Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Paul Blackheath

A short service for the 10th Sunday after Trinity 16th August 2020

Today the 10th Sunday after Trinity 16th August 2020.

Grace, mercy and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Call to worship
Come, with purpose,
into the presence of the living God.
Come to worship, and to be amazed,
to discover and learn new things.
Come, knowing that God welcomes us all with open arms. 

A prayer of approach.

Lord God, as we come before you now,
we open our hearts to you.
Help us to see that we can learn so much from others,
even from those with whom we think
we may not share much in common.
Make us willing to stand out from the crowd,
to hear your voice, and act upon it.

A prayer of Confession
Lord, sometimes we look as though we are listening to others.
We may even make all the right noises!
But we confess that our attention is often anywhere but
where it is supposed to be.
Forgive us, Lord, for missed opportunities.
Sometimes we are too distracted by our own concerns.
We care only for ourselves,
and listen only to those who say what we want to hear.
Forgive us, Lord, for missed opportunities.
Sometimes we don’t listen to people
because we don’t like them,
or because they are different from us.
Sometimes we have bad or unhelpful thoughts.
Forgive us, Lord, for missed opportunities.
Sometimes we don’t listen to you, Lord,
because we are too busy,
or a bit frightened about what you might say to us.
Forgive us, Lord, for missed opportunities.

Psalm 67
A Song of Thanksgiving
God, be merciful to us and bless us;
look on us with kindness,
2 so that the whole world may know your will;
so that all nations may know your salvation.
3 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
because you judge the peoples with justice
and guide every nation on earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
6 The land has produced its harvest;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7 God has blessed us;
may all people everywhere honor him.

Our bible reading is Matthew 15. Verses 10-28
The Things That Make a person Unclean

10 Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand! 11 It is not what goes into your mouth that makes you ritually unclean; rather, what comes out of it makes you unclean.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees had their feelings hurt by what you said?”

13 “Every plant which my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up,” answered Jesus. 14 “Don't worry about them! They are blind leaders of the blind; and when one blind man leads another, both fall into a ditch.”

15 Peter spoke up, “Explain this saying to us.”

16 Jesus said to them, “You are still no more intelligent than the others. 17 Don't you understand? Anything that goes into your mouth goes into your stomach and then on out of your body. 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these are the things that make you ritually unclean. 19 For from your heart come the evil ideas which lead you to kill, commit adultery, and do other immoral things; to rob, lie, and slander others. 20 These are the things that make you unclean. But to eat without washing your hands as they say you should—this doesn't make you unclean.”

A Woman's Faith

21 Jesus left that place and went off to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.”

23 But Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples came to him and begged him, “Send her away! She is following us and making all this noise!”

24 Then Jesus replied, “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.”

25 At this the woman came and fell at his feet. “Help me, sir!” she said.

26 Jesus answered, “It isn't right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.”

27 “That's true, sir,” she answered, “but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters' table.”

28 So Jesus answered her, “You are a woman of great faith! What you want will be done for you.” And at that very moment her daughter was healed.

A Thought for the Day by Revd. Mike Sermon

A characteristic of our human family is how tribal we are. Tribal loyalty and suspicion of those who are different from us may have contributed to our historical survival, but in our contemporary world it is a mindset of collaboration that will enable us to overcome the challenges of our day. Challenges over the environment for example, amongst many others, are not going to be solved by a single tribe or a single nation.

Our instinct and understanding of Jesus may suggest that he rises above all of these tribal issues and in many senses he does. But Jesus was a Jew, who fully respected the traditions and beliefs into which he was born. On one occasion Jesus famously declared that he had not come to rewrite or withdraw God’s commandments, but to fulfil them.

This respect and understanding of his Jewishness, is reflected in our bible reading and his conversation with a Canaanite woman. The origin of this woman is significant because it means that she was a non-Jew and a Gentile. Here in this encounter Jesus remains consistent to his call and mission, which is to reach out first of all to his own people with the love of God, before any other. As we read these words of exchange one of our reactions is likely to be shock at the manner in which Jesus addresses this woman, using the derogatory term “dog” to describe her request of him. Arguably there is abusiveness, offence and rudeness in this exchange, which is not an approach we would expect to see Jesus take. But of course Jesus is much more complex than we imagine him to be.

However, in this woman; Jesus, Messiah, Son of God meets his match. The love of an anxious, desperate and worried mother is more than a match for him. In fact this woman’s faith in Jesus, that he can make a difference to her daughter is extraordinary. This Canaanite woman absolutely believes in Jesus and there is nothing that he can say to dent or negate her faith. In this moment she comes across as an exemplary follower and disciple of Jesus, whose faith seems to far exceed those who are found in Jesus’ inner circle. So often we are struck by the humanity of this group of inner disciples, by their failure and lack of faith as they fail to carry out Jesus’ instructions.

But with these words,

“but even the dogs eat the left overs that fall from their masters table”,

this mother gains the upper hand. Jesus concedes to the obvious and states,

“You are a woman of great faith! What you want will be done for you”

and we are told

“…at that very moment her daughter was healed”.

Jesus’ mission priorities were to reach out first and foremost to his own people. This was to honor the covenant promise made by God to Abraham, but God’s mercy and love for the created world is so great that it spills out and over this Canaanite family. Ultimately, grace and mercy cannot be constrained or contained and there are other examples when Jesus reaches across this tribal divide, like for example, when he meets a Samaritan woman at a well and she and many of the people from her village are saved.

Here in these encounters we have glimpses, sign posts that indicate God’s grace, mercy and love is for all people and for all time. This is where the ministry and teaching of Jesus is heading, our reading today is an aperitif that will find fulfillment in the cross of Jesus that is a turning point for all people everywhere. Here in the violence, grace, mercy and love break out to spill over creation in a life changing way.

In our reading, this mother’s daughter was healed, later through the cross this healing will be offered to everyone everywhere. What was once offered to a mother and daughter, is now offered universally, unilaterally to every tribe and nation and to the whole of creation.

A hymn written by John Oxenham puts it so well,

“In Christ there is no east or west
In him no south or north
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth”.

Here is our hope, reflected in this faithful mother’s words and actions, but do we have the faith to ask and follow her example?

Revd. Mike Sermon Vicar St Paul’s Blackheath, Priest in Charge St James’ Rounds Green

In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north,
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.

In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north;
all Christ like souls are one in him,
throughout the whole wide earth.

John Oxenham (1852-1941) alt.
© Copyright control

Our prayers.
The Canaanite woman sought your help. She loved her daughter so much, she was so desperately in need that she wouldn’t give up till she had her answer.
We pray in faith.
Hear us and answer our cry, blessed Lord.

Lord, may we learn from this woman, to wait on you expectantly, patiently, persistently, doggedly. Grant us the courage of our convictions when we truly believe we are doing your will.
We pray in faith.
Hear us and answer our cry, blessed Lord.

We pray today for those who feel excluded, whatever their situation, whatever the reason: for prisoners, refugees, the homeless; for the sick, the mentally unstable; for any who feel that they are outsiders.
We pray in faith.
Hear us and answer our cry, blessed Lord.

We pray for ourselves when our faith is weak, or we feel that we don’t belong.
We pray in faith.
Hear us and answer our cry, blessed Lord.

A sending out prayer
We go out today,
renewed and strengthened in faith,
ready to serve you, Lord,
and find you in the people we meet.
We go out to follow you, and our hearts.
Lead us, good Lord.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society
John Oxenham (1852-1941) alt. © Copyright control
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.