Considerations prior to the online sermon for the international church service for the Sjælland Departure Center, Sunday 28 February 2021 at 14:30 (that online sermon is unfortunately cancelled)
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Matthew 15: 21-28- from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
– The Canaanite woman
In today’s gospel, we meet a person who is an outsider and who has every reason to give up. She is a stranger and has a sick daughter. Still, she does not give up. She persists and does everything she can to get Jesus’ attention and help – even though Jesus’ disciples would rather see the back of her.
It is thought-provoking that Jesus seems to be influenced by this foreigner. One senses the importance of this outsider: She manages to modify Jesus’ target group: Instead of being for Jews alone, salvation is now extended to anyone who believes in Jesus as the Son of God.
The Canaanite woman is brave, and rarely has anyone like her challenged the Son of God. Despite the fact that the Son of God rejects her three times, she still insists: “Yes, Lord, for even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”. She insists on being included in a fellowship that was not intended for her and other foreigners.
Today’s gospel of the Canaanite woman is particularly joyful because it argues against all forms of narrow-mindedness, self-preoccupation, and darkness: even when all seems hopeless, there is hope. Even in times of utmost desperation, relief and comfort are provided.
She who deserves nothing and has no right or claim to anything is nevertheless provided the help and the access to the kingdom of God that was otherwise intended for the Jews. She, who was foreign and unworthy, receives it anyway. Almost in spite of her background and in spite of her behavior, she is granted fellowship with the Son of God.
She does not behave politely or correctly according to the norms of the time. She is unworthy and is treated as an outcast. Her request of the Son of God is inappropriate, and she rudely and shamelessly talks back to him. Yet her meeting with the Son of God ends happily: She is not rejected, and instead she is given mercy and her daughter is delivered from her affliction: “And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
The daughter recovers immediately after Jesus sees the woman’s faith and says, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted”. By virtue of her faith, the Canaanite woman is a role model. Her faith is so persistent that it makes possible that which otherwise looked hopeless.
From an evangelical perspective, today’s message about a person with strong faith is gratifying: Because it is faith and not deeds nor social, cultural or genetic prerequisites that make it possible. Faith is what forms the community and builds a bridge to a new community. The new community that can shared with the whole world and bring the whole world together, despite the narrow-mindedness, intolerance and self-preoccupation of the past.
The only common denominator required for the new community is the shared faith in he who is Lord. In many ways the Canaanite woman is a symbol of this new world, which is open to all believers in Christ and all Christian denominations.It is up to the individual to do as the Canaanite woman – then as now: Do not hold back, and instead accept the challenge, no matter what prejudices and intolerances one encounters. The hope is that there will be room in that community of Christ-believers. That thecommunity is not closed in on itself but instead is open and inclusive for everyone who believes in and proclaims him as Lord.
Today’s gospel is at the same time a warning to those who might try to exclude others from his community. Community with him must be shared with others – despite cultural, historical and ethnic differences. His community is there to break boundaries. Community with him is there to include, rather than exclude. Faith in him is what alone will constitute the new community.
– translation by Kelly Anne Keenan Fjelstrup