Proper 15A (OT 20)
233: August 20, 2017
Voice in the Wilderness: Nicole Cox
PSALMIST RICHARD BRUXVOORT COLLIGAN
Featured Musician: Red Molly
“The challenge of reading this story is that it presents Jesus in a non-flattering light and good boys and girls throughout Christendom have been taught never to consider Jesus in a non-flattering light. Some of those good boys and girls have grown up into biblical commentators and still will not accept the starkness of this story, insisting that Jesus is merely testing this desperate woman’s faith.” (Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It)
Literary context of the story
Jesus rejects the traditional notions of what it means to be faithful/clean
Sets up the following passage - Even Jesus should not be bound/guided by tradition but by love.
Gary Charles - “The argument between Jesus and the religious authorities is no obscure theological fight over how many angels can dance on the head of a needle. For Jesus, religious purity and faithful discipleship are not measured ultimately by how many perfect attendance badges one earns for Sunday school or worship, how often one has read the Bible from cover to cover, or how much money one contributes to the church treasury. Purity and faithfulness are shown ultimately by how the church speaks and lives out the radical hospitality and love of Christ.”
21-28 - the Canaanite woman
Within earshot of Jesus teaching about what is unclean, comes an unclean woman challenging him.
This is not a miracle story. This is a rhetorical battle story, and here’s the shocking thing: Jesus loses.
The woman whose daughter is.being tormented by a demon
“Squawking” (Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It)
“Lord have mercy” Kyrie Eleison
The woman is undeterred by his indifference and disciples rejection
Jesus is only for Jews
Again undeterred repeats her plea - “Lord have mercy”
Not fair for Jesus to help out non-Jews - the food/ grace is only for the children of Israel
Third time is undeterred and demands mercy
Is it a test? Seems like a strained effort to read into the story. Jesus never says it is a test.
“Dog” is not a term of endearment. Even the diminutive “Doggy” is not supposed to mean “cute puppy”
A Dog was a scavenger, unwelcomed, persistent pest. It was an animal not easily scared away.
Jesus falls victim to his major critique of the Pharisees- mercy over sacrifice
cf. Matthew 9:13 and 12:7
Jesus is “caught with his compassion down”
Role reversal - the teacher is taught by the most unlikely of students (a foreign, idol-worshiping woman)
Much more consistent w the Gospel themes of role reversal, faith in the unexpected places
You can almost hear, “The Kingdom of God is a foreign woman teaching the Son of God about mercy”
“In the verses that follow, Jesus leaves the region of Tyre and Sidon, returns to the sea of Galilee, many people come to him, bringing people who need healing, and … “they glorified the God of Israel.” (v.31) That is a curious way of putting it. One would think that if Jesus were in the region of the sea of Galilee, then it would be taken for granted that “they glorified God” would mean “they glorified the God of Israel.” But Matthew makes the point that it is the God of Israel whom they glorified. I wonder if that means that the crowd that met Jesus in the wilderness, bringing their sick and lame, and ultimately being fed (again) with loaves and fish, is not a crowd from the “house of Israel.” If they are from outside of the house of Israel, then this encounter with the Canaanite woman radically changes the scope of Jesus’ ministry. The gospel is going to the dogs! “
Last week we talked about Peter’s little faith. This week we talk of this foreign woman’s great faith. This fact alone reveals quite a bit about Jesus, the Gospel, and faith. Peter, the one who got out of the boat because he didn’t believe Jesus could be there in the midst of the storm, versus the woman who wouldn’t
David Lose’s question: “Can Jesus learn? I know that may sound odd. On the one hand, we may quickly answer, ‘Sure, why not?’ Until we worry about the theological implications of that answer. If Jesus learns, a voice inside us may ask, does that means he’s not perfect, or complete, or sinless, or…. And suddenly a cadre of theological police seem to be patrolling the long corridors of our imagination.
What does it mean to have a flawed savior? Can Jesus be a reformed racist? If so- then can’t we too be reformed? If Jesus can go from being unclean (the words of his mouth being hurtful) to clean (being an agent of blessing) then we too are invited into such transformation. And how did Jesus experience this transition? By listening to the needs of others. Are we opening our eyes to have our theology and lives informed and transformed by the most unlikely of people? Who aren’t we listening to/dismissing?Most of our churches and leaders could do well to listen to the needs actual people, and not just what “church growth experts” tell us.
Way to skip to the end of the story, lectionary.
Cannot assume people know the story. If you left Joseph off in the pit, it makes no sense to have him in a powerful position in Egypt now. What can you do?
John Wesley sees this story as analogous to a sinner coming to Christ. Joseph is put into God’s place, joyful for the reunion despite the misdeeds of the brothers.
“These were tears of tenderness and strong affection, and with these he threw off that austerity, with which he had hitherto carried himself towards his brethren; for he could bear it no longer. This represents the Divine compassion towards returning penitents, as much as that of the father of the prodigal” (Wesley’s Notes on the Bible)
“Now Joseph having forgiven them all, lays this obligation upon them, not to upbraid one another. This charge our Lord Jesus has given to us, that we love one another, that we live in peace, that whatever occurs, or whatever former occurrences are remembered, we fall not out. For,
- We are brethren, we have all one father.
We are by the way, a way that lies through the land of Egypt, where we have many eyes upon us, that seek occasion and advantage against us; a way that leads to Canaan, where we hope to be forever in perfect peace.” (Wesley’s Notes on the Bible)
We are forgiven of God, whom we have all offended, and therefore should be ready to forgive one another.
