The Pas Proper / Ordinary 23 – Pentecost + 16 – Trinity + 15
9 September 2018
Psalm 125 pg 884
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Maker of us all,
you call us to love our neighbours as ourselves
and teach us that faith without works is dead.
Open us to the ministries that lie before us,
where faith and the needs of our neighbour
come together in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen.
The interaction between the Syro-Phonecian woman and Jesus, today, is one that is fascinating to me for a number of reasons.
After all, it appears we have the single mother, of a daughter, who is approaching Jesus. Once more, we see a woman on the edge of society by circumstances are beyond her control. And not only that, but a woman with a daughter at home.
Societally, this is two strikes against this woman and her daughter because there is no one to help to provide the means for a home and a socially acceptable entrance into the community. And without a husband or father, there is no one to negotiate a marriage for the daughter, nor provide a dowry for the occasion, when it arises, in her life.
We see, we meet a woman on the edge of society, on the edge of her wits, and on the edge of loosing the last bit of desperate hope for a life for her daughter.
So, let’s look at this situation in as much detail as we can imagine.
And today we see that Jesus is on holiday.
He’s here, in Tyre, to admire the architecture, to take in the museums, to try the local cuisine, to ‘kick back’ for a couple of days in the company of the disciples. After all ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!’
So, Jesus and the disciples arrive in town.
They find their hotel, and have just checked into their rooms, they’ve taken a look at the contents of the mini bar, checked out the working hours of the hotel restaurant, and are thinking of taking a dip in the hotel’s pool.
After all, the weather is warm and sunny, and how else would you start a laid-back weekend get away, but with a dip in the pool, and a bit of sunbathing?
On the way through the hotel lobby, Jesus is spotted by this woman.
She’s average height, and build, a little on the slim side and she probably hasn’t eaten, yet, today.
She has brown hair, that’s a little frazzled and eyes that are tired. She’s dressed in jeans, running shoes, and a t-shirt that are in good repair, and clean, but obviously aren’t new.
She looks tired, worried, and a little at her wits end.
Today’s gospel tells us: “24 Jesus … went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.” ( Mk 7:24-25)
But, really, what attracts our attention is how she focuses completely on Jesus who is, equally, casually dressed in swim trunks, flip flops, and a t-shirt, and is trying to locate the hotel pool.
How she never takes her attention from Jesus and from what she needs: healing for her daughter.
We see them, in the hotel lobby, next to the now abandoned breakfast bar, this woman throws herself at Jesus’ feet, and immediately begins to beg, to implore, to cry, to do anything but let loose of his feet to make Jesus hear her, and fulfill her need, her prayer, her faith in God, and in the Son.
We see that she’s hanging on to his ankles and refusing to let go! She’s loud and disruptive. She’s crying, and begging, and pleading, and doing a little more begging, all the while hanging on to his feet. After all, this is the one man who is able to make a difference in her life, who is able to free her daughter from demon possession, who is able to provide a modicum of hope for tomorrow, for this woman, and her daughter.
The disciples and the hotel staff are looking on and wondering if they should be getting the police involved. After all, she’s “a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. [and] She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.” (Mk 7:25, 26b)
Now, if it were up to each one of us, how would we approach this situation? What if it were our child lying at home, possessed by a demon.
We’ve already gone to all of the local doctors? We’ve seen the famed healers, and the experts in alleviating demonic possession in adults, and in children, and all we’ve come away with is a still possessed child, and a pile of bills for services rendered (but not guaranteed.) Add into this that we find out that Jesus has come to town.
Into this seemingly hopeless situation we find that the Christ, the Messiah, the one to whom demons listen and depart when Jesus calls their names, has arrived in Tyre.
Our bank accounts are depleted, and our family has started to complain because we’ve, quite frankly, worn out our welcome, in that department.
So, at our wits end, here we are.
Here we find ourselves, today, clinging to the feet of the one man who could possibly change our lives, and offer hope for a better tomorrow than we saw yesterday. Praying for recovery and hope for a daughter who, in the end, is healed by Jesus, who never actually meets the child.
So, then, how is our faith able to carry us through such situations? How is it able to be the driving force that we see it for the woman at Jesus feet?
How is our faith able to carry us through this crisis, not necessarily of faith, but of health, of wellbeing, of hope for the future?
And this isn’t the first time Jesus heals without even meeting the patient. One other that comes to mind is the centurion’s servant. The centurion who sends to Christ to come and heal his servant but doesn’t come himself, he sends others to petition Jesus to come on his behalf.
In the end, it’s not seeing the servant that moves Jesus to provide healing, but rather the faith of the centurion.
“[Jesus] was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. (Lk 7:6b-7, 9-10)
But today, we are looking at the faith of a single mother. We are looking at the love of a mother for her daughter. We’re looking at the love of the messiah for all of humanity.
An experiment in ethics looks at how men and women deal differently with such a crisis within their families.
For a man, faced with the illness of a child, and a shortage of funds for medicine, ethics and sociology tells us that he will be more inclined to steal the medicine, or at the very least steal the funds needed to get the medicine for the child.
A woman, in the same circumstances, ethically and sociologically will find a way that doesn’t involve crime in order to get the same treatment for the same daughter.
Maybe that’s why today’s gospel doesn’t describe to us a husband for the woman at Jesus feet? Maybe he’s already tried to steal to help his family and faced Roman law as a consequence. But the fact is we have a mother, a woman, on her face, hanging onto Jesus feet, begging him to do what no one else can do, to save her daughter from a demon possession.
We see her putting the whole of her faith in the man before her, and in what he, and only he is able to do for her daughter.
And Jesus, in the end, responds to her faith. He responds to our faith in the same circumstances.
The catechism, in talking about prayer, tells us this same thing. It encourages us to put prayer as the first and greatest act of our lives of faith. The catechism asks us: “What do you desire of God in this prayer?
Answer. [We] desire [our] Lord God our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, To send his grace unto [us], and to all people: That we may worship him, and serve him, and obey him as we ought to do: And [we] pray unto God, that he will send us all things that are needful both for our souls and bodies: That he will be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins, and help us to forgive others: … And this [we] trust he will do of his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore [we] say, Amen, So be it.” (BCP pg. 549-550)
Amen. So be it.
And in this, Christ, then responds to the faith of the woman. But along the way, Christ tests her resolve. Is she serious about this, or is it an attention seeking strategy just to be in the local papers, and headlining in the tabloids?
So, how do we live our faith? What will we do to find healing and solace, a future and hope for the ones we love, for our selves.
I was reading a daily devotional, this week that points out that if we are looking for blessing from God, we must be the blessing for others. We ae not meant to hold on to the blessings that God gives us for the betterment of life with both hands, but instead we are meant to share those blessings with the world.
Today we see the lengths to which a mother will go to provide healing for her daughter.
And we see how God responds to such a need, blessing her in her life, in the life of her daughter.
When we live our lives by faith, then in faith, God responds.
In faith our lives are filled with blessing, and nothing can rattle that faith, and the rewards for such faith lived out are more than we can ever imagine.
Jesus tells the woman, he tells each one of us: “27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mk 7:27-30)
If faith can move mountains, then crumbs can feed the world. My prayer, today, is that we are all filled to bursting with the crumbs that fall from the table of faith.