From time to time the notes for the sermons will be available here to read. Please read the scripture references.
Sermon notes on:
Matthew 15:21-28, Romans 11: 1-2, 29-32, Psalm 133, Genesis 45:1-15
Is Jesus a Racist?!! Headlines – White Supremacist meeting in Virginia, Michael Brown shooting: police, protesters clash again in Ferguson!
Jesus and his disciples travel from the Jewish territory, where they were born and raised in around the Galilean area, to the north and east territory by the Mediterranean Sea. The towns of Tyre and Sidon were port cities and were considered a non-Jewish area occupied by Canaanites but still under the Roman occupiers. The land of the Jews known today as Israel was previously the land of Canaan gentiles. The land of Canaan was the land that Abraham and Isaac were buried. It was from the land of Canaan that Jacob traveled to Egypt to live with Joseph his son during the famine we are reading about in this morning’s scripture. After Jacob died Joseph carried Jacob's remains back to this land of Canaan and gave him a stately burial in the same Cave as were buried Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Jacob's first wife, Leah.
This land of Canaan was the Promised Land that Moses led the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, now formed as God’s chosen people, out of Egypt to occupy and claim this land that was promised by God to His chosen.
So when Jesus and his disciples arrived many of the inhabitants of this Tyre Sidon area were Canaanites who remained hostile to the Jews because the Jews conquered their land under Joshua after their exodus from Egypt.
The scriptures in Mark indicate that Jesus had brought his disciples to this region to avoid the multitudes of people that they were surrounded with everywhere they go. This was to be providing a time of rest. But the respite didn’t last very long.
Breaking into their quiet, peaceful sojourn comes a pagan, gentile, Canaanite woman interrupting their calm—crying out to Jesus, trying to get his attention. Obviously very loudly and very disruptive to the disciples, she was determined to get Jesus to notice her. This woman was not crying out to Jesus for herself, she was pleading for a healing of her terribly suffering, demon-possessed daughter.
It is clear that the word what out about Jesus, the word of mouth had even spread into this gentile community despite the fact that there was no twitter, no face book, no newspapers and no live TV coverage of events. The news had come even though Jesus had never set foot before in this area. Before this trip, Jesus entire ministry was to the Jews, the chosen of God before now.
This woman, however, believed the stories she heard about the healing of the paralytic, the blind men being healed and just recently the feeding of the 5000 plus and she believed this was a man like no other. This was her chance; maybe her only chance to actually see and plead her case before this Jesus. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly”. Haven’t you and I pleaded with God for someone we love who is suffering and seek His healing? We know her pain, don’t we?
Matthew records that Jesus makes no direct response to her, he seems to ignore her, he did not say a word. Does this seem like the loving Jesus we are so familiar with in our Bible? She is not disrespectful, this woman is addressing Him as Lord—she seems to know who He is, she seems to have faith in Him despite being a Canaanite.
What is Jesus up to in this behaviour? Doesn’t this smack of racism? Is Jesus a racist?!! I think the disciples take their cue from this apparent indifference. Vs 23: So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” They didn’t plea her case, they didn’t come and ask Jesus to help her, no! They are concerned that she is bothering us, she is annoying, who does she think she is a Canaanite woman wanting help from us Jews.
Jesus doesn’t send her away but doesn’t speak to her directly about her plea for healing. Instead, he does explain himself to His disciples. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He is saying He is sent only to the chosen people, the people who came into your land as conquerors from the Exodus of Egypt, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph.
Now we, non Jews, who have read the book from cover to cover, know exclusivity is not His ultimate mission right? Readers of Matthew in this specific text are discovering something that doesn’t seem right about the character and actions of this man Jesus—“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Hmmm?
This Canaanite woman obviously herd the response of Jesus but it did not deter her at all. She persisted in coming to Jesus, kneeling before Him and crying, “Lord, help me!” But again Jesus replied to her in a way that appears outright rude referring to her as a dog. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
This seems so out of character, so unkind for Jesus to say yet the disciples were probably hi-fiving each other in celebration. This is what we want to hear, putting these dogs in their place! The disciples had grown up, being told they were the chosen people, that they had a Messiah coming who would overcome the Roman pagan occupiers. They had learned and cheered the stories of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, King David, Solomon, and Samson the heroes of the Torah. They were taught not to associate with non-Jews, not to intermarry with pagans like the Canaanites, they were all dogs, not worthy like themselves, children of God. This was the disciple’s ingrained attitude, their predisposition to non-Jews and Jesus appears to be reflecting their attitude. But was he?
