Summary: A sermon for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15, Series A.
14th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 15] August 17, 2008 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord, through the sacrament of Baptism, you have reached out to us and embraced us as your own, a child of your kingdom. You have revealed your love and redeeming grace to us, through the life, death and resurrection Jesus, your beloved Son. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, working through your church, you have nurtured us in faith. Help us to realize that you also love and care for those whom we often ignore. Give us courage to reach out to those outside the church, and extend tot hem your redeeming grace. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning gives us a glimpse into the life of some unknown Gentile woman from Canaan. We don’t know her name, for it is not mentioned in either Matthew or Mark, where this episode in the life of Jesus is recorded. And yet, her story is not unlike yours and mine, as we seek to know the grace of God in Jesus the Christ. So let us step into this story, with boldness of imagination.
Matthew tells us that after Jesus had finished teaching a large crowd, and then, having to explain his teachings to his disciples, Jesus left that place and went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. As we progress through these pages of Matthew’s Gospel, we see an increasing effort on Jesus’ part to gain some rest and time for meditation and renewal. Since this was a gentile, or non-Jewish region, we can assume that Jesus was hoping that at last he could gain some time alone.
But as Jesus and his disciples were walking through a village marketplace, the streets seemed to come alive with talk about him, and his reputation as a man of God, who could not only teach with authority, but also that he forgave sins, and healed the sick. Word of Jesus had spread beyond the Jewish settlements of Galilee, even to this small, Gentile village.
Here in lies the first lesson of our text. People are genuinely hungry to hear the Word of God. We, like children, not only need to know the expectations of human behavior that identify us as members of God’s family, but we need to know that we are loved, and can be forgiven when we err. Jesus embodied this message, and his word spread, even beyond the Jewish community.
We might assume, then, that this Canaanite mother had heard stories about Jesus, especially about his ability to heal the sick and cast out demons. For you see, her daughter suffered from what she believed to be a demon. Oh, some days her daughter would be well, playing with her dolls, making believe that she was a good mother. But every so often, she would get a glazed look in her eyes, fall to the floor, and thrash her arms and legs in a violent rage. It was as if something took hold of her body and simply tormented her.
Of course, most of us in today’s modern society with the advancements in medical science and technology that we have experienced over the past century, don’t give much credence to demons. Today, we would say that this woman’s daughter suffered from epilepsy. Nevertheless, when you think about it, isn’t epilepsy, like several other diseases now identified by modern medicine, characterized as if something took control of one’s body, and disturbed their normal behavior?
Well, this woman from Canaan had watched her daughter, who was so bubbly and full of life, suffer far too often, from the torment that this demon inflicted upon her. And hearing that this stranger in town was Jesus, this Jewish rabbi, whom she had heard so many reports about his ability to cast out demons, she couldn’t restrain herself. Out of love for her daughter, she, though a gentile, though a woman, dared to speak up and plead for Jesus to heal her daughter.
Here in lies our second lesson for today. It takes courage to embrace the Word of God. The Jewish people of that day usually ignored the gentiles, and especially the women, who had little status, even among their own religious family. But this woman, this mother of a daughter who was possessed by a demon, would not be silenced. She had the courage to seek the healing power of God’s living Word.
Perhaps she didn’t understand the total significance of who Jesus was, and from whom she was seeking help. It could be that she didn’t even care. All she knew was her need of the saving and redeeming grace of God, whom Jesus was reported to represent. And so, trusting in his ability to heal her daughter, she persisted in shouting out to Jesus, as he and his disciples walked through the street. “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; for my daughter is tormented by a demon.”