Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells Portbury

Sunday 16/08/20

16 Aug 2020, midnight

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Matthew 15:21-28 Romans 11:1-2a; 29-32

10th Sunday after Trinity

The Chairman of The Flat Earth Society, as pictured in a cartoon in the Church Times a few weeks ago, proclaimed a point of order at their AGM: ‘Post truth, fake news and disinformation pose a major threat to societies across the world, not around the world…’

I kept the cartoon; for some reason I didn’t keep the article that it illustrated and which offered five ways to fight back against fake news. But the illustration is what I now wanted. What is it about fake news, a term we’ve only recently become familiar with, that’s so subversive and obtrusive, and even dangerous? And why would some people even want to give it out? These last 5 months, with a raging pandemic that stopped many people’s movements and changed society in a dramatic way, more and more people, it is noticed, are looking for more depth in their lives. They are wondering about the meaning of life and quite a few seem to be searching for the truth. This is encouraging, although there will always be those who prefer their ‘old’ existence, when they were quite happy to follow their own views and were not challenged to change their ways. .

But challenges come, to us all, at some point in our lives. Whether we find ourselves having to deal with illness, financial difficulty or redundancy, any loss of any kind is a challenge, sometimes to our lifestyle, and sometimes to our perception of life and the world. We need to know where we stand in the larger scheme of things, find our bearings and then move on. The thing is, though, that we need to know where the truth lies in order to understand our own place within it, or we won’t be able to make the right decisions or to move on. That is why it’s important to know the truth. And that’s why today’s message from the Gospel reading is one that we should understand.

So here we have it: a woman from a non-Jewish district addresses Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, and asks him to heal her daughter. When Jesus doesn’t respond except with an insult, she persists and is finally commended for her faith and her daughter is healed. There are two things we are to learn from this account: 1) that Jesus was sent to the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ first of all – and 2) that the kingdom of God breaks into our world through faith.

Firstly, in choosing and calling Israel to be his special people, God would bring the living Word and his promise of new life through them, to the rest of the world. The whole world was to be offered hope, but only through Israel, not around it. The purpose for which this people existed had everything to do with God’s plan of rescue for the whole world and which had been foretold by the prophets. If Jesus had begun by circumventing God’s people, he would have made God a liar.

Secondly, as with so many of the things that are happening around Jesus, the future keeps breaking in to the present. It’s as if the woman is already looking at Easter, while Calvary hasn’t even happened yet. In recognising Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, she is seeing the truth at a much deeper level and it’s that truth – as proclaimed by her faith – that sets herself and her daughter free. She reckoned that if Israel is indeed the people that bring the promise of God to the world, then Israel’s Messiah will bring that blessing about. The dogs will share in the scraps that fall from the children’s table. It was absolutely vital that she knew the truth, so that she was to receive the life that God had promised.

We need to know the truth. The whole – round – world needs to know it too. What issues are we facing today? And what future promise of God that we don’t see yet but that should be claimed now, can we present to God with fervent prayer and faith?

Let us pray.

O God, as our loving and ever faithful Father, you do not turn away those who seek you with all their heart. Hear us as we pray for your promise to become ever more alive in us and in this world. For the sake of your dear Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.