It was Jesus who chose to come to this area of the unclean, this community populated by these ‘dogs’! Was He creating a teaching opportunity to prepare these very disciples for their mission to take the good news of salvation to the whole world, the whole world including the Jews? YES! Remember Matthew declares in 28:19 “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Clearly Jesus had a mandate from God His Father to bring the gospel of salvation to the Jews and to all God’s creation…but first He has to overcome generations and generations of prejudice, hate, discrimination, ingrained bigotry that is within His own disciples. The God of all history, the God of Creation of this earth and the whole universe, the Lord God Almighty needs to equip His Son’s disciples for their impending role—to take the message of salvation to world and be prepared to die if necessary for the sake of this message!
So was Jesus going to turn the table on prejudice and bigotry that very day? I believe YES! Clearly Yes! And by God’s providence this gentile, Canaanite woman, with a hurting heart for her daughter, was the means. Her determination, her faith in coming to Jesus was not being deterred by the ‘attitude’ of the disciples nor was she being taken in by Jesus repeating the historic tradition of the Jewish religion. This was the time, this was the occasion that Jesus could teach His disciples a most important understanding.
Her response to Jesus statement, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” was not going to prevent her from making her point …and appropriately Jesus point. Matthew and Mark both record she argues boldly and even contradicts him, “Yes it is, Lord,”“Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” WOW!
She is agreeing with Jesus that the bread, the true bread of God is to come to the Jews but and this is the key point but even the dog’s or gentiles can receive the Master’s or God’s blessings if only the scraps and crumbs. The mere crumbs of God’s bread or blessings and mercy would be all it takes to overcome the evil spirits and to heal her daughter.
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”And her daughter was healed at that moment.
She got it. She understood who Jesus is, her Master, her Messiah, and her daughter’s also. Jesus affirms she has a place at the table. This passage has earned its way into our Holy Communion liturgy, in the prayer of humble access. When we state that “we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table Lord but you always delight in showing mercy.” WE know now what she understands that it is not who she is, where she is from, what her status in life is or what her race, colour or education that counts in receiving God’s mercy—it is her faith!. Some people have written that this Canaanite woman is the first gentile convert recorded in scriptures.
Paul, as you all know, was himself a rabid Jewish Christian hater converted to Christ, and he proclaims “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul affirms the Canaanite woman’s faith when he states, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
I expect that Jesus had a lot to share about His mission and His disciple’s attitude, prejudices and mindset about gentiles, you and me. He was equipping them for their mission field as they leave this area and proceed to their next destination and destiny. They may have felt let down with the revelation that salvation was for all and not just the Jews. Paul addresses this plainly in today’s scripture.
“Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.”
Christ came into the world to save sinners and we all are sinners. We all have prejudices, and God wants us to face up to them and judge them in light of our personal salvation. Can we who have been saved by Jesus death and resurrection still retain prejudice and hate against Jews today? NO! Can we overcome the prejudice and hatred displayed by a few people in Charlottesville, Virginia, Ferguson Missouri or the prejudice of some Canadians against the people of Canada’s first nations? YES
We who have been saved by Jesus death and resurrection must share this same good news with all people—whatever their background, financial status, race, colour or position? Christ, our Saviour will judge us, you and me, if we are not a welcoming community to all who seek to discover their saviour in our community. Amen.
sermon notes on
Mark 7: 1-23, James 1:17-27, Psalm 15, Deut 4:1-9
You could hear the children yelling, “Are we there yet?!” It was a long trip, forty years long. The people of God, who God rescued from slavery after 400 years in Egypt, are massing on the banks of the Jordan river, opposite Jericho. They are about to enter the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey and take possession of this land. Moses speaks to those who need a new start. A new start to a life with great promise and hope. As Moses states, “ Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. Deut 4:5&6 NLT What are the decrees and laws Moses is referring to? The 10 commandments of course. These are familiar to just about everybody. Sometimes we know all too well what the commandments mean. A short Story. Like one little girl in a third grade Sunday School class. Her teacher was giving a lesson on the commandment, "Honour your father and mother." The teacher asked, "Now does anyone know a commandment for brothers and sisters?" This sharp little girl raised her hand and said, "Thou shalt not kill."
Moses would have been impressed! Moses was most assuredly impressed when he says in wonder and amazement. “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? Thinnk about it people! When we compare the gods of the Egyptians, Canaanites, and gods of their forefathers in Babylon it is clear—there are no other gods like our God. Their gods are man-made caricatures in stone or wood, images of strange design and... and totally useless to pray to for help or direction. They are especially useless to seek a personal relationship because they are inanimate.
Our God is all knowing, He hears and responds to prayer. Our God is unlike all others because He is a living God and a loving God, a participant in His creation. This understanding requires critical decisions in these Hebrew people since it calls for a way of life that differs greatly from what the dominant pagan culture presents.
