Season after Pentecost (Proper 17 [22]): The Psalm Passage – From praise to puzzlement to praise; a movement of the spirit

O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.” (Psalms 105:1)

I am often impressed and stand in awe of the Revised Common Lectionary’s matching of various types of scripture passages. This week especially the Psalm’s passage seems to be right in line with the Old Testament reading. Often the Gospel passages and the Epistle passages are in harmony with each other or other readings for the week. It actually makes writing and commenting on them fairly simple and straightforward. Other weeks I struggle to make matches and connections. But then, I do not expect it to be easy. And I do enjoy the challenge that it can bring. Either way – challenge or ease – I praise the Lord!

“Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.” (Verse 2)

Do you sing to the Lord, beloved and gentle reader? I am reminded of the non-scriptural post I wrote last week about my physical/medical health. It was not a cheery posting. And as I sit to write about the psalms passage I am keenly aware of the dichotomy of the two. I need to keep this in mind – that on the same blog site I write two different and sometimes contrary content. It makes me wonder how I reconcile the two aspects of me. Maybe it makes you wonder too, beloved and gentle reader.

All I can do . . . . say I stand with Paul when he says that he boasts of the Lord and not himself. And that the Lord had given him grace and strength sufficient to deal with the “thorns” in his side. If I tell you, beloved and gentle readers, of the difficulties I have . . . I try to balance it out by saying how my faith has helped and supported me.

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” (Verse 3)

Because, if have survived thus far, and survive in the future . . . . it is only because the Lord is with me.

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,” (Verses 4 – 5)

It is not because I have done anything special to merit this favor of the Lord, or that my future is destined to show any remarkable accomplishment. The Lord’s favor and blessing, support and help, is available to all believers.

“O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.” (Verse 6)

When Joseph moved his family to Egypt it was, as I have said before, a major shift in the story of God’s called and chosen people. The land they had lived in had reached a crisis point because of the famine, and a system more diverse and complex than their own was needed to help them survive. So the Lord God moved them to Egypt. At least that is what we can assume. Can’t we?


“Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham. And the LORD made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes,” (Verses 23 – 24)

Or was it that Joseph made a pest of himself, causing his brothers to be determined to get rid of him the best way possible at the time, and it just HAPPENED that traders bound for Egypt took Joseph along. What was the exact cause and effect, action and result, that made this change in the story of God’s called and chosen people?

“whose hearts he then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” (Verse 25)

And what about the circumstance of our lives? Are they a series of “cause and effect” events that are tied to the actions of humanity and society as a whole? Or does the Lord God lead us to our “own Egypt” where things happen to us that we need rescue from?

“He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron whom he had chosen.” (Verse 26)

How are we to parse this out, beloved and gentle reader? Could it be that our actions in our lives or in the lives of others that cause problems and struggles? Or do circumstances beyond our control toss us hither and yon until we are dizzy with the experience? To be very honest, I do not know.

It would be easy, and too easy, to say the good things in our lives are because of our good decisions and the Divine smiling on us. Because then we might be tempted to say the bad things in our life are things we have done to ourselves. And the Divine punishing us for our bad actions and decisions.

Or are they things that have been to us? And if done to us, by enemies that are set against us? If that is so, we would we and should we love these enemies, as Jesus the Christ told us to? And if our suffering and misfortune is because the Divine has frowned on us and condemned us to our “own Egypt” why would we love the Divine?

Many commentators and commentaries tell us the misfortune and suffering of the Hebrews / Israelites / Jews was because they did not follow the Lord God and the Divine’s commandments and guidance. A very unforgiving personality for a Divine God.

But yet Jesus is presented as totally forgiving and understanding of human frailty and failure offering chance upon chance of salvation and redemption. Who could fail to love a Divine God like that?

And, finally, am I the only person (that I know of) who sees the utter complexity and paradox of the story of the Lord God’s chosen and called people as it is told in the Old Testament?

The final verse of this psalms passage is . . .

