Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to a Sermon

So I'm trying to figure out how to preach this weeks gospel lectionary, Matt 15: 21-28. I get a phone call from a woman, with kids, no rent, sick husband, no job, and frankly I'm thinking that this is the usual story that I've heard before and I wish I could just hand up the phone. Well she only wanted a couple hundred bucks, so I figured the church could probably swing the assistance. Until I asked her address and found out she wasn't from Harrisville. Berean is extremely generous in helping people, but we restrict that assistance to families in our community, and I think that is a good policy. so I suggested a few churches in the womans town and went back to writing my sermon.

Matt 15: 21-28 is all about a Canaanite woman who approaches Jesus requesting his assistance for her demon-possessed daughter. But she is Canaanite and so Jesus doesn't even respond. She persists and Jesus final answers that he has come for Israel first. She gets on her knees and here is where the story gets tough. Jesus basically calls her a dog. Why should he feed the dog when the children are hungry. (Israel being the children of course). She flips it on him and says that as the dog she doesn't need a full meal, just a few crumbs. Jesus relents and exorcises the daughter from afar.

Now, this is no fun to think about. Jesus ignoring someone in need. Jesus calling names and succumbing to prejudice. A good friend of mine said whenever this comes up in the lectionary he promptly switches to the OT text.

so I'm sitting around trying to figure out what to do with it.
Guess who calls. The woman calls again. Every church is turning her down. Some don't return her calls, some are downright rude. She is desperate. Now, I ask you, how do I say again, 'Sorry, there is nothing I can do,' and then preach a sermon this sunday. How do I encourage the church to let their hearts be broken when I wouldn't let mine be touched by this?

I know what you are thinking. I don't know her. This could be a scam. She could be lying. She might just buy crack although the money is going right to her landlord, but maybe she and landlord split it. I don't have much money myself and my own kids to feed. Berean already gives without ever complaining, I can't ask for more. So many reasons to apologize and hang up the phone. apparently every other church did. Jesus certainly was tempted. But the Canaanite woman persisted and Jesus relented.

Following Christ is not easy. If we take seriously what Jesus said about giving generously to any who ask, forgive over and over again, turn the other cheek, well, it will not come naturally. It goes against our better judgment sometimes, it will not come easily, will not be convenient and will connect us with people that we might rather not know. Apparently even Jesus struggled to listen to his own sermons sometimes.

I still don't quite know what the sermon will be although I'll never forget the illustration that God apparently sent my way.
I feel a bit queasy writing out the check.
there is a good sermon title, follow Jesus and feel queasy.
It costs something, demands risks, makes us look and feel foolish

Then again, how queasy did Christ feel as Judas kissed his cheek?

1 comment:

VanceH said...

Hi Darin,
With that text, and a persistent caller I think it would have been wrong to say no. I don't believe those sorts of synchronicities are accidental. People want to reject these sorts of things because they can't be generalized--you can't give to everyone that calls. But I don't think our walk is about generalities--I think it is about the next step.

-- Vance