Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28
Key verse: (27) “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.”
Reflection: When I was visiting Philadelphia a few years ago I had the opportunity to attend Sunday evening worship at Broad Street Ministry. (Learn more about Broad Street Ministry here: http://www.broadstreetministry.org/ ) Our youth groups have been to Broad Street on mission trips. Broad Street is an alternative church community that was organized in 2005 with the support of three large churches in that Presbytery. They are located in the old Chambers-Wylie Presbyterian Church, that had long been defunct. When Broad Street came in, they took all the pews out of the sanctuary and reoriented the congregation to face out toward the street. They organized their community around expressive and soulful worship, bold faith exploration, and opportunities for compassionate discipleship. They welcome any and all people into their community, from the homeless living around the church to the wealthy who come from the suburbs of Philadelphia.
That night’s worship was an amazing experience for me. They had a great band with a gospel choir and a lead singer who brought incredible passion and energy to the service. Matthew 15:21-28 was the passage for the evening’s worship. After it was read, there was a pregnant pause. Then a man came in a suit from one side of the semi-circle we sat in. He walked toward the table at the center of the worship space. As he made his way, a woman in a t-shirt came from the opposite side of the sanctuary. She stopped the man and said, “Sir, could you please help me?” He responded tersely, “No, I’m sorry. I’m busy.” She said, “Please sir, my daughter’s sick and I lost my job and I don’t have health care, can you please help with something?” “No, I don’t have time. Leave me alone,” he said. “Please, sir. Just stop for minute. Please look at me!” she cried. “What?” the man said, staring at her. “Please help me.” “No,” he said tersely. Then the woman said, “But you’re Jesus. You have to help.” The man replied, “All right. Let’s go.” And the two exited together. I’ll never forget it.
I think they captured the essence of this story. Jesus is uncomfortably rude to this Canaanite woman. First he ignores her. Then he insults her. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” He calls this Canaanite woman “a dog.” Some say Jesus was just testing her. If so, it’s a pretty cruel test. Others say this reflects the prejudice of Jesus’ own upbringing. That’s hard for me to swallow. No matter the motive of Jesus’ rebuke, the woman stays steadfast. “Even the dogs get the crumbs from the Master’s table.” That stops Jesus in his tracks. He praises her for her faith, and her daughter is instantly healed.
Where do you find yourself in this powerfully troubling story from Matthew? Do you identify with the woman, pushed to the margins, desperate for healing for one you love, pleading for help no matter the cost? Do you identify with Jesus and the disciples, seemingly annoyed by the incessant demands the world relentlessly presents that distract you from what you really need to be doing? Or do you find yourself in the crowd, someplace in between, seeing the problems of the world, wondering who will do something about them? Wherever you find yourself in this story, it shows us something of what love looks like, relentless love that refuses to settle for anything less than healing and wholeness.
After the skit, we sang a song I’ve never sung in church. “I Want to Know What Love Is,” by Foreigner. I’ll never forget it. Some of the lyrics serve as our closing prayer:
I gotta take a little time, a little time to think things over
I better read between the lines, in case I need it when I’m older
Now this mountain I must climb, feels like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine, it keeps me warm as life grows colder
In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far, to change this lonely life
I want to know what love is, I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.
Hear the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUYGzZ0tQpA
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].