“Praise the LORD! “ (Verse 45b)

Psalm 105 in its entirety praises God for rescuing and delivering the Israelites / Hebrews from Egypt and the cruel taskmasters there. The continuing and unfolding story of the called and chosen people of God continues, and it is not always a pleasant story. The same could be said of modern times.

But what does cause me to “Praise the Lord” (because I do beloved and gentle reader) is that I can ask such questions, query the Lord, and ask for understanding. Because when you set God outside of your daily life and experience, you can attribute all sorts of things to that God. But when you hold God close in your daily walk, and believe that God is there, you don’t feel as if that God is against you but for you. And suddenly it does not matter if the troubles in you life come from your own self or the people and world around you. Because you know . . . that the Lord who is with you wants the best for you, even if it seems like the worst is happening.

So yes, I do have very diverse postings. But when it comes down to it, it comes from the same source. And for the same purpose – to make my way in this world following the Lord God that I utterly believe in and need. Selah!

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Season after Pentecost (Proper 17 [22]): The Gospel Passage – The ups and downs of living a Christian life

Last week, although less than exactly one week ago, Peter had made it to the “top of the heap” in identifying that Jesus was the Son of God. Now, Jesus said that it was the God in Heaven who had revealed this to Peter and not Peter’s own glimpse into the Divine. This week Peter is not as astute to the workings of Jesus.

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Matthew 16:21 – 23)

We are not to take this as meaning that Peter was possessed or working in league with Satan. It simply means that earthly concerns have no place in the mission that Jesus was on. And by implication, earthly concerns should have not place in our following the faith journey that the Lord calls us on. And yes, that is a pretty stern and severe perspective. To soften that, remember that Jesus did come as a human and so knew human need, want, and the other components of being flesh. But those things did not stand in the way of Jesus living out his lift as directed by God. It should not stand in our way either.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Verses 24 – 26)

Seeing the verses above in this context, of setting aside human concerns, one can understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. Denying one’s self does mean setting aside all those things that our human earthly spirit may crave. That does not mean they are denied to us, but that we must decide whether the human facets of life will dissuade us and stop us from living as God directs. There are a million choices to be made, and sometimes just split seconds to make them. And it is in those split seconds that a poor choice can be made; furthermore, a poor choice that might result in sin – where sin is defined as interfering with follow Jesus example. You see, beloved reader, it cycles on itself. That is why Jesus had to be so abrupt with Peter, to stop him in the direction that his thoughts were going before it went to far.

“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Verses 27 – 28)

Here, beloved reader, is a two-edged sword. What we give up in this earthly life will be returned to us in the life to come. But what we seize in this life that we should have let go and let pass, will judge when the Divine returns. Or, when our own time of judgment comes. As to verse 28, this does not mean when Jesus returns as in the second coming etc. The time is soon coming – i.e. when Jesus is raised from the death – when Jesus’ full power will come to him. We who live now, will have to wait until death or the end of all things. The disciples there will see with their own eyes the glory of Jesus which has not yet been displayed in full. Yes, beloved reader, verse 28 is not for us.

Actually, neither is verse 27 for many people. As far as history can tell us, Jesus has not returned for the second time after he ascended into Heaven. We are waiting yet for “the glory of his [Jesus’] Father”. But I suspect our own faith experiences have given us enough of a taste as to what that may be like. And maybe enough of a taste to set aside earthly things when they conflict with the Christian life as we have been called to it. At least, that is my prayer. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 17 [22]): The Old Testament Passage – Called out by the Great “I AM”

Moses had discovered in his early adult life that he was not cut out to be the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. The story of his realization and departure from Egypt comes before this passage.

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1)

But neither was he, it was about to become clear, cut out for being a simple shepherd or herder.

“There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”(Verses 2 – 3)

Ponder with me, beloved reader, the fact that God knew Moses well enough to know he would not be afraid and run off but would be curious and investigate. Moses may not have known himself well, or known his own strengths and abilities well, but the Lord God did.

