Sermon given by The Rev’d Canon Rob Park on Sunday, August 20, 2017, based on text Matthew 15:21-28.
As Christians we believe that God’s message of Good News is for everyone. That God, through Jesus, wanted everyone to hear it and receive it. A message that included that God’s love is for the whole world.
A gift of God’s love for us is our freedom and free will which which we can choose to follow God to follow Good or to choose evil and turn away from God.
Of course life is not cut and dry and making the right choice isn’t alway clear and there is always grey areas. Some things are clearer to us, and one of those things that are clearer for us today as Christians is that ethnic and religious cleansing, genocide, slavery and racism are evil. Hate is wrong.
I know it seems obvious to us who are here today in church, right?
But truthfully it hasn’t always been so clear. Those evil things have a history in the bible, just as they do in the history of British Empire, Canada, and the United States. Indigenous people treated as lesser people forced from their land, enslaved, imprisoned, and often eradicated, by a foreign power. In the Bible, this happened to the Hebrew people by the Egyptians, to the Canaanites by the Hebrews, to the people of Israel by the Babylonians, to early Christians by the Roman Empire. In our continent’s history, it happened on the largest scale, to Africans by the British and Americans, to the North American Indigenous people by the settlers and founders of Canada and the United States.
Before we remove any splinters from anyone else’s eye, we have to acknowledge our own nations roots and even our biblical roots are not without brokenness in our own history and tradition. I am grateful for the continuing work of reconciliation being done by the Anglican Church of Canada and by those supporting Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to help restore us to a right relationship with Indigenous peoples.
Even when we make mistakes, we know that God is calling us away from such injustice. I believe that the Good News proclaimed by Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit has worked to reveal justice to us. The Holy Spirit has changed us for the good and away from the evil that comes with racism and prejudice that dehumanizes others because they are different.
Our scripture passage today is a great example of the roots of that transformation to a fuller justice. Our reading today is part of the revelation of God’s love and justice that extends to all people.
In our story today, the Canaanite Woman believes, with all her heart, that Jesus can help her daughter. So she will not give up, even when insulted and made to feel lesser.
The disciples don’t want to help her. Even Jesus is resistant to respond to her plea seemingly because of her differing race, nationality, and gender.
Yet, she persists in her request for help and she resists Jesus’ seemingly ethnic based boundaries on his message.
She persists and fights for what she knows is right.
She persists and fights for what she knows is right. Her daughter is being tortured by evil. So she is willing to fight for help for her daughter.
Convinced by her persistence and resistance to be turned away, Jesus ultimately responds both by healing her daughter and just as importantly, by commending her faith.
“Woman, great is your faith!” (Matthew 15:28)
This is a big deal because if you remember last week, Jesus commented on the lack of faith shown by his own disciple Peter.
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:13)
She, a Canaanite and woman, is complimented for the greatness of her faith, while Jesus’ own Jewish disciples faith is called small. In our very story today, we are seeing the how the Good News in Jesus Christ is moving away from ethnic, gender, and nationalist narrowness of his followers understanding of God’s love.
This is a good thing for most of us, if not all of us in church here today. Because if Jesus’ message of Good News isn’t for the Canaanite woman, then it couldn’t be for us either, and we couldn’t be Christian.
But it was. And it is.
Jesus’ compliment of the greatness of her faith is an important confirmation.
Her demonstration of faith is an example for us to resist and persist against the many forms of evil and hate that still surround us in this world. Now, there are times when we have to fight against evil and we have even done so nation against nation in the two world wars, but most often when we face evil in our daily lives we can reject this evil by words and actions of love.
And in this last few weeks when there has been numerous acts of violent hate and demonstrations of groups promoting evil, hateful and bigoted messages, we are challenged to respond.
We should not we act like the disciples in our gospel today, and try to push the problem away or put it out of sight. But acting with Faith and from love, we should engage the injustice of evil when we see it and speak and act against it.
As Christians we need to help this world and ourselves to be changed for good, and in doing so we will grow in faith and further proclaim the Good News of Christ. We need to resist hate in others and in ourselves. We need to act in faith with Love.
Hate has no place in the Kingdom of God.