Friday, August 22, 2008

Are There Canaanites in Walnut?

If you made a list of people you would help if the came to you and asked for it who would make the list? Make a list in your mind. Is everyone on your list Caucasian, are they about on the same rung of the economic ladder, do they go to your church?
The disciples had just heard Jesus give a lesson in Galilee about what defiles the body and what doesn’t. It was hard for the Jews, those who were his followers and those who weren’t, to understand. They had lived by the law for so long it was hard to understand not living by the law.
It would be like going to China and finding dog on the menu. There are probably none of us who would find it okay to eat it. But in China it is acceptable cuisine.
But what Jesus said was, it’s not what you put in your mouth that defiles you but what comes out of your mouth when you speak. Because what you speak comes from the heart, from your soul.
And then he goes away from Galilee to Syrophoenicia, specifically to Tyre and Sidon. There he is confronted by a Canaanite woman and asked to heal her daughter who was tormented by a demon. The words we hear Jesus speak aren’t the words we expect to hear come from Jesus. In fact it sounds like he called her a dog.
Dogs weren’t thought of very highly in Jesus’ day. If you called someone a dog or referred to them as a dog it was a real slap in the face. No matter what translation I read it all comes out the same. Jesus said he had come to help the lost sheep of Israel and it wasn’t fair to give the children’s food to the dogs.
I don’t know how you’d take something like that but I think I would have tucked my tail between my legs and slunk off somewhere to stew about what he had called me. It’s hard to imagine Jesus using words like this.
The fact is Matthew recorded these words of Jesus so I believe he did say them. But since we can’t tell what his tone was when he said them we can’t be sure if he was being sarcastic, like we might be, or was he saying in a tone that was lighter. Or maybe he was doing this in order to give the disciples a lesson in what he had taught in Galilee.
Whatever the tone or the reason we see that Jesus finally was persuaded to help the woman’s daughter. In fact Jesus said, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it done for you as you wish.”
This is what makes me believe that Jesus was using this moment as a teaching moment for those who were following him. Matthew’s gospel was written for the Jewish community who were followers of Jesus. And it’s possible that they too were struggling with the acceptance of those who weren’t of the Jewish faith. So Matthew included this so to show that Jesus didn’t exclude those who were different, both by nationality and by gender.
So, all of this got me to thinking whether there are any Canaanites living in Walnut. What do you think? Who would we have a hard time helping if they came knocking on our door? Do we have prejudices that get in the way of helping those who desire our help? What about those who run those skateboards up and down our sidewalks, or those who drive down the street with the bass cranked up and all we hear is thumpa thumpa thump. Or do we have trouble helping those who are covered with tattoos or we a lot of body jewelry? Or maybe we can’t bring ourselves to help those who have made some bad choices in their lives. You know now that I think about it there probably are some Canaanites living in Walnut.
Well, if there are then I’m sure that Jesus wants us to help them when they come knocking on our doors. Remember the Scripture that said it doesn’t matter what religion we are God accepts everyone? If that’s the case then that means that we should accept them too.
It’s not easy if all our lives we’ve been taught that we shouldn’t associate with people like that, whoever they are. It’s hard to put those things behind us and realize that God loves everyone and wants a relationship with everyone, even us though we are sinners.
Shoot there are times that I feel like the dog begging for the crumbs from the table because of things that I have done that make me less than perfect. But then something happens that reminds me that the God who created me also forgives me for my sins. If he forgives me then it follows that he forgives others too who live lives that aren’t perfect. Shoot, I think that takes in just about everyone I know.
So even if there are Canaanites living in Walnut know that they are God’s children and they are loved and accepted by Him. Trying to be and live like Jesus we should also love, forgive and accept them as our potential sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ.
It’s a hard thing friends, but with Jesus’ help we can do it. The world is changing and so are the demographics of our community. Just look at all the different folks who are living among us since construction has begun on the new wind generators. Pray that God will grant you the grace of his loving acceptance of those who are different, even you and me. Amen.

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