“When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Verses 4 – 5)

Remember that while Moses grew to manhood in the palace of the Pharaoh, his early years were spent in his home with his Jewish parents and siblings. There he must have absorbed the stories of the Lord God who had been the God of his forebearers many years ago.

“He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Verse 6) 

I will address a little further on my thoughts on this identification of the Lord God.

“Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.” (Verses 7 – 9)

I am sure there were years and years in Egypt when the descendants of Joseph were remembered by the Pharaoh and treated well. Their wants and needs taken care of because of the service that Joseph had rendered to the Egyptians. But that time had passed a long while ago.

It is interesting to consider that the Israelites/Hebrews did not cry out to the Lord God in the good years and in the plenty, to keep them and bless them. But when times were tough and oppression was all around them and consumed them, then they cried out to God. It is a pattern that the astute reader will see again and again.

“So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Verses 10 – 13)

The years in Egypt had been long, and the gods of the Pharaohs were more familiar and had names and attributes that defined them. Worship of them was set and prescribed. Idols and images of the Egyptian gods were numerous, I am sure. The God from history was now an unknown.

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.” (Verses 14 – 15)

It is clear to me beloved reader, having checked it several different ways, that the Great “I AM” identified the God-self as the God of the three early establishers of God’s called people. Not the God of Joseph. Not that Joseph was slighted, but Joseph was put into service for Pharaoh. Joseph had an important role to play but not as the gather and the one established God’s people. And not, interestingly, the God of Israel but the God of Jacob. Joseph and his brothers became the tribes that made up God’s people. But the men who God called were included into the name of the Lord God.

It is interesting too, that the God of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob is one aspect of the Divine. Nomenclature is “the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other disciplines”, and that is what is going on here. Under the broader term of the “Divine” is the Jewish/Christian God. That does not mean the Divine and the God of Abraham/ Isaac/ Jacob are different and distinct from one another. It simply clarifies how one’s perspective on the Divine shapes the name that one gives to the Divine. This is an issue I have long felt needs to be addressed.

What do you call the Divine, beloved reader? It is good to know who is calling you – calling you to act in the world and to journey a certain path. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob simply followed the Divine who became intimately known to them. Joseph trusted the Lord God taught to him by his father Jacob/Israel. Now, Moses is the conduit for that God to reform God’s called and chosen people. But as we read before, it is a hard task to call and form a people. Let us continue to read about their journey, how it impacts our life journey, and how we might be called also. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 16 [21]): The Psalm Passage – A Preacher and Seeker dialog dedicated to those who stand for peace and compassion

Preacher: “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side — let Israel now say – “
Seeker: If the Lord God had not been standing with us . . .
Preacher: “ . . . if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, . . “

Seeker: If the Lord God had not been at our side . . .
Preacher: “. . then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;”
Seeker:
But we were used and abused, attacked, wounded and some killed! Where was the Lord God then?! Why were some of our number allowed to suffer?! Why were we not protected!
Preacher: “then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;”

Seeker: When one among our number is lost, we mourn. When two have us have been taken away, we wail and weep. Those who have been lost, are remembered and honored for their sacrifice and courage. We ask and plead, where was the Lord?
Preacher: “then over us would have gone the raging waters.”
Seeker:
It is true, there is a strong remnant left. Our courage has not fled from our spirits, and our resolve is greater than ever. We gather together our number, and fortify each other, lifting up our spirits and vowing to remain strong.
Preacher: “Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.”

Seeker: Our foes and oppressors have bitten and gnawed at us, but we are resolute. Our ranks may be thin, but our spirit is strong. We will not be taken over.
Preacher: “We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.”

