from the master’s table!
This woman has guts.
Let’s pause for a moment and think about Jesus and what he has done in other tough situations. Here he’s trying to ignore this woman so she’ll just go away! But remember the woman caught in adultery brought to Jesus by the Pharisees and Sadducees hoping they can trap him by his answer to their questions. How did Jesus respond? He said that he who is without sin should cast the first stone and they all walked away.
But here it appears that Jesus is wearing the sandals of the Pharisees and Sadducees. At this point — he’s trying to ignore her but the woman uses the words Jesus would use. She uses the technique Jesus used to get Pharisees and Sadducees to look at their own behavior. He held a mirror up to them and that’s exactly what she is doing. She’s holding a mirror up to Jesus face and he doesn’t like what he sees.
I’m betting it was hard for Jesus to look in the mirror and let’s admit it — it’s hard for us to look in this mirror? But if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll admit the truth this text presents to us today.
This woman held a mirror up in Jesus’ face and he didn’t like what he saw. That was enough to get Jesus to change. Well, Jesus is holding a mirror in our faces and I have to ask us the question — do we like what we see? Well, the Good News is — there’s still time for us to repent — to turn around and reach out — to share God’s Shalom — God’s love and justice with all people — not just the ones we like — not just other Christians — not the ones “just like us.” And there’s more good news — like Jesus we can accept these folks — all these “others” and work with those who call God by other names — names like Yahweh, Allah, Great Spirit, Creator God and who worship in other ways. We can all work together — in fact we must all work together — it’s the only way to bring about God’s shalom — God’s peace with justice for all people.
And, you can bet that if we know the story other cultures like the one to which this woman belonged – know it too. She was the hero of the story in that she stood up for what she believed in and what was right and just. Think of what this would have meant to her daughter – her mom stood up to a man, a stranger and demanded she be treated like others. If that doesn’t speak to the times we are living in, I don’t know what it does speak to!
In our study group on Wednesday, we heard Bishop Flunder talk about justice and how we must continually work towards it. It’s not just about celebrating when we get a “win” — we must be ready to fight and continually fight for what is right for all, even as we are celebrating She says “we can be apathetic, uncaring, selfish, or celebrate too long...meanwhile there is still injustice in the world and people who will even plan for injustice.” We were all challenged in many different ways on Wednesday night! Fighting for justice never goes out of style!
Let’s face it — this is a hard text. It’s hard listen to Jesus being “mean” to anyone. It’s also very hard to think of Jesus repenting! It’s difficult to reconcile this unloving Jesus with the one we know and love — the one who gathered children at his feet and said “let them come unto me.”
This woman was prepared and is quite an example for her daughter and for us. She was simply seeking a healing – justice for her daughter. And, Jesus – recognizing her great faith, grants the healing. His behavior changes. His ministry changes. He no longer came only to the “lost sheep of Israel.” His message of love and justice was for more than just his Jewish brothers and sisters. His message was for all and all MEANS ALL!
*Closing Hymn - Take My Life #603, v.1-3
1 Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
2 Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.
3 Take my voice, and let me sing;
unto God my praise I bring.
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.
Benediction - Rev. Nancy Humes
Postlude - “My Soul Today is Thirsting for Living Streams” [by H. L. Gilmour] - Sarah Park