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Not A Word


Matthew 15:21-28
23 But Yeshua did not say a word to her. Then his talmidim came to him and urged him, “Send her away, because she is following us and keeps pestering us with her crying.” 24 He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el.” 25 But she came, fell at his feet and said, “Sir, help me!” 26 He answered, “It is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to their pet dogs.”
Last year I went to a different church one Sunday and the text of the sermon was the same as today’s lectionary text. I was so impressed by the preacher’s take on it that I wrote the following reflection. It was never posted on my blog, so I am going to post it today. The church was Granger Christian Church in Salt Lake City UT, and the preacher was Rev. Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson.
—The reading Sunday was about the time that Jesus compared the Syrian woman to a dog, and told her it wasn’t right to take food from children to give it to dogs. He told her that he was only sent to the children of Israel. She gave him a snappy comeback about no-one stopping the dogs from eating the crumbs that fall from the table, and he “relented” and healed her daughter.
Vinnetta said something in her sermon that really took hold of me. She suggested that Jesus might have been parroting what his disciples were saying and thinking as they puffed themselves up believing that they were better than everyone else because they were part of his in-crowd. Not just the in-crowd of intimates of Jesus, a really special guy, but the in-crowd of the chosen people of God.
If Jesus said what he did in order to shock his disciples with the dreadful reality of saying something like that eyeball-to-eyeball with a real person who is lying at your feet begging you for help; if he said that with an eye over his shoulder at them and a lifted eyebrow, wordlessly asking them, “Is this what you wanted?  Is this is what you meant when you bragged about how special you are because God singled out the tribe you belong to, and I asked you to come follow me?”
I can see it in my mind’s eye, the shaken and appalled look on the disciples’ faces when he said that reprehensible thing to her. I can envision them twitching with outrage and embarrassment that Jesus would be so unkind and contemptuous of this innocent woman, and I imagine their slowly dawning realization that such sneering and disdainful scorn was the natural and enevitable result of their assumptions about their own superiority.
I can just see the unqualified certainty growing in the disciples’ hearts that, no, this was most definitely not what they wanted.
Now that lesson I can get behind!

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