Seeker: Our faith and hope has not been captured or dissolved. We will rise up and stand strong against those who attack us and hate us.
Preacher: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124)

Seeker: Blessed it be the Lord who has taught us the strength of peace and compassion. We live our lives here, on earth. But the greater reward will come in the life hereafter. Now we face trial and tribulation. Those who have gone ahead of us, wait for us in the shalom of the Lord. We will stand tall, and will not be dissuaded from the course our Lord God has set before us. We are not alone, for the Lord God is with us and holds us until this time is over. Then we may rest also in the Lord God’s shalom. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 16 [21]): The Psalm Passage – The fates turn on the Israelites

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”(Exodus 1:8)

We now start down another long road of the story of God’s called and chosen people. It has often been joked by Jews that they sometimes wish God would chose someone else! It is bitter humor. The sentiment has at times been shared by other people called out by God. Because being called out by God can often mean the powers and principalities are set against one. I do have to wonder however, why God’s chosen people were allowed lead into such trying circumstances.

“He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.” (Verses 9 – 12)

Overlords and rulers being ruthless over those who are helpless to defend themselves. It is a story told over and over, in differing places and at differing times. And in different cultures. It is tragedy that branches from ancient times to modern times. One people oppressing and subjugating another. Just tell me when it sounds familiar to you, beloved reader, and I will stop pounding it into your minds.


“The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.” (Verses 13 – 14)

Many terrible things are done out of fear, and misunderstanding. Once we see people as “things” instead of kindred souls and spirits deserving of respect, dignity, and acceptance . . . a great many things are tolerated and condoned.

“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?”
The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” (Verses 15 – 21)

As I am sitting here and thinking about these things, I can’t help but remember all the times in the Old Testaments that the Israelites, the Hebrews, and the Jews were told to recall their time in Egypt as a reason to do a thing or an obey a law. I have often thought of the Old Testament as the story of a people learning what it means to be called by God. Not a fully formed and realized people, but learning what it means to follow the One God. Mighty lessons needed to be learned, and the people seemed at times to be slow to learn the lessons.

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”(Verse 22)

Did you notice, beloved reader, that the Israelites are now called the Hebrews. I do not know how many years it was until the new king of Egypt “did not know Joseph.” It must have been several generations for the family of Israel (Jacob) to become a nation. The Israelites – now Hebrews – still remembered the families they were from.

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.” (Chapter 2, verses 1 – 4)

This was Moses. Proof that the Lord God has not forgetting the called and chosen people. That they were still chosen by God, and still under the Divine Eye. A lesson to us, beloved reader, that even in our trials and tribulations that we are still under the Divine Eye, and still within the Lord’s heart.

“The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.” (Verses 5 – 8)

You may be thinking lucky Moses and lucky Moses’ mother, and sharp thinking Moses’ sister. But let me remind you, beloved reader, this happened because the Pharaoh’s daughter also thought of Moses as a “thing”, something to be cared for but it did not matter to get Moses back to the correct family. Any family and nurse would due.

“Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Verses 9 – 10)

Grown up does not mean an adult, but weaned and capable of eating solid food. The Pharaoh’s daughter took another woman’s young child for her own. That is not to say she did not have compassion on the infant child, saving it from the river and insuring its welfare. Surely she was aware of her father’s edict about male Hebrew children. And she evidently did want to save the child from an uncertain future. But neither did she let Moses grow up with his own people but took him as her own son, turning her back on his heritage.

But if Moses was poorly used by the Egyptians, he was never far from the Lord God . . . as his story will show.

We too, beloved reader, are never far from the Lord God. And I am reminded again that this lectionary year has the theme of new believers. As the Hebrews were new to being God’s people (as the extended story will show) new Christian believers are new to Christian faith too. There is many stories of difficult times amongst new Christians. Trust that none of them are far from God’s concern. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Psalm Passage – Seek and treasure harmony where you find it

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

While the psalmist might have had his own and close-by family in mind, these verses are perfect for the reunion of Joseph and his family. And their moving to a place and culture that had abundant resources. I am sure Joseph and his father Israel thought that the move to Egypt would be good for them and the coming generations, a blessing and life forevermore. But we, beloved reader, are keenly aware (or should be) that any material abundance in this world will not last and transfer over to the world to come. And that is where our true home is.

