St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-20-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-20-2017

In the Struggle

Genesis 45:1-15, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, Matthew 15:21-28

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Last week, many of my Pastor friends talked about re-writing their sermons at the last minute in the wake of the protests in Charlottesville Virginia with the dreadful violence that occurred and the horrid hatefulness that was exhibited.

I felt blessed that I didn’t have to do a rewrite; acknowledging and crediting the movement of the Holy Spirit yet again, my message already addressed at least one of the conditions that needed to be addressed. At the most, my rewrite was confined to the morning announcements where I spoke of those events and asked those in attendance to keep them in mind as they listened to my morning message later in the service.

To recap for the benefit of any who were not here last week and a reminder for those who were; that message was built on the story of Jesus, walking on water, approaching the Disciples in their boat and Peter’s limited success at joining him; first managing to walk on the water but then sinking as his faith wavered in the face of the mighty wind. In it I pointed out that Jesus calls us, “commands us”, to get out of the relative safety of our boat and into the turbulent world around us; and do the work, his work, of calming the storm.

I also spoke of how this calling creates tension in our lives: Tension between faith and fear; tension between courage and anxiety; tension between hearing Christ’s call to serve and looking at the terror of the storm around us; tension between trust and doubt.


Having more time to reflect on the events in Charlottesville last weekend I, of course, recognized the storm and turbulence within our own society. I also noticed the tension between the good and evil; no surprise here. But I also noticed the tension between tolerance and intolerance!

This added awareness first began to develop when I read someone’s words blaming the government of Charlottesville for the trouble; stating that they should never have granted a permit for the demonstration to the white nationalist hate groups on the grounds of their intolerance.

Held in tension against that is the granted liberty for all people to demonstrate peacefully. If any level of Government can limit who is permitted and who is not, the law is no longer applied equally as it must be! The deserving and the undeserving; the permissible and the impermissible cannot be determined before the event. And, we also need to think of what group will be excluded next, would it be those who oppose intolerance; who are themselves intolerant of intolerance?

The awareness further developed when a “friend” shared a post on facebook in support of president Trump that was so full of lies, half truths, and distorted facts that I was appalled. Yet, how do we deter such as that without interfering with all free speech. (A side note here; I exorcised my right to free speech in response to that post).

Coincidentally, (or not), as I pondered these things another facebook post was shared that addressed the paradox of tolerance and intolerance. It reads…

“Should a tolerant society tolerate intolerance? The answer is No. It’s a paradox but unlimited tolerance can lead to the extinction of tolerance. When we extend tolerance to those who are openly intolerant, the tolerant ones end up being destroyed. Any movement that preaches intolerance and persecution must be outside the law. As paradoxical as it may seem, defending tolerance requires us to not tolerate the intolerant”. (The open Society and its Enemies: Karl R. Popper).

Now there’s some serious tension!

So what do we do in all this tension, what do we do when everything isn’t cut and dry; black and white. Well, for one thing, we can turn to the Word of God for guidance. Lucky for me, today’s Gospel text addresses tension. (Thank you again Holy Spirit).

Is it just me, or do others of you find the story odd; seeming to present even Jesus, the one who has been blessing and healing all kinds of people, as a chauvinistic bigot?

Yet, here he is, venturing out of his own territory and a Canaanite woman (two strikes against her already in his patriarchal, xenophobic society) comes respectfully asking for his help, and he ignores her. Even his Disciples get annoyed at her persistence, and she doesn’t get any interaction until she gets in front of Jesus on her knees, blocking his way, pleading again “Lord help me”! Then comes his response about “throwing the children’s food to the dogs”; which was as dismissive and insulting then as it would be today.

There’s obviously tension here: tension between a foreign woman and a Judean man; tension between an Israeli and a Canaanite. It’s not a comfortable scene by any stretch of the imagination.

But there’s another layer of tension behind what’s seen in the moment. It’s the tension between today’s reading and what we heard last week.

Last week dealt with Jesus coming to his Disciples, handpicked men of his own land, and with Peter, starting out fine as he got out of the boat, but then wavering and beginning to sink; to which Jesus said “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

This held in tension with today’s story where a stranger – a foreign woman – comes to Jesus – and does notwaver in her request, to which Jesus said “Woman, great is your faith”!

It is in this tension that the woman heard Jesus’ proclamation “Great is your faith” and received the blessing she asked for.

Likewise, it is in the tension that we find what we ask for. It is not by standing firm on one side or the other, but by allowing ourselves to be within the tension that we find the wisdom of knowing on which side to stand under what circumstances; who and what to stand with and who and what to stand against; when to be tolerant and when to be intolerant. It is also from within the tension that we learn to better understand another troublesome statement of Christ’s when he says “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”.

As the Canaanite woman shows us, to struggle in the tension, even to struggle with our preconceived notions of God and Christ, is itself “Great Faith”.



Matthew 15: 21-28
15:21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
15:22 Just 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.”
15:23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
15:24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
15:25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
15:26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
15:27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
15:28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.


Genesis 45:1-15
45:1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
45:2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.
45:3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
45:4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
45:5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
45:6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.
45:7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
45:8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
45:9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.
45:10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.
45:11 I will provide for you there–since there are five more years of famine to come–so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.
45:12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you.
45:13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.”
45:14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck.
45:15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.


Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
11:1 I 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.
11:2a God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
11:30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
11:31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.
11:32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merc