This Sunday, Saint Paul’s will be down at Beckwith, our Diocesan camp and retreat center, having a joyful celebration of summer fun, a new school year, and life at sea level. It’ll be full of good food and family fun that will look something like this.
But then there is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ offence and the Canaanite woman that sounds a lot like this.
Thankfully, I’m not preaching this week. I’ve preached this lesson before, but not in the beauty of Beckwith, with an abundance of children all around. Truthfully, it isn’t an easy lesson to preach no matter the context. First, there’s the crude image of that which goes in the body (which we all know goes out through the sewer and could probably go without saying). Worse yet is the way in which the disciples and Jesus treat the Canaanite Woman.
First, the disciples try to get him to shoo her away, “for she keeps shouting after us.” Jesus doesn’t do that. Actually, I don’t think he never shoos someone away. Though I sort of wish he had in this case. Instead, he begins by claiming the special place that the Hebrews had in God’s plan for salvation, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This woman is nothing, however, if not persistent and she approaches Jesus, falls to her knees and worships him, pleading “Lord, help me.”
She was desperate, pleading not for herself, but for her child, a daughter, who is being tormented by a demon. She knows Jesus can help her daughter. She knows he probably shouldn’t, but she doesn’t care about that. Her faith outweighs the doubts of social convention. Her faith even outweighs Jesus’ own doubts about the whole thing. She meets Jesus’, “I’m not going to take the food meant for God’s chosen children (i.e. me and my miracles) and throw them to the dogs” not with the offence of the Pharisees (or even MAGIC!), but rather, she’s calls Jesus to task and invites him to rethink his vocation. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
It is an awful story of great faith, but I suppose many stories of great faith start out pretty awful.