Faith Lutheran Church Faith Lutheran Church
Faith Lutheran Church is live
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Tyler Gubsch
Tyler Gubsch
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Loading chat...
In Isaiah we hear that God’s house shall be a house of prayer for all people and that God will gather the outcasts of Israel. The Canaanite woman in today’s gospel is a Gentile, an outsider, who is unflinching in her request that Jesus heal her daughter. As Jesus commends her bold faith, how might our church extend its mission to those on the margins of society? In our gathering around word and meal we receive strength to be signs of comfort, healing, and justice for those in need.
We Are Beggars, This Is True
“We are beggars; this is true,” are reported to be Martin Luther’s last written words. Christians are “beggars” for God’s grace, undeserving but graced nonetheless. A beggar’s faith focuses not on what is given or accomplished or believed, but on what is received: the healing and sustenance desperately longed for and needed.
In today’s gospel, the Canaanite woman is such a “beggar” for Jesus’ healing for her daughter. She is denied a place at the table at first, but she will accept even “crumbs” in the faith that Jesus’ healing power and love are intended even for her. As a Gentile outsider, she inhabits the margins of Jesus’ mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus’ eventual response to her beggar’s faith reveals that the love of God even encompasses the margins.
Marginalized or not, we are all beggars before God, as Paul reminds the Romans—all “imprisoned in disobedience” and dependent on God. Thus, our sense of “insider” and “outsider” crumbles in the face of our common need and God’s abundant mercy to all. Instead of dividing people between those who have a place at the table and those who get crumbs, we have an opportunity to share hospitality with our fellow beggars.
It can be challenging to see ourselves as beggars. Today the Canaanite woman becomes our model, as she persists with both humility and audacity. As disciples of Jesus and “beggars” for God’s grace, we live the same paradox of humility and audacity, boldly coming to Jesus and humbly acknowledging our need. Even though crumbs from God’s table would be enough for us, we are offered instead the abundance of Jesus’ own self in bread and wine and invited to share this abundance with insider and outsider alike.
Nelson Rivera, in an article entitled “Freedom in Reading the Scripture,” describes some of Martin Luther’s approaches to interpreting the Bible. In what Rivera calls a “striking example of the boldness with which Luther handled biblical texts and interpretation,” he demonstrates how Luther allows seemingly disparate passages to speak to one another by pairing the story of Jacob wrestling until daybreak with a heavenly creature and the Canaanite woman who “wrestles” with Jesus in today’s gospel (LW 6:139). Rivera concludes, “As it turns out, this Canaanite woman—a foreigner, with no known name—is Jacob in the gospel story. Moreover, faith is not passive but active and demanding. What faith demands is the promise of God, to be fulfilled in us here and now” (Journal of Lutheran Ethics, Jan. 1, 2018).
Theological Reflection
Like many people Jesus encounters, the Canaanite woman does not have a name. When she first approaches, shouting after Jesus, she is nothing more than a nuisance. Jesus ignores her and the disciples want her sent away. It is not until the end of the story that she is fully seen and acknowledged as a person. When people are just categories like homeless or beggar, liberal or conservative, male or female, or any other category or stereotype, they can be easy to dismiss. When the other becomes a person with a name and a life story and joys and sorrows, when they are fully known, there is little choice but to care. This messy work is where the gospel is made known to all people.
Images in the Readings
That Jesus obliquely refers to the Canaanite woman as a dog has inspired much creative interpretation over the centuries. Traditionally the sentence was explained away as the technique Jesus employed to test the woman’s faith. Some contemporary exegesis reads the exchange seriously and thus credits the woman with instructing Jesus about the breath of God’s mercy. Both of these explanations assume that the story is accurate historical reporting. The story also suggests that if our faith is strong enough, our wishes will be granted. Like the Jesus of Matthew’s narrative, we too think of the other as a dog. Like the storyteller, we hope that our faith will bring us instant healing. It is a difficult story to proclaim and expound.
Despite our knowledge of anatomy, the heart continues over the millennia to be an image for the source and center of human intention.
Ancient temples were understood to be houses of the deity. Architecturally similar to the Lincoln Memorial, an open structure housed a statue of the god or goddess, and sacrifices were offered before the image of the divine. After the exile, strict traditionalists urged hierarchical regulations about how close to the presence of God each type of person could come. But Third Isaiah rejects this understanding of worship, saying the house of God will welcome all peoples. Christians have thought about their churches as in some way houses of God for all peoples. Yet for Christians, God dwells in the community and in word and sacrament, not in a house, and church buildings are less like temples and more like meeting places for the communal prayer of all peoples.
Prayer of the Day
God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you. Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy, that your name may be known throughout the earth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.
First Reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
The prophet calls upon Israel to do justice in view of God’s imminent intervention to save. Righteousness and obedience define who belongs to the Israelite community—not race, nationality, or any other category.
 1Thus says the Lord:
  Maintain justice, and do what is right,
 for soon my salvation will come,
  and my deliverance be revealed.
 6And 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—
 7these 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.
 8Thus says the Lord God,
  who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
 I will gather others to them
  besides those already gathered.
Psalm 67
Let all the peoples praise you, O God. (Ps. 67:3)
 1May God be merciful to us and bless us;
  may the light of God’s face shine upon us.
 2Let your way be known upon earth,
  your saving health among all nations.
 3Let the peoples praise you, O God;
  let all the peoples praise you.
 4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
  for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations on earth.
 5Let the peoples praise you, O God;
  let all the peoples praise you.
 6The earth has brought forth its increase;
  God, our own God, has blessed us.
 7May God give us blessing,
  and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe.
Second Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
God has not rejected Israel. Rather, the call and gifts of God are irrevocable so that, while all have been disobedient, God has mercy upon all.
[Paul writes:] 1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2aGod has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
  29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Gospel: Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28
Jesus teaches his disciples that true purity is a matter of the heart rather than outward religious observances. Almost immediately, this teaching is tested when a woman considered to be a religious outsider approaches him for help.
[10[Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]
  21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just 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.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.