SUNDAY 16 AUGUST 2020
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
Let us pray,
Gracious God, when we come to your house we will find the door open,
Because there are no closing hours for the hospitality of heaven.
WHEN WE COME TO YOUR HOUSE, WE HEAR MANY ACCENTS,
OURS JUST ONE AMONG THEM,
FOR THERE IS NO FAVOURED NATION IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF HEAVEN.
When we come to your house, we see people who never thought they’d be allowed in,
Had entrance been by merit rather than by your gracious invitation.
So, as we come together in Jesus name, let the characteristics you cherish
Become evident in all we do and share together.
Gather us into one, the glorious assortments of unlikes which is your true church.
REVEAL WITH US WHAT WE MUST DO, WHAT WE MUST HEAR, AND WHO WE MUST WELCOME IF WE ARE TO KNOW JESUS AMONG US.
Reading : Matthew 15: 21-28
" Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 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.”
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.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment."
I wonder if you have ever had the experience of feeling left out, or uncomfortable in a particular setting?
Sometimes it happens if we're not sure of our role, place, or responsibilities.
I’m sure many of us will have had this experience at sometime, -- feeling left out, alone, out of our depth, unwelcome. It's a horrible feeling. So horrible, in fact, that we'll go to great lengths to avoid it.
Now, imagine for a moment feeling that way at church. This may be harder, as for most of us church is one of the places we feel most at home.
It may be hard for us to imagine making anyone feel unwelcome in our midst, but it does happen from time to time, and even the most non-judgemental we might think we are prejudices can surface unexpectedly.
It seems there’s nothing new under the sun when we come to our reading for this Sunday.
A commentator had this to say,
"Stretch your imaginations to watch the action taking place.
Gathered in one corner are those familiar disciples, for Matthew the true blue representatives of the faithful lost sheep of Israel the guardians of tradition, on their guard lest the mercies of God be wasted on the unworthy.
Like a group of bouncers at the door of the kingdom of God, they are checking of IDs and keeping out the non-pedigreed riffraff.
On the other side of the gate stands an outsider, a woman, a gentile, now become as it were a lost sheep plaintively pleading for the mercy of the master shepherd.
"Get rid of her," the "lost-sheep chorus" barks back in reply
And, for a moment the Shepherd of the lost tells this woman she is unfit to be fed with the food of life."
This is such an uncharacteristic face of Jesus, one we have not seen before, and it’s one that makes us cringe.......................and, it’ one of the passages of scripture that we find hard to understand.
Did Jesus really believe what he was saying, or was he saying it to shame those who were being so judgemental?
All I know is that it’s a passage that I have struggled with over the years.
Some of you will know that for many years now I have been involved in the ministry of Listening and I would say that Listening is one of the most useful tools in my pastoral tool box.
To offer someone the opportunity to be truly heard can often be a tremendous healing experience for that person.
One of the things that I learned very early in my training is that when we come into a listening session is that we do not come with “neutral ears”.
What that means is when we listen to someone we come with layers of our own life experiences which can, colour our thoughts about the person in front of us.
Things like our upbringing, our culture, our previous work experience, our church tradition, our genders, how we’ve been treated by others..........................the list goes on..................and so, easily we can either consciously or sub-consciously make judgments about another person.
The important thing is to realise this, and put all our judgments and prejudices aside and give the person in front of us our full attention and to allow them to be heard.
Whatever was going on went Jesus first encountered the woman that day, he eventually heard what he said and having heard her request, he answers and healing comes to her daughter.
In an instant the rigid boundaries of the kingdom put in place by those who wanted their faith to be exclusive to them alone are blown wide open.
She too is a daughter of Abraham, a child of God, beloved and welcome in his kingdom.
A lesson for those who observed Jesus first hand that day, and a lesson for us today, to look and listen and act as Jesus did and does.
Oh Lord, All The World Belongs To You
And You Are Always Making All Things New.
What Is Wrong, You Forgive,
And The New Life You Give
Is What’s Turning The World Upside Down.
The World Lives Divided And Apart,
You Draw Us Together, And We Start
In Our Friendship To See
That In Harmony We
Can Be Turning The World Upside Down.
Go well into this new week, may God bless you as you bless others in Jesus name.