Monday, August 18, 2014


Is everyone included in God’s forgiveness? Is there anyone you believe doesn’t deserve God’s forgiveness and love? Who wouldn’t be welcome to come and worship here with us in this sanctuary? Who would be excluded, shunned, shut out?
At first read of the gospel lesson it sounds as if Jesus is excluding the Canaanite woman because she’s a foreigner. He tells her that he’s come only for the lost sheep of Israel… “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
That sure sounds to me like exclusion. Why did Jesus say that? And if meant it what was he doing in Tyre and Sidon? Maybe he was looking for the lost sheep of Israel there.
A question that came to my mind was this, “Can God’s mind be changed?” Are there examples in the Bible of God’s mind being changed?
The reason I ask is this, if Jesus is the Son of God, and God the Father and God the Spirit are One and God is love and Jesus has already helped the lost children of Israel by feeding them bread and fish and his words…and he healed the centurion’s servant, who were both foreigners, then why not heal this poor woman’s daughter?
This is Matthew’s gospel and maybe he included this story because there was a problem that could only be addressed by showing how Jesus came to accept the fact that God’s Kingdom was truly for all, Israelites and Gentiles.
However you may want to interpret Matthew’s gospel Jesus did in fact grant her request. Because of her faith, and her persistence, her daughter was healed.
As I read this I think back to Moses’ and God’s conversations in the wilderness. How many times did God want to erase the whiners and complainers from the face of the earth and yet as Moses counseled against it? God relented and let them live. Maybe not all of them lived but my point is Moses argued for leniency and God listened and changed his plan.
That’s one example. There are others in the Old Testament stories. God being the great I Am and Jesus being one with God then I believe God can change his plan. God can learn from his creation.
If God can learn then shouldn’t we also be able to learn, from God and his creation? Maybe I should say if God is willing to learn then shouldn’t we also be willing to learn and change our minds?
Maybe we don’t intentionally exclude folks from worshiping with us but look around. Who’s missing? It looks as if we’re missing a whole generation.
Do they feel shunned, excluded, shutout? How can we know for sure unless we sit down and have a one-on-one non-judgmental conversation with them?
Friends, it’s not just Walnut First Presbyterian Church that’s experiencing this. It’s a large number of churches in quite a few denominations.
The Canaanite woman came to Jesus for help. At first he was reluctant. Then he, because of her faith, healed her daughter. Her directness, her faith, changed Jesus’ mind.
David Lose in his blog this week says that maybe each of us should sit down with one of the missing generation and ask the difficult question, “What needs to change in Sunday worship to make it more meaningful to you and your family?”
This isn’t an easy thing to do because we’ve worshipped like this our whole lives and it’s been meaningful for us so why not for the next generation and the next one after that?
What does this have to do with today’s gospel lesson? The Canaanite woman because of Jewish law was unclean because she was a Gentile. She took a chance when she approached Jesus.
We have been given a commission by Jesus to go make disciples. It’s hard to make disciples when we see the same faces in worship every Sunday. And, by the same token, it may be hard for those we’re supposed to be reaching out to sit here and not understand what we’re doing.
Why’s this important? It important because I think you all care. Not just because you don’t want to see this church close its doors but because you genuinely care for the folks who are missing.
Friends, we can’t wait for them to come to us and ask us to heal them. We need to meet them where they are and listen…and learn from them…because they’re smart and they have much to teach us. And the other part of it is this, “Where did Jesus go to find the missing?” He went to the people. He ate with them. He talked with them. He listened to them. He healed them. He learned from them.
So, my friends, join me this week in asking the hard questions and then listening as they answer. You all have friends of that missing generation you can sit and talk with.
May God grant us his grace and peace this week as we go further into this journey.

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