Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/14/11 Sermon

Matthew 15:1-28

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 

I decided to split our two scripture readings up today for a reason. I had Art read the second part first to make a point.  And the point is that lot of times this scripture about Jesus speaking to the Canaanite woman is read and talked about without really focusing on the first part of this scripture.  People read it and come to a lot of conclusions about Jesus’ treatment of this woman. After all this is some harsh treatment to this woman.  And it’s way out of character for Jesus.
 
Of course some people like to make excuses for Jesus….he was having a bad day, or this woman had it coming.  Some think Jesus was simply calling her a dog in a matter of fact way since that’s the way all Gentile people were referred.
 
I actually had a New Testament professor in seminary who claimed that this scripture showed that Jesus was basically being like the rest of men in this culture who were prejudice against both women and Gentiles.  For me red flags go up with this interpretation. While Jesus was indeed human, sinful he wasn’t.  Now I’m not going to try and defend Jesus today or try to make excuses for his remarks because that would be silly. Jesus doesn’t need anyone to defend him.  But I do want to point out that this story cannot be read apart from the previous verses (verses 1-20) where Jesus speaks about what defiles the body.  In fact, both Matthew and Mark have these two scriptures together not apart from each other but together because they go together.
 
So what’s the significance of the two being together?
 
Well perhaps we can presume with reason and logic that Jesus’ out of character behavior to the Canaanite woman has to do with the point that Jesus is still teaching the disciples.  And in his teaching, Jesus would use all kinds of methods to help them learn and understand.  And one of the tactics he would use is one that we as parents can use from time to time.
 
It’s the method of illustrating by role playing or play acting.
 
Have you ever play acted to your kids to show how a certain behavior is unacceptable? 
 
I’m reminded of an episode of the Andy Griffith show when Andy is teaching his son Opie about how to treat your friends.  Opie was unkind to one of his friends and so to make a point Andy decided to use Barney who of course is his deputy and close friend to teach him a lesson.  So as they’re talking about going fishing on the weekend, Andy tells Barney that they don’t want him to come along that they want to be alone.  Well Barney gets his feelings hurt and storms out of the room.  When Opie sees what happens, “He says’ Boy you got Barney sore Paw.  Andy says, Oh he’ll get over it.  When Opie asks why Barney couldn’t come along, Andy says “Oh he’s always hoarding in”. (We see this is completely out of character for Andy just as it was for Jesus).  Well as Opie sees how upset Barney is and feels bad for him, Andy then goes on to make the comparison to how Opie was treating his friend and how Andy had just done the same to Barney.  Once Opie learns the lesson, Andy goes to Barney and apologizes and explains that it was all a “pretend job” and that he needed to teach Opie that that’s not the way you treat your friends.
 
Andy says “it seemed like the only way to get the point across was to give him an example” 
 
Now that’s what I see happening here in this scripture.
 
With these 2 scripture readings together, and with Jesus out of his normal character, we can logically presume that Jesus is playing a role in order to get it thru to his disciples that their legalistic faith that they grew up in had led them to a deep-rooted prejudice and indifference toward the Gentile people.   In fact when we look at verse 16 Jesus speaks to the disciples dullness. (Are you still so dull?)  They were slow to understand since they had grown up, living and breathing this legalism.  So Jesus needed to shock them out of their old ways of religious hand washing and other legalistic traditions.  Jesus needed to mold his disciples and teach them about the true faith that was about compassion and equality.  He had to train them to carry out what God’s intention was all along which was for the people of Israel to take the blessing that they had been given by God as God’s chosen people to then deliver it to everybody else----the world.
 
God told Abraham in Genesis 12: 1-3 that all the peoples of the world are to be blessed thru the people of Israel. 
 
But instead of this happening, the people of Israel had turned their faith into a bunch of religious rules like what food to eat and washing your hands before you eat.
 
So what does this scripture say to us today???
 
How is it relevant to us?
 
Well I think that many churches today can struggle going thru the motions of religion as opposed to a faith of compassion that blesses others.   We’ve been talking a lot lately about the need to be more outwardly focused in our community as true disciples of Christ.  And this scripture affirms it to us again.
 
So let’s take a look at this scripture in light of it being a teaching moment about having a true faith of compassion that blesses people.
 
Now one of the first things we see in this scripture is that as this woman enters their camp we see that she’s desperate, in need of comfort and care and healing for her child.   And yet in this crying out we read that Jesus did not say a word. Jesus as a true servant leader doesn’t become Mr. Fix it or superman.  He’s wants to teach and empower his disciples so he remains quiet to see what they might do.
 
But the disciples do nothing. There was no answer. Just silence.
 
Now in the same way, this story can be played out in our daily lives.
 
There are people in need, desperately looking for help, who need healing, who need prayer, who need a friend or a touch or a listening ear.  They’re all around us….But do we see them and hear them?
 
Is our response to those in our community who are depressed and lonely and desperate a silent one? Are we waiting on somebody else to help them?
 
Does our indifferent and lifeless religion say to us “Let Jesus fix them it’s not my problem”?
 
You know it’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate but rather indifference. 
 
Of course we are blessed here at DBC to have folks who are hearing and responding to those voices.  We have a team of card care writers who are sending words of encouragement and comfort to those who grieve.  We have prayer shawls that are being wrapped around people in despair and worry.  We have people in assisted care facilities and hospitals who are getting visits.  We have people at the food pantry who are in relationship with clients.  We have those helping in the Divorce Care ministry who are hearing the cries of those folks who are desperate.
 
