Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and sent into our hearts the Spirit of your Son. Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that all people may know the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15: 21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Homily by the Revd Lee Johnston
I’m sure you’ve noticed over the last few weeks that Pupils across Scotland have shouted, pleaded, demanded in the face of the government’s decision to down grade some marks. With many feeling that the government unfairly, unjustly, reduced the chances of success of young people, sometimes from the poorest backgrounds. If you’ve kept up, you’ll also know that this week the government did a swift u-turn on its decision and raised the grades, back to what Pupils felt was right. Whether it’s pupils fighting for their grades or activists fighting for equal treatment across the world stage today, what’s undeniable, inextinguishable is our ability to demand and keep on demanding what’s just and right when the powerful and mighty get it wrong. You can’t stop human beings shouting, demanding, pleading when needs are not being met and things are not right.
Consider then the scene of today’s gospel, with the Cananite woman who cries out to Jesus on behalf of her daughter, tormented by evil. She knows Jesus can release and heal her daughter – but the question is will he. Will he – the Jewish messiah – do this good for a cananite woman, a people who were traditionally at odds with the people of Israel and their God. Even for her to cry out to him once would of required monumental courage and faith.
For her to cry out to Jesus again after his silence, and yet again after his rejection on the apparently racial and cultural grounds that I’ve just mentioned and that every Jew watching this scene would of felt, well, that either stupid, naïve or even insulting of her. And yet, it’s this pleading, demanding impulse which cannot bear to see injustice and human need continue that Jesus responds to. He responds with healing and he responds with commendation – respect for her faith and her unstoppable demand for justice which led him to cast the evil out of her daughter.
With all that’s going on globally and locally, the needs and injustices that persist. We can start to ask if our demanding prayers are being heard or if all of our shouting falls on deaf ears. We can start to question who God is and what God really intends. A God who at times appears silent, and in being silent, may seem in agreement with the unjust and harmful realities that linger in the face of our demands, our cries, our shouts.
Returning to our story, what this woman seems to know is that God, the God she has heard of in Jesus Christ – the God of love and of healing – is not a God who will be indecisive or endlessly silent in the face of suffering or injustice. Her faith in God as he’s revealed in Jesus previous miracles which had become famous across the land, did not stop at the first hurdle or the second, or any other, but persisted until God acted as she knew God to be. Just. Fair. Love.
Faith knows, deep down, who God is in Jesus Christ and for that reason it persists in prayer and action, and doesn’t stop even when God appears silent or slow to act. Faith keeps demanding, keeps pleading and keeps shouting in spite of silences, delays or disappointments. Not because we can bend God to our will or make God speed up but because we have seen who God is in the life of Jesus.
And so we trust for our prayers and our peace of mind, that because of him in the words of Julian of Norwich: all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Let us pray for justice and healing throughout God’s creation.
God of Israel, you gathered your church from every tribe and nation on earth, revealing yourself in the miracles and compassion of your Son. Help your church to be a place of refuge and healing for those who are condemned as different, unworthy or evil and Enable us to share the good news that your Son was given to save all who need help. May you grant eternal rest to the Rev. Beryl Scott, who faithfully proclaimed this gospel to all who crossed her path.
Lord hear us, Lord Graciously hear us.
Son of David, you cast out evil where it is found and bring freedom to those held captive. We pray for Amnesty International and those they represent and support across the globe. Grant them justice and freedom and the strength to persist until it is enjoyed by all people in all places.
Lord hear us, Lord Graciously hear us.
Spirit of peace, you were sent to be our comforter and guide when our hearts fail and our faith struggles. Strengthen and encourage all of those who have asked for our prayers: Christine, Ian, Les, Sam, Olive, Chris, Bill, Joyce, John, Avril, Helga, Colin, Margaret, assuring them that all will be well in Christ, in who’s name we pray. Amen.