We are all guilty, verily guilty, and instead of quarrelling with one another, have a great deal of reason to fall out with ourselves.
We are his brethren; and we shame, our relation to him, who is our peace, if we fall out.
We are to follow the lead of Joseph, and forgive others because we were first forgiven.
Story of forgiveness is powerful, but might gloss over a troubling aspect of the story, that is - Human trafficking was used by God as a means to justify an end.
God’s use of slavery in the story has been used to justify real slave trafficking in history - and still.
“The claim of verse 8, ‘it was not you who sent me here but God’ should perhaps be understood in this story as Joseph's perception of his circumstances and not as a broader religious sanction of slavery, human trafficking or any other social ill over which an individual triumphs. Joseph does what so many people do, which is try to make sense out of what he has experienced by drawing on his own limited understanding of God.” (Wil Gafney, Working Preacher).
It would be very troubling, indeed, to claim that God wills the trafficking of humanity for some kind of universal good.
It is Joseph who comes to an understanding of what has befallen him, not God telling Joseph that it was God’s will for Joseph to be in slavery.
The story is good news for Joseph and his brothers, but not particularly good news for those still trapped in the horrifying institution of slavery, nor for the other prisoners who were summarily executed at the whim of the Pharaoh.
In fact, Pharaoh is portrayed somewhat favorably, despite being a despot, because there is a happy ending.
The Suffering of God, by Terrence Freitheim
“The grief of God is as constant as the people’s sin. This divine grief manifests itself in a variety of ways in the life of the people, as God in many and various ways seeks to bring the wayward sons and daughters back home again.” (p. 111).
God suffers through human frailty, but still works through the frailty. God is not omnipotent - controlling and willing all action. God’s love is omnipresent - working, yearning, compelling people to orient themselves toward God, toward love.
Don’t skip ahead to the happy ending. There are troubling things that are happening here. Simply skipping ahead to the merry reunion seems to do a disservice to reality.
God’s will. What is the difference between God working through sinful people and sinful events, and God using sinful events to achieve a good? Is it too subtle of a difference? Is there anything redeemable about a God that will allow slavery so that a family can have a happy ending? What about a God that can work even through something as awful as slavery to bring about forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace.
Conclusion of Romans 9-11 answering the unspoken question: What about the Jews?
Majority of this chapter is missing from the lectionary- probably for good reason - it is confusing and often misinterpreted to be anti-Jewish.
Next week we move on to ethics - Romans 12 (much better)
v. 1- clear question and answer, the rest of chapter 11 is commentary and explanation, but Paul couldn't be clearer
“By no means”, (Gk - me genoito) is the same dramatic emphasis used in 6:1 about grace and sin
Paul rejects supersessionism
Supersessionism is the belief that the new covenant in Christ “supersedes” the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants and that those who reject Christ (i.e. the Jews) are damned.
Proponents of Supersessionism claim Paul is referring metaphorically to a “new Israel”, but as Kyle Fedler (Feasting on the Word: Year A vol. 3) points out: (a) If this were true then Paul spends three chapters stating that the elect are elect; and, (b) “there is nothing in Romans 9-11 that would lead one to believe that Paul is using the term "Israel" in a metaphorical sense to mean those who believe.”
Don’t miss v. 18 and 20 which condemn boasting or being prideful regarding salvation - a good reminder for those who love to point out whom are “not saved”
So are Jews saved?
Yes- some believe and therefore are saved (the remnant, Romans 11:5)
Yes- all people are saved (predestined to be loved by God and receive God’s grace- cf 8:38-39 & commentary from Proper 12A).
“This is essentially what Karl Barth argues, namely, that all Israel may be saved because all people are saved and all people are saved because there is one true remnant, the elected one, Jesus Christ, who becomes rejected for our sakes. So Paul ends where he began, with the fact that nothing can separate us (and hopefully anyone else) from the love of God.”-Kyle Fedler, Feasting on the Word: Year A vol. 3
The concept of universal salvation, that God’s love and grace are given to all is truly scandalous and disturbing for some. It feeds into our notions that is I don’t get something out of this that is special just for me- then what is the point. Too often we cherish a reward only if other don’t get it - if we are all deemed special, loved and forgiven- then such a status seems less valuable. Of course this is the exact thinking that Jesus came to challenge and overthrow (Matthew 20:1-16; 25:31-46; Mark 9:35; 10:44; etc)
“We are the beneficiaries of an eternal love—but so is everyone else God claims. We get no special treatment; rather, God extends the special treatment to all God's children. Many will welcome this inclusivity and take comfort in what may seem an unending string of second chances. Others, who work hard in the church and hope for a heavenly reward, may find this difficult, even offensive. What is the point of living obedient lives if the disobedient are pardoned without condition?” - Martha Highsmith, Feasting on the Word: Year A vol. 3
What about cheap and costly grace?
To accept God’s grace is to receive a gift from a Giver. A gift cannot be claimed or taken, it must be willingly accepted. To accept grace is to accept our broken incompleteness which can only be healed by grace.
"O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go."
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
God does not reject people for rejecting God, if that was the Way God worked then humanity wouldn’t have lasted beyond Eden, after the flood, through Babel, through Abram and Hagar, through the Exodus, through the Exile, etc.)
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).