I was reminded of this by a FB firend who was lamenting that the world we live in now, and how everyone seems so eager and set upon sharing their discontent. That there is no acceptance of differing opinions, and that it seems in the world at large whoever disagrees with you “must be” bullied and shouted down. That there is, in a word, no unity.

While the psalmist may mean “kindred” to be family related by blood or marriage, the broader meaning is the family of God, humanity. There is the “good” and “pleasant” of life together. It is in shalom (increasingly rare in the world at large) where the Lord’s ordained blessing is most often seen. And if the shalom is truly from the Lord God, you can be assured it is good, pleasant, and blessed.

It would probably be easier for me if I were to draw the curtain and not look down the road to where the Israelites went from honored guest to slaves. But turning a blind eye has never been my forte. Neither has being naïve about the way of the world. I am trying these days to support and nurture the pockets and places of the Lord God’s shalom. Rejoicing where I find it, and trying to maintain those places of peace and blessing.

I had once read that humanity cannot be “peace makers”; that is, we can not create peace but can only keep peace where it is found. That seemed kind of pessimistic to me. But I understand that better now. We can keep the peace that the Lord God has created in us. And we can keep the peace that exists between two or more people who have kept the peace that was created by the Lord God and Jesus Christ in them. But we cannot “make” peace where no peace already exists. That is what I was trying to tell my FB friend. That all we cannot do where there is no peace, is not to create (or not create more) disharmony and disunity.

How good and pleasant it is when humanity lives in unity, harmony and peace. It is precious. May you seek and find that peace, beloved reader. Cherishing and nurturing it, keeping it and holding it holy and sacred. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Gospel Passage – What is clean and not clean

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:
it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”
But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” “ (Matthew 15:10 -15)

It was not Jesus’ calm in the face of the Pharisee’s upset that Peter needed explanation of, but that what goes into the mouth does not defile a person. Remember, Peter was raised as a Jew and as such obeyed the dietary laws with the same adherence as the 10 commandments; okay, maybe even more strictly!

Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” (Verses 16 – 20)

While one could spend some good and worthwhile time thinking about, pondering, and then speaking about this passage from Matthew 15, RCL actually does not focus on the verses 15 to 20, but the verses that follow. What I wonder is how the two sections might connect.

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.” (Verses 21 – 23)

In order to understand the disciples reaction, you have to understand that a Canaanite woman was not a Jew, and therefore not someone who a Jew who cared about his/her reputation would talk to or pay attention to. Any problems a Canaanite person had were not the concern of a Jew. Jesus’ initial response to here was just what the disciple expected.

“He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Verse 24)

And yet, just above in the previous passage Jesus was all for consigning the “blind” Pharisees to be forever lost and not understanding the message that Jesus had to bring. And furthermore, as evidenced by the passage not listed here (verses one to nine) the Pharisees were according to Jesus not following God’s commandments at all. So something more than what is going on at the surface . . . . is going on.

“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.” (Verses 25 -27)

I encourage you to think about this, beloved reader. What was coming out of this woman’s mouth were words of faith and belief in God, even when it is not part of her cultural or religious heritage.

“Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Verse 28)

Where the Pharisees faltered and failed in keeping faith, this Canaanite woman exhibited faith in Jesus as Divine and capable of healing, and having compassion for all people. Where she might have had different faith practices (ie, eating with unwashed hands) what came from her heart, mind, and mouth were words of faith and belief.

When Jesus was turning upside down long held (but erroneous) ideas and traditions, it is no wonder the disciples needed help in understanding what was meant. And it is at such times that I am very grateful for the theological teaching I received from childhood on up. It is only now, as an adult, that I realize the gift that was given to me. Understanding the “upside down” messages that Jesus told his disciples.

May you, beloved reader, incorporate these teachings of Jesus into your life. Selah!