Sermon: The Rev. Linda Ferguson
Sermon: The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost
But this woman doesn’t give up easily. She presses up against resistance; as a woman she is used to this. She continues to speak up and out until she gets what she wants. She knows that these boundaries may prohibit her deepest desires, but she is not willing to accept them. She pushes against them and reveals her humanity to Jesus: “Lord, help me.” She is a human in need like any other human.Jesus seems slow in empathy toward her. He even calls her a dog, as opposed to a child of God, a human. Yet she doesn’t allow his insensitive, insulting words to deter her. When Jesus says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” she replies, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Because she speaks the truth, Jesus says her faith is great—and her daughter is healed. The truth opens the door to freedom.Today, Mark is demonstrating how Jesus had begun reaching out to people outside the inner circle of the chosen people. In fact Jesus was reaching across the boundaries into people who had traditionally been understood as cursed.Why is this important to us? Simply as it reminds us of God’s concern for those who are not of the same culture and, for those of us within the church who might want to behave as if God’s love has any boundaries. Jesus comes into the world pleading on the world’s behalf for the healing of the world and its people.
I think about everything that is happening in today’s world. The accounts we have heard in personal stories of pain and illness, the division in our country and other countries in the world also and immersed in global situations that are staggering. And the questions that each one of us have wondering what drives people to the brink of violence and inhumanity? How do we come to a situation in a world where there is so much violence unfolding in the Middle East - most recently in Afghanistan.I would like to share an excerpt from a letter written by our retired Bishop Wendell Gibbs. The letter written back in August of 2017, still speaks to what is happening in our world today. The name of the letter is “Hate Has No Home Here”.Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,In light of the news and the current state of our nation, it may feel to some that all is lost. Others may believe that all is lost. Others may believe that we are too divided to ever become the beloved community we strive to be. Yet, as Jesus’ disciples, we are commanded to bring God’s love and justice to the oppressed; to speak the truth of God’s love, and to pray for those with hate and violence in their hearts.When we see these evil acts of violence and intolerance, ours must be the voices and actions of protest and prayer. We must know that we have the ability and the responsibility to change the hearts of the hateful. Together we can begin to heal our wounds; to listen to each other and to create a future of hope, compassion, and love.
The dreams of those who have marched and protested and cried out for justice in the past require our action, our labor, to become reality. All is not lost. As Nelson Mandela once wrote: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin or their background or for their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”We have work to do teaching love: from the mansions of the State to the houses of the poorest among us. It is not going to be easy, and it is work that must be done for the cause of justice; and because it is the work of the Jesus Movement.May there be peace among us. Bishop Wendall N. Gibbs, Jr.This is the message of grace that we as the church celebrate and we are drawn into living again as God’s people, no longer cursed by demons we are drawn like the disciples into following Jesus; and as his followers we participate in his mission and his ministry as a celebration of that self-giving love for us.Today, Mark reminds us of the Spirit poured out on the disciples long ago and also on us now that empowers us not simply to be recipients of God’s unconditional grace and healing, but bearers of it in the world. Here we are reminded that we have within our grasp the means by which we can change the lives of others.
Sometimes, the life of faith does not turn out the way we want it to. When this happens, we must continue to believe not only because we want to, but because we have to. Jesus is the only one we can hope in when all hope is lost. Jesus is the only one we can seek out, fall at his feet and ask for even a small amount of help. Jesus can take our belief and call it faith.Jesus crossed all sorts of racial, religious and other boundaries during his ministry, and he calls on us to cross those same boundaries today. Jesus’ commitment to enter Gentile territory shows his commitment to those who are different, and he calls on us to share that same commitment.Let us pray.Father, we give you thanks for people like the Syrophoenician woman, for people who rattle us with the truth. Help us to be ever mindful of the voices of others, to those who cry out for mercy. Feed all of us with your grace and bring us to the day when all may gather at your banquet table. We pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.