Pioneer Days, Fort Harrod, Harrodsburg, KY
Sunday, August 20, 2017, 10:00 AM
Under the Osage Tree
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
The Canaanite woman comes as a beggar. Notice she has no name. When I was a professor of drama at Berea College, I used to tell students that when a character has no name in a play, it is often because that character stands for every person. This woman has no name. She represents us. She is all of us. And she comes from another region. She is the ‘other.’ She is the outsider. We were all outsiders once. She comes begging, not for herself, but for her daughter. She is a mother. The Lord had a mother, and He knew a mother’s heart, heartache and worry like when he was twelve and he worried her frantic when he was thought lost, having stayed behind in the Temple to talk with the priests. This Canaanite woman moves him, though perhaps not at first. Or perhaps he was testing her faith. But ultimately, he is moved by her earnestness and her need and by her sorely tested, persevering faith, that is, those things that unite us all – our common human blood, our common human need to be accepted, loved and healed. Jesus loves to meet our need. Need activates him. The need of a mother does this.
Yes, parents will always worry about their kids and will do anything for their welfare: make any sacrifice, even begging on their knees – as she does, for their welfare. I know many of you identify with her, asking for something beyond yourself, your children. You well know this. I remember my own parents, sacrificing and suffering and begging God for me in my rough patches.
The woman begs three times, kneeling to Jesus, demonstrating her faith in his ability to heal. She is not an Israelite, yet she has taken the trouble to learn and to use the Jewish prayer formula from the psalms and to call Jesus by his Messianic title, Son of David. She extends herself, going beyond herself and her own tradition. In these actions, she demonstrates that she believes. In response to the need and faith of this Gentile woman, Jesus senses his mission expanding to include ‘the other,’ the ones beyond his own people, the Jews.
When I was a teacher at Berea College I often heard quoted and saw on the College seal, the quotation from Acts 17:26: “God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth.” Why? Because Berea College is an interracial college, educating blacks and whites together. The operative word is together, of one human blood. I think you know I am referencing the events in our nation of the past ten days. It goes without saying, if you will.
This everywoman, every man, every Christian, every person of faith, every believer in God, this Canaanite woman — she is a model of perseverance in asking three times for what she needs and wants. In doing so, she is being stretched, expanded. In this stretching and expanding, God is creating a larger opening in her, an expansion of the place deep within, in which he is will place that which he is preparing her to receive. God may well be preparing her to receive the great gift he is about to offer her, the healing power that is himself. This can apply to us, as well. We might remember this woman when we don’t receive immediately the things for which we might be asking God. Patience and perseverance are gifts in themselves, yes?
As we are doing this morning, we must persevere in our prayer and action for unity among us. We are all Gentiles, not Israelites. We have been received with compassion. Because of what we have received from Christ, meeting our need, as people possessing God’s one blood, we have learned to extend ourselves to others, made of one blood, that is, to show the love of Christ to others, of whatever race, to proclaim Him by our actions in the street, on every street in Harrodsburg – Main Street, Chiles Street, Lexington Street, Poplar Street, College Street as well as the county – and in every shop and establishment.
Today is the Sabbath. The Sabbath nurtures us, lifts us, so we can keep doing our mission – for others. Take advantage of these last Sundays of summer, seeing in the beauty of summer, God’s glory. Let it strengthen us to pray for others, to welcome others and to keep doing our mission. Why? Because God has made on one blood all the nations of the earth.” Let the Lord say to us, “Great is your faith!” Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
Rev. Dr. Albert J. DeGiacomo, M.Div., Ph.D., Pastor
Saint Andrew Catholic Church