What will you ask for? Sermon Trinity 14

Picture from Oxfam

In our gospel reading today we have two different stories we could look at. Firstly of a mother pleading for the healing of her daughter from a demon. And secondly, the healing of a deaf man with a speech impediment.
Both of these stories hold important messages. Both with deeper meanings to convey.
But after the course of this last week, it’s the story of the Syrophonecian woman that I am drawn to the most.
This week has brought to mind for most of us the importance of our children and has brought home how precious and fragile life can be.
We’ve all see the tragic pictures of the migrants struggle to find, hope and peace in this world, and in particular of the little boy washed up on the shore.

His image, and the many other images that have been included in media reports have, I hope, changed the course of this crisis as governments, agencies and individuals are now stepping up their efforts to provide support, and in finding solutions for those searching for a new life.
In the preparation of this sermon, this crisis has been made more real to me through the reflection of our gospel. Of a mother, begging for and fighting for the life of her child.
Jesus is travelling. As he is often depicted in the gospel of Mark. He is getting away from the business of the crowds who have been following him. So he travels to Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile region to find some peace.
Although news about Jesus, and stories of the things he’d done for people had been travelling, it was unlikely that many of the people in this region would have heard about him. These were classed as unclean lands, no go zones for the Jews. Jesus wasn’t well known in this area. And so he found a place to stay, and asked that his host to tell no one he was here.
But a woman sort him out. And now, as this story continues, for us it gets a little confusing. Because this image we tend to have of Jesus, a loving, caring, healing Jesus, doesn’t match the one we have of him here. For the majority of us there is no question that Jesus will heal the person in need, he never refuses to help. Like with the deaf man, there wasn’t a hesitation that Jesus would heal him. But here, something different seems to be going on:
She begged him to cast the demon out of her child.
He said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Wait, what?
“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Did our nice, kind Jesus just call this woman a dog? Surely not!
Surely our Jesus isn’t that harsh. Surely our Jesus isn’t siding with the prejudice of the time? Putting women to one side, ignoring the poor, turning backs on those who have the wrong background, nationality, skin colour, religion??
Jesus was called, ‘King of the Jews’ and its made clear throughout the old testament that the messiah, the chosen one of God, would come for the Jews. And that Jesus came to find, ‘the lost sheep of the tribe of Israel’.
So, is he saying that because of this calling, and because she is a gentile woman he shouldn’t heal her daughter?

But think for a moment, if Jesus had not healed the girl, because her mother was from the wrong area, or believed the wrong things, salvation would be limited for the few. And that is no saviour at all. So there must be more going on…
“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
The woman understand what he is saying. And isn’t nearly as offended as I would be if I’d just been called a dog. And so she comes back at him, she doesn’t challenge the comparison of the gentiles being dogs compared to the Jews being the children, instead she takes up this description and uses it to her benefit:
‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’
She says that there is room, even for the Gentiles at the feast of the kingdom. The Jews may come first, but there is a place for Gentiles, too, at the banquet.

For the faith and understanding she shows, Jesus tells her that her child is healed and she is to go on her way.
I have great respect for this woman, because instead of accepting the social norms, she is willing to do whatever it takes to save her child. Even argue with the son of God.
She asked for crumbs, and she was given the bread of life.
Millions of parents are currently crying out for lives of their children, many of them running scared from situations we can hardly imagine and will never experience.
And I have a huge amount of respect for them. And pray that they too will be given more then they can ask for or imagine.
It is good and right that today we celebrate today the precious lives of
Who are being brought by their parents and godparents for baptism, so that they can share, not in the crumbs of the banquet table, but from the bread of life also. And that as we celebrate today, they will continue to pray for their children.
The mother asked for crumbs and got the bread of eternal life. What will you ask for today?

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Published by

sallyjjones

Minor Canon Youth Chaplain at St Albans Cathedral. Dog owner, historian, technology geek, pilgrim.

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