The prevailing culture of their time focuses people on worshiping inanimate objects, sacrificing women and children to satisfy supposed angry gods and participating in sexual rituals that at are debasing to people. Frankly speaking, the culture of today is not much different from the culture that the Hebrew people had to contend with in their day. Today, there is almost godlike worship for movie stars, celebrities and sexual fantasies on the internet. Today there is a growing godless people, self-focused people that flaunt against anything Biblical and righteous and worthy in the sight of the one and only God. There are political leaders supporting Anti-Christian values, there are well financed opposition to values we used to consider sacred and now the once minority opinion reigns supreme.
So Moses poses this question to these blessed people about to enter into a new land with the power and might on their side to prevail against evil and oppression. Deut 8 what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? NO nation! Only a people who are God’s people, you are a nation who has been rescued from slavery, debasement, and abuse. Be a right-living people, a God honouring, a people honouring nation. Follow just laws so you can live in peace and protection. Just as they are about to cross the Jordan Moses provides a caution to these people.
9 Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Well, Biblical history tells us that those blessed people had short memories and were easily seduced away from the truth of God’s love for His people. Yes it is true, in our lifetime people forget God’s commandments and memories fade and soon generations of God’s precious people are pursuing a lifestyle that enslaves and debases them again.
We discover in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is once engaged in a dispute about religion with the Jewish leaders and Pharisees. They have come all the way from Jerusalem to confront Jesus in Galilee.
Jesus contends with the religious leaders who have manipulated these laws that God gave His people. They scheme in favour of man-made laws and traditions that enslave people to meaningless ritual but are not God honouring, God pleasing behaviour. They are defending their culture, their lifestyle, these Pharisees, and declaring it required of all Jews to comply. Jews are not to eat unless they ceremonially wash their hands and observe the traditions of the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles. Pompously the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" It is more an accusation than a question really—we got you this time!
Jesus doesn’t defend himself or disciples. But instead uses the very Word of God to make His point. "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." Isaiah 29:13 He calls these Pharisees hypocrites. Now that is a very strong term to apply to religious leaders then and now. The dictionary defines a hypocrite as a charlatan, and actor or a person who simulates goodness and virtue but it is only a pretense. You have the audacity to teach your opinion as doctrine. Traditions made by man cannot be substitutes for the commandments of God. But they are in this country and the USA, Europe, and UK. Seemingly reasonable man-made rules like freedom of the press and charter of rights and freedoms can be manipulated against God’s commands—a good constitution idea that has been used to cause people to abandon the commandments of God. The Judeo-Christian values that we know we are supposed to live by are ignored. We know today that preaching the gospel from the Bible is considered a hate crime under these man-made rules. The Pharisees are back only in a new role today as regulation police against Christian values.
Then Jesus changed His focus to the crowd again and said to them, Ignore these hypocrites! "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." Mark 7:14&15
21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, envy, shamelessness, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7 21 - 23
Jesus is intensely focused on bringing these people into a relationship with God their Father through the acceptance of Jesus as their Saviour. He is really clear—get yourselves ready for God's kingdom. Symbols of religiousness don’t cut it. Seek the kingdom of God, this is what counts. It doesn’t matter what you eat, it matters what you believe and do, that impacts on your relationship with your God. The corruption of the human heart is rooted in desire for worldly things and status. Isn’t the scriptures saying to you and me, it isn’t religion that prepares us for eternal life—it is about a relationship with God, through His Son and you need to be careful, and watch yourselves. Jesus is shifting the focus from questions of ritual purity to preparation for that kingdom.
So if some people think being considered religious by others is a worthy goal, if people think going through the motions of worship in a church occasionally, makes us worthy to stand before our God when our time comes, we are mistaken. James, the half brother of Jesus, states in the Message version verses James 1, 26 & 27: Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
So the faithful need to respond in action not in talk.
Every generous act of giving, acts of mercy, or support, or friendship to the needy and less fortunate is our witness to our faith in Jesus as Saviour. My friends in Eternal Hope. Wherever you find yourself – our actions speak louder than our words.
So my friends James states clearly we have behaviors to cultivate as God’s beloved. -- be quick to listen, slow to speak, and eager to care for those most vulnerable. All of these things are within our reach. What parent doesn't want to be slower to anger with his or her children? What friend doesn't want to be a better listener? Aren't all of us in a position to offer help and support to those in need? Jesus restates the 10 commandments into 2 laws. Love God and love and respect and treat each other as we would want to be treated ourselves. Let's make it happen in your life! Amen.
future sermon notes