Still there are many who are in need all around us in our daily life. People you work with or neighbors next door. Do you hear them? Are you their to offer comfort and hope?
 
Our faith is more than coming to church on Sunday. It’s about seeing and hearing those who are in need.
 
Are you reaching out to help or is there silence?.....................................
 
Now the next teaching moment in this scripture happens as the woman continues to cry out.  And as we read, the disciples finally break their silence by going to Jesus and telling him to: “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  Jesus had to have been shaking his head.  His non-response didn’t lead to what he had hoped for where they might show compassion.  It instead led them to react even worse.  Jesus must have thought “How dull can you get? What faithfulness these guys have been taught by the so-called religious teachers”.
 
Next, we see Jesus sarcastically tells the woman (Don’t look at me), “I was only sent to the lost people of Israel”.  Now this was another teaching lesson for the disciples. Jesus is sarcastically putting himself in their shoes like Andy did with Opie.  He’s showing them how wrong their mentality is of having no compassion for this woman because she wasn’t a Jew.
 
Now how does this relate to us?
 
Well many times our idea of helping people is to try and fix them and send them on their way.  Instead of care and concern, it’s how can we get this person helped quickly so we can show them the door.  It would be like working at the food pantry or community dinner with the only mindset of doing the “good works” but not really caring for the people. 
 
For people who are down and out, we can look to try and get rid of them instead of befriending them and showing them real compassion that suffers with them.
 
A homeless woman once approached a preacher for help, but because he was busy he turned her away and offered to pray for her instead. The homeless woman, wrote a poem as a response to the insensitive minister: "I was hungry, and you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger. I was imprisoned, and you crept off quietly to my chapel and prayed for my release.  I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance. I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.  I was homeless, and you preached to me the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me. You seem so holy, so close to God but I am still very hungry - and lonely - and cold." ………………………
 
Too often our help can lack real compassion.
 
We want to do the good moral thing for legalistic reasons like washing your hands.  We try to fix people so we can feel good about ourselves as we send them away and out of our hair in order to get back to our life.  But Jesus was teaching them and teaching us that his disciples are to have compassion for people. We’re to get to know them and suffer with them instead of looking to send them away.
 
Now the most important teaching moment in this scripture for the disciples happens in verse 26 as Jesus insults her (the way the disciples would have done) by telling her that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
 
I can only imagine what our response might be today if we were spoken to in this way.  After all, our churches are filled with so many thin-skinned people who get their feelings hurt at the drop of a hat.  People quit the church or they decide to still attend, but they are no longer active because someone hurt their feelings.  These folks are like the Pharisees who wear their pride and self-righteousness on their sleeve.  But this Canaanite woman has a faith that isn’t deterred by hurt feelings. She teaches the disciples about the importance of being humble and vulnerable and desperate and keeping your eye on Jesus.  True faith wasn’t what they had grown up with. It wasn’t about appearing strong like the Pharisees, showing everyone how spiritual you are, and quoting scripture to people. We can fall for that sham too today.  But true faith is about being bent over, depending on the Lord admitting your total inability to do anything without him.
 
Pastor Larry Davies in his book “A Pile of Ashes” speaks about this total dependence as he was going thru a divorce.  He writes: While the children slept with friends, we spent the last night of our marriage senselessly arguing over who would get the furniture, the photographs and the dishes.  I even remember hiding a plastic coffee carafe under the kitchen sink. Why? I’m not sure, but we often do dumb things when our lives are falling apart.  By the time she drove off in a borrowed pickup truck, the house was an empty shell of blank walls, half-empty rooms and shattered lives ....Still my lowest point was yet to come ... At precisely 8:00, the next morning my doorbell rang.   On the front porch stood, hand-in-hand, a smiling young couple ready to meet with their minister for pre-marriage counseling. Their bright smiles soon disappeared as I walked them through the wreckage of my house toward the office.  I explained what happened and assured them that I would understand if they asked another minister to handle the marriage service ....What advice could a recently separated pastor possibly give this young couple that would enable them to prepare for a holy marriage?
 
The answer?  None! I could say nothing! At that point, I no longer felt qualified or able to give advice! All I had left was God ... All I had left was God!  At that precise moment, the lowest point of my life quietly became a momentous turning point because at that instant, I utterly and completely put my dependence upon God.  Jim Cymbala said “The greatest Christian is not the one who has achieved the most but rather the one who has received the most. God's grace, love and mercy flow through them abundantly because they walk in total dependence”. —Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith
 
The disciples learned a valuable lesson that about true faith. They learned about faith that has a heart. 
A true faith that contradicted the cold and lifeless religion they had grown up with. 
A true faith that would soften their hearts to become the disciples who gave their whole lives to Christ as they went to make disciples of all nations.
 
In closing today….we are being reminded that the faith of a follower of Jesus is one that has a heart.---------A heart that has been softened and transformed.  A heart that is vulnerable and dependent on Jesus.  And as a result they are compassionate to others.
 
Over 2000 years ago, a lowly, no good Canaanite woman, taught us all a valuable lesson about faith.
 
Today, may we let go of a lifeless religion that is nothing but routine and let’s let our hearts be softened and transformed.
 
Let us daily remember our total dependence on Jesus that we might then hear the cries of those in need and show compassion to suffer with them.
 
Are you on your knees bent over?
 
Are you weeping and humble and desperate waiting for the scraps of food from the Master’s table? I pray that you are….

 

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen