Archive for August 2008
Pentecost XVI, August 31, 2008
Jeremiah 15:15-21 Psalm 26 Romans 12:9-21 Mat 16:21-28
It’s Always a Good Time to Repent.
It’s always a good time to repent. Look at Jeremiah. The prophet is like a preacher or pastor, and God says, “You abandoned your office.” To be a pastor, preacher, or prophet, you have to stand before a king as a messenger and await the divine word to bring to the people or sometimes the messenger even has to carry out the king’s word him or herself. We need to repent because we often forget that we are living in the real presence of God, just like messengers in the presence of a king, and not our words and what we want is important, but that we share the words and actions of God with each other is what’s important.
So I as a pastor have to repent; you, who are the congregation, have to repent, so that we live lives that are worthy and say what is of value and precious, rather than a lot of clap-trap.
Jeremiah says that God is a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. He’s going through a wilderness, while God promised a garden, and he comes to a river bed, mad with thirst, only to find the river dry, while God promised to be a fountain of living water.
God tells Jeremiah, “That’s because you forgot about my presence. You forgot about your holy calling. So turn back, stop turning away from me.”
Yes, we love the habitation of God’s house. We love the church, the place where God’s glory dwells. In Psalm 26, it could be that someone is being falsely accused. He washes his hands to show that he (or it could be a she) wants to be free and clean of all of his or her sins. She or he asks God to check out her heart – to penetrate to the innermost recesses of her heart, to clean out the sin (hatred, vengeful, vindictive thoughts, and all that does not belong there), and give him or give her, a pure heart.
“Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord, “I will repay.” We are a royal priesthood of believers, who have no right to vengeance. God forbids it. The Psalmist may be falsely accused, but meanwhile he or she realizes they cannot be self-righteous. All of us depend upon God’s mercy and grace. God lovingly covers up our sins. That cover-up, however, cost Jesus Christ his life on the cross, so that we might walk in the newness of life, completely forgiven.
And right after we are right, we can be completely wrong. Jesus is carrying out his mission to Jerusalem, to become the suffering servant, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He’s the Son of Promise, whom Abraham did not sacrifice, but God the Father had to, so that we could be saved and the world could be redeemed – and there is Peter, who just made the good confession, a pure revelation from God, rebuking Jesus and saying, “far be it from you, Jesus, to go to Jerusalem and let them torture and kill you there.”
Like poor Peter, we can feel so proud of ourselves, and the next minute, Christ has to say, “Get behind me Satan, because you don’t have God’s agenda in mind, but the agenda of the one who is trying to steal all our lives away from God.
So in one moment we can be a rock, a solid foundation for the faith of others, and the next moment, we can be a rock that everyone trips over. In one moment we are part of the solution and in the next, we are part of the problem. So we constantly have to remind ourselves that it is always a good time to repent, because even if you happen to be standing, take heed lest you fall.
Of course, if you are really proud and on a high horse, the fall is rather disastrous. If you are humble, it’s not such a bad spill. My brother-in-law was a mechanic and while we drove my car together, I explained to him, that it was in bad shape, but I was just going to run it into the ground. He said, “You don’t know how close to the ground it is!”
It’s always a good time to repent, to stop your hearts from turning away from God and start them turning back. Jesus says, “If you want to be my followers, you have to deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow me!”
“Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake will find them.”
Repenting is self-denial and it’s getting nearer to Christ than our comfort-zone allows. It’s like first going into the cold water of a mountain spring for a swim. First you think you will die, then you get the refreshing respite of a wonderfully stimulating experience.
Or you’re way out of shape and you start running- or maybe you can only handle walking – and you think the exercise will kill you, but then you end up getting stronger.
Maybe you’re just a talker and for once you decide to be a listener. While listening you become afraid that you will lose yourself by losing control, but then you find out that your self becomes stronger.
Maybe you have taken a stand, because you love the habitation of God’s house, that is, this church, the place where God’s glory dwells. And now you are afraid. Like Martin Luther of old, say: “Here I stand. So help me God. I can do no other!” God will stand with you. And like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you have nothing you’d die for, you have nothing you’re living for.”
In this sorry world, that is quite a way east of Eden, where there is plenty of wilderness and many a deceitful brook, a pastor and congregation will always find that it is a good time to repent. Look at Peter. Sometimes he’s feeding the sheep and sometimes the ninety-nine sheep have to search for Peter. And it is the same for Jeremiah. But God is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We have all fallen short of the glory of God and when we return, Christ is always right there. When considering following Christ, we say, “It will make me die!” But then we add, “What a way to go!” And the next thing you know, the cross is making you see things as they are, be the person who you are, carried by the Holy Spirit. Then death and the fear of death become a shadow that Christ drives away. There you are in the presence of Christ, with his cross and his death changing into an ever-flowing fountain of living water, abundant life, a garden full of delights, smack in the middle of Eden, because you are seeing the creation with the eyes of Christ and you suddenly exclaim, “I shall not die but live and declare the wonderful works of God!
It is always a good time to repent. Even while I give you my goodbye sermon, I pray that I was helpful and not a hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel in this church. But I take comfort and you can also take comfort in the fact that even when Peter and Jeremiah became hindrances, Christ never stopped loving them, and his prayers and intercessions brought them around and will bring us around and turn our hearts back to God. Let me assure you that the chance Pastor Bauer and you yourselves gave me to preach the Gospel to you this summer has been a joy and a wonderful privilege for me that I appreciated a whole lot.
So it’s always a good time to repent. God’s Word makes us say, “I’m dying to repent.” When we see our good shepherd, with his arms stretched out on the cross, reaching out to those who are right and those who are wrong, in a greater Love than this world has ever known, then we can all say, “We’re dying to repent.” In the words of a song,
“The cross is the direction of Christ’s holy resurrection.” Amen.
(Mark and I sang this song, while Joshua played drums.)
“You Can’t Count the Stars.”
Genesis 15:5 Philippians 4:1 Judges 5:31
You can’t count the stars.
You can’t count the blessings.
God has in store for you,
and his promises are true.
You have not heard
God’s holy Word
if you don’t believe God loves you,
Longs for you his crown!
Love for you made him come down.
The cross is the direction
of Christ’s holy resurrection.
Don’t be its enemy.
Let Jesus set you free.
You can’t count the stars.
You can’t count the blessings.
God has in store for you,
and his promises are true.
God’s friends become
just like the Son,
rising in all its splendor.
Rise and shine,
It’s wake-up time
Trust God and surrender.
The love of God, so rich and pure.
It’s the only thing, of which we’re sure.
I long for you, my joy my crown,
to raise you up, is why Christ came down.
(For Ruth, Bob, and Alice O. March 8, 1998 peterkrey)
Several years ago, May through August, 2002, I served the dear people of Trinity Lutheran Church up in Fort Bragg, California, driving up there every other week for two services. Taking route 128 through the Anderson Valley took me through breath-taking scenery. You first hit incredibly winding curves through California’s golden hills, then you hit the luscious wineries, then the solemn redwood groves that have the grandeur of cathedrals, after which you drive along a river that opens up to the sea. There are still beautiful moors as you continue on route 1, where there is also whale watching on the ocean. Usually I was still preparing my sermon while driving that beautiful road. Suddenly it was like driving through the wonderful natural words of God, communing with God in that wine country in the middle of that liturgy of Route 128. I sang the song to the congregation that morning and yesterday Mark and I recorded it for the first time.
Driving Route 128 to Ft. Bragg, California
1. Come share with us / the beautiful life
received in Christ,
Come share with us / the beautiful life
received in Christ.
There are winding curves / that take some nerve
There are winding curves / where you can swerve
on Route 128.
2. The golden hills / embrace the thrills / of amazing grace,
the heavens above / declare God’s love
with sweetest phrase.
3. Cascading vines / in Eucharist lines
commune the earth,
Clustering flood, / life-giving blood,
of Christ’s new birth.
1. The redwoods stand / on gospel land
green shouts of praise
Aged awesome halls / with hallowed walls
their Cathedrals raise.
2. The shade, the dream / the gurgling stream,
and refreshing scents.
A graceful deer / sees us near
and clears a fence.
2. Then the ocean breeze / sweeps through the trees
opening the sky
the river winds / and searching finds
the thirsty tide.
3. the lumbering moor / wild flower shore
of the turquoise sea.
Green rolling hills / and seagull shrills
1. migrating whales / with powerful tails
the pounding surf / wakes up the earth
sparkling and free
1. resounding sound / makes the word abound
so naturally. ( repeat)
1. Come share with us / the beautiful life
received in Christ,
Come share with us / the beautiful life
received in Christ.
1,2,and 3, stand for different parts of the melody. The slashes represent spacing of the poetry here.
For Trinity Lutheran Church, Ft. Bragg, California
Pentecost XV- August 24th 2008
Isaiah 55:1-6 Psalm 138 Romans 12:1-8 Mat 16:13-20
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Sing: 1. The Lord Christ Jesus reigns from Heaven,
To him all power and glory are given.
The whole world is his footstool.
The whole world is his footstool.
2. Let all tongues on earth confess him.
He comes to us with crowns of blessing.
His dominion he shall rule.
His dominion he shall rule.
In the words of St. Peter:
“Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God!”
Often in the Pastors’ Bible Study, we ask when we must take the Bible literally, when do we take it metaphorically, when is it historical, meaning that it actually happened, and when should we take it as true, even if it never really happened.
For example, talking about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we are talking about time before history. Abraham is the first historical person in the Bible. But every time that a man and a woman, a husband and wife, start out in a marriage, it is the story of the Garden of Eden or Paradise all over again. I received a humorous protest from the gay pastors in the group. “That’s not our experience.” they said. “Our marriages aren’t like that!” They have to tell the story with Adam and Steve, I guess, instead of Adam and Eve, but the story is non-the-less true, even if “Adam” means man in Hebrew and “Eve” means the mother of all living. One can peer back even before history and know it is true.
Now before our lesson in Matthew today, Jesus tells the disciples to beware of the leaven, the yeast, of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They think he is referring indirectly to the fact that they forgot to buy bread and they have only one loaf left in the boat.
Jesus can’t believe that they do not understand him. He did not want them to take him literally. He says, “When I had five loaves and I fed the 5,000, how many baskets of leftovers did you gather up afterward?”
They said, “Twelve.” (He’s speaking of the twelve tribes of Israel over which he rules.)
“And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves of bread, how many?”
They said, “Seven.” (Jesus is speaking about the seven nations from the four corners of the world, over which he reigns.)
“How come you can’t understand that I am not speaking about bread?” Jesus asks.
Then the disciples realized that by leaven or yeast, he was speaking about the teachings and the influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees, a little like the Democrats and Republicans of the day.
Like yeast makes dough rise and then fills the bread with bubbles of air, causing the bread to rise in the oven, so with the teachings of Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes us rise and multiplies us, by filling our every need and making us prosper in the Kingdom of Heaven, over which Jesus is the Christ, the one anointed to rule us, guide us, and direct us in all that we do.
So Jesus spoke to us in picture-language, that is, using metaphors, so that we could understand him better, to make the point that when we are taken in by the Word of God, the true Bread from Heaven, then we rise and multiply, with a Heaven of Grace above us and inside a world, created by God that we can dwell in, be loved in and love others in. These verses come right before our lesson: Matthew 16: 5-12.
Peter’s good confession that we heard in the lesson today was revealed to him by the Father in Heaven. He made it in Caesarea Philippi, a city twenty miles north of Galilee on the foothills of Mount Hermon. It was a Pagan center of worship for the Roman nature god, Pan, and it was rebuilt by Philip, Herod’s son, to honor himself and Caesar, the emperor in Rome; thus it was called Caesarea Philippi.
It is significant that Peter calls Jesus the Christ in that place. Jesus had asked, “Who do people say that I am?” They talk about various prophets-come-back-to-life.
“But who do you say that I am?”
You have to hear the “I am” in this question, the name of God revealed to Moses from the burning bush that did not consume its branches. “I am who I am.” The name can have various meanings: I am the one who will be with you (no matter what you have to go through), I am the one who will appear in any form in which I appear (I am who I am), I am the one who calls you into existence, I am the source and the ground of your being.
Here Jesus takes the question a step further: “Who do you say that I am?” Through Peter and the disciples, Jesus also, of course, presses us with that question. What would you answer?
There Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, that is, the anointed one, Son of the living God!” “Messiah” means the anointed one in Hebrew, while “Christ” means the anointed one in Greek. In those days and since ancient times, kings and emperors were called “sons of God.” So Peter was saying, “You are not like Caesar or Philip, the king’s son. You are the Son of the living God.”
That kings were called “sons of gods” can be explained by the name Moses. In Egyptian, “Moses” means “being the son of” or “born from.” An Egyptian hero Amoses liberated the Egyptians from the Hyksos (ca. 16th century BCE), that is four or five hundred years before the Exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt. After Amoses liberated the Egyptians from the Hyksos, many of the Pharaohs put “Moses” into their throne names. There was Thutmosis, i.e., son of the god, Toth; Ramses or Ramoses, son of the god Ra; and many others, e.g., Kamoses and Amunmoses. The Hebrews said that “Moses” meant drawn from the water, but he was named by the Egyptian princess and it was the throne name of the Egyptian Pharaohs that she gave him. Because God’s name was too holy to pronounce, Moses did not attach God’s name to his, for example, “Jahmoses.” In any case, Moses knew that God is the King over his people and thus Moses called himself “the servant of God,” Ebed Jahweh. Jesus is the suffering servant of God, the Lamb of God, foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, but also the Son of the living God, unmatched by any Pharaoh, Caesar, Emperor, king, not to mention a paltry president, even should he want to be an imperial one.
This confession of Peter means that we worship Christ and not Caesar, not an emperor, not any image of an earthly politician, no matter how great and shiny our image-makers polish and spin them. Like us they are all dust and to dust they shall return.
But here is the Gospel. When we make the good confession and declare Christ to be the Son of the living God, like Peter, then we will experience a marvelous change. When we are confessing Christ unashamedly, Christ in Heaven is confessing our names to the Father. In that way we rise and grow up into children of God, with our Father in Heaven to whom we can pray at any time.
To say “Jesus is our Lord” is not like saying he’s a lord as opposed to a lady. Lord stands for Adonai, which is the word the Jews used not to pronounce the name of God, Adonai. Every time they saw the four letter word for God, they said Adonai. Now we do not even know how to pronounce God’s name, but we know it was not pronounced Jehovah.
A king, a judge, and a high priest of Israel was always anointed with oil. Interestingly enough, I noticed that when a baby issues out of its mother’s womb at birth, it hair looks wet and oily just like an anointed one, if it has hair, of course. A nurse in the birthing room told me that there is a salve made naturally in the mother’s womb so fine and precious that the baby is in that amniotic fluid nine months and does not come out with its skin wrinkled, while we stay in a shower or bath a little too long and our skin and fingers are already wrinkled.
Ah, the children of God receive a divine anointing and as St. Paul says, we do not conform to the world, but are transformed by the renewal of our minds, when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, confessing the name of Jesus Christ above any name, surrendering ourselves completely to his reign.
This change is shown in our lesson by the way Jesus changes Peter’s name from Simon, the son of Jonah, to Peter, the Rock, or Rocky. (Who can do the theme song from Rocky?) “Peter” means a rock or stone in Greek. Now what do make of that? Peter was the wavering and unstable disciple and he denied Christ three times. But the Rock of Ages said, “I’ll rename you a rock and you’ll see, with me inside you and remaining with you every day of your life and every step of your way, you too will be a rock, a living rock of my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. And the words of Christ are sure and true.
When you confess Jesus to be your Lord, then you too will become a living rock hewn from the wonderful quarry of the children of God, from which God creates us. We will be solid rocks for Christ, who is the true Rock of Ages, whether we sway this way or that, or still find that we are too ashamed to witness that we are his servants. Peter had the same problem, but Christ helped him to come through. When we fight the good fight and make the good confession that Jesus Christ is our Lord and the Son of the living God for us, then we too will change like Peter from wavering disciples, like reeds shaken by the wind, into solid rocks who take our stand on Christ, the Rock of Ages. (On Christ the solid rock we stand!)
That puts us into picture language again. It means that we are completely committed to following Christ and carrying out his loving mission in this church, which is the body of Christ – for all the people so lost and forlorn, crying our for help that only Christ and his church can provide. This church stands on our confessions of faith and as weak as we might be, the Rock of Ages is with us and the gates of Hell will not prevail against Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alameda. Amen.
We always sang this blessing song. My father would intone it and we in our family would all follow singing it together. Then I translated it and introduced singing it in Vacation Church School and Day Camp in Coney Island as a benediction.
I remember how our family held hands and sang it around the open grave of my little brother James, who had died in the UNRA camp in Schwanheim, Germany after World War II. If anyone ever complained about food, we would say, “All you need is eight days of Schwanheim (acht Tage Schwanheim), then you will never complain again.”
Die Gnade unsers Herrn Jesus Christus und die Liebe Gottes, und die Gemeinschaft des Heil’gen Geistes, sei mit uns alle, mit uns alle . Amen.
The grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, the love of God, and the Holy Spirit’s fellowship, be with us all, be with us all. Amen. Amen.
It comes from St. Paul, of course, the closing benediction of his second Letter to the Corinthians 13:13.
Wenn ich zu Zeiten taurig bin
1/ Wenn ich zu Zeiten taurig bin
Und kommt mir dies und das in Sinn,
Dann denk ich, „Ach, was soll der Schmerz?
Komm schafe dir ein andres Herz.“
Denn Trauern ist in dieser Welt
Vom Bösen Feind bestellt.
Und sollt ich wieder traurig sein,
so holl’ ich Jesu singend ein.
Denn O wie glücklich is das Herz,
dass so vergisst den Schmerz.
1/ Whenever I am sad and blue
And I don’t know what I can do,
I simply call on Jesus’ name
And love lifts up my heart again.
Because there’s no antidote to pain
as good as Jesus’ name.
And should I get depressed once more,
I’ll shout, “What’ve I been baptized for?”
Because gloom and doom can’t get a start,
with Jesus in your heart.
2/ Whenever I’m down in the dumps
And disappointments give me bumps.
I simply sing this glad refrain
And Jesus picks me up again.
Because saints are made of flesh and blood,
They’re sinners who need love.
And falling on my face once more,
He’s quick with first-aid grace galore.
Because Christ is not at all ashamed
to love the ones he’s named.
3/ Whenever I am down and out
And I don’t know what it’s all about.
I make the bad day come out wrong,
by singing Jesus’ happy song.
Because the darkest clouds will be disbursed,
When we get to Jesus first.
This is a song my father always sang in German for as long as I can remember. I first tried to translate it back in the early 1980’s and I continually revised it, e.g., in 7/31/95, 5/14/97, 8/18/2008, and 1/4/2009.
I thank Joseph in his comment for pointing out the German words notes, and some of the way the music sounds of this song. Check it out: http://www.notendownload.com/8/dpshop/__Wenn%20ich%20zu%20Zeiten%20traurig%20bin__NSF181MH2.sco_10.04.02.html
Isaiah 56:1. 56-8 Psalm 67 Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 Mat 15:10-28
“The Crumbs under the Table”
We are all imprisoned in our sin, St. Paul says, whether we consider ourselves in the household of faith or those outside the church, those we call secular people, so that all we can stand and insist on is the mercy of God. We need to be Kyrie Christians. “Lord, have mercy upon us!”
Paul says that about the Jews. God has called them and their relationship with God has not been revoked; nor has God’s relationship and loving concern for our church, our congregation. It has not been revoked.
But you see Jesus getting rather exasperated with his own people, who have come to feel entitled and had become offended by Jesus. Why? Because he says your kosher laws and your keeping them make you feel like you are moral and superior to others. Jesus says that what goes into your mouth goes down into your stomach, then after it is digested, you have a bowel movement. That has nothing to do with your morality. Your morality depends upon your heart, which is the center of your responsible self. The heart was considered the seat of your thoughts, your intentions, your ethics. When false witness, bad language, evil desires, sexual harassment, murder, adultery, slander, and gossip come from the heart, they then come out of the mouth. That is what makes a person immoral and not whether or not you eat pork or only beef, you’re a vegetarian, a vegan, or you’re still carnivorous.
So the heart is the seat of the responsible self and to feel that obeying the kosher laws made you moral was a confusion of hygiene and ethics, as much as when you felt that washing your hands made you innocent, when you were guilty.
Food and cleanliness have to do with health and hygiene, which is also important, but it does not have to do with our morality or ethics, except when they become an ethical matter. You had better wash your hands in the bathroom if you are working with food or you could make other people sick. Doctors used to work on cadavers and then like midwives, helped a mother give birth. The mothers died like flies because the doctors infected them. Now washing your hands is an ethical matter, a life and death matter, but ethics or morality is much more than just food laws and washing your hands. [In the news about the kosher factory, the slaughter house, in Iowa, the fact that they used child labor and exploited undocumented immigrants was immoral, their kosher laws not withstanding.]
When Jesus pointed this out, the Pharisees were offended, because they felt that their kosher laws made them morally superior over the unclean Gentiles, who ate pork and did not keep the food laws and many rituals, like those for washing hands.
Jesus said, you know with their lips they say that they belong to God, but their hearts are far away. They do lip-talk, but not soul-talk. They want to keep things as they are by tradition, they do not really want to obey God and realign their lifestyles to get onto the way of salvation.
If Israel was refusing to be God’s special planting, then it would be uprooted and God will find another flower pot, and plant another people, who will grow, blossom, and bring forth the fruits of righteousness.
So Jesus and his disciples go into the territory of the Gentiles, to the coastal cities, Tyre and Sidon, north of Galilee. And this pesterous Canaanite woman starts after them, scratching out the Kyrie, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” She wants Jesus’ Holy Spirit to fill her daughter and she is calling Jesus her Lord!
Jesus and his disciples are way outside of their comfort zone. Yes, that is slightly more than Jesus and his disciples bargained for. But when we open ourselves up, needs are so great, that challenges right off, become more than we can handle.
As a Canaanite woman, it is like a Jew having to help a Palestinian enemy. She is not only a Gentile, but an enemy Gentile. And she is an unclean woman trying to get help from Jesus and the little group learning to be rabbis.
Thus in going up there, they were on new divine turf. They were walking on water and like Peter crying with the same scratchy voice: “Save me Lord. The water is already up to my neck and I’m going down!”
It’s like everything is going on in this community called Alameda and the pastor is out there working among them, but it feels like our congregation is going down! Jesus reproaches us the way he reproached Peter and the disciples with, “O ye of little faith!” And here is this isha, which means woman in Hebrew, this unclean woman is now calling Jesus her Lord, naming him Son of David, with a Kyrie. “Lord, have mercy on me!”
Her voice is really annoying, because it is like the scratchy voice of a raven or a crow. She doesn’t spare her voice, but keeps on crying. The word used in Greek is krazo, like the scratchy caw of a crow. And she is relentless, despite her being an enemy of the Jews, being of a completely different culture and religion, and she lets nothing stand in the way.
She is like our cat Figaro, who is also relentless when he wants to be fed. Starting at six o’clock in the morning he scratches on our bedroom door and meows, “Nora. Nora.” And he’ll keep on for hours if you don’t get up. And when I am in the kitchen, he’ll walk between my feet until I take care of him. And he’ll keep scratching the bedroom door until we get up and feed him.
The Canaanite woman annoyed the disciples the same way and to such an extent, that Jesus turns around, and while he’s saying, “I’ve only been sent to the members of this congregation” and the disciples are saying, “Lord, let us send her away, she keeps shouting that scratchy Kyrie after us!” – she is already on her knees in front of Jesus, crying, “Lord, help me!” They could not get away from her.
When I first realized that Jesus was calling the Gentiles dogs, I was shocked. “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus really says, “little dogs,” kunaria in Greek. Not kunes, the word for dogs, per se. Maybe it was like calling her a little dog, like a Chihuahua.
But the Jews called the Gentiles she represented “dogs.” We of course have dogs as pets, but that is not how it used to be. In those days and in many countries, dogs are still considered pests, like rats and roaches. In India you see the most miserable, mangy, and pestiferous dogs, missing huge blotches of fur, covered with infected sores, their bellies dragging on the ground. They round up these miserable creatures and kill them, but they never seem to kill them all.
When I was in Bali, Indonesia, another Hindu country, a dear missionary, Ebu Gedong, tried to introduce the concept of a dog as a pet; but everyone who came on to her porch kicked her poor dog!
One time I saw a film about Gypsies and one Gypsy woman was standing on a hill at sunset and screaming at the village which lay below: “You treat your dogs better than you treated me!” She couldn’t even get the crumbs, evidently.
“It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs!” The Canaanite woman went right along with Jesus: “Sure we are little dogs. But even dogs eat the crumbs that fall under the master’s table.” She had Jesus there. She showed Jesus and his disciples the bridge over the chasm between men and women, between enemies, between people of different cultures and religions, where hostilities have gone on for untold centuries.
“Woman, great is your faith. Your daughter will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that demon that torments her will have to get out.” I believe she is the first of us Gentiles to come to Christ.
In the pastors’ bible study this week, I heard another interpretation. Jesus was being funny and we miss the humor. He says what you put into your stomach you poop out. And next, he is gently leading his disciples into an encounter where they have to overcome their prejudice and bigotry, their hostility, and enmity, and also share his bread, the bread of the living Gospel with the Gentiles, with the nations. Matthew, of course, cannot take it further, because his Gospel is aimed at the Jews. But Peter takes the next step with Cornelius, and Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles, crashes through the door to proclaim Christ as the Lord of the Nations and his Church, a House of Prayer for all people, and not merely for the Jews.
Just one more thought. We still have to walk side by side with this relentless woman, the first of us non-Jews to respond to Jesus, praying the Kyrie in the same relentless way. We have to be as humble as she was and hope only for the crumbs that fall under the table. We have no entitlements and righteousness to stand on, whether because we are Christian or Lutheran or what have you. All of us can only stand on the mercy of God. We all have only this scratchy Kyrie of hers to cry in our services through the ages: “Lord, have mercy upon us!” We are Kyrie Christians. We can only expect crumbs from under the table and remember that when we feed the birds crumbs in the winter time and stop, then they usually die. That thought can make a person cry. Humble folk usually get elbowed out of the way by selfish people in this world. But, then, you have to be acquainted with our wonderful God. He sent Christ to change our crumbs into a feast, the Feast of victory for our God. God will multiply our crumbs the way he multiplied the loaves and the fish. We believe in plenteous redemption, in God’s abundant grace for us. Amen.