Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 17, 2014
The story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, an uncomfortable story, is worthy of our attention. Jesus and his disciples have entered into Gentile territory, where they are met by a Canaanite woman (someone considered an outsider and an enemy) who is disturbing the(ir) peace. Yet her shouts rightfully address Jesus: “Lord, Son of David.” She knows who he is. Jesus ignores her, yet she continues to challenge him. Made desperate by an ill daughter, she seeks Jesus for her daughter’s healing. How can Jesus shut her out so completely, we ask. This doesn’t seem like the Jesus we know and love. The disciples urge a quick end to this disruption: “Send her away.” Jesus reminds them of his sole mission to fulfill God’s promise of salvation to Israel. She persists.
Jesus now answers her, using the image of food being fed to a dog if he were to use his divine powers for an outsider. What? Jesus? Yet the woman persists and in so doing challenges Jesus to consider that God’s saving power is abundant, even for faithful people outside of Israel. Jesus considers. Her daughter is healed.
Jesus has a revelation through the persistence of the Canaanite woman! Matthew places this story between the two feeding stories: the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000. In both those instances we are reminded of God’s abundance and that the house of Israel was indeed fed. In this story, we are reminded that God’s abundance includes those whom we consider outsiders.
Whom are we sending away? What are the quick fixes we want, as opposed to God’s revelation, resulting in new understandings of the Holy One?
Mary Lou Plummer, pastor, Moravian Church, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.