Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2020
Out Of Order
August 16, 2020
Out Of Order
Matthew 15: 21-28
TEXT: "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."
In today's Gospel Lesson, a Canaanite woman pleads with Jesus for help. "O Lord, Son of David," she cries out, “have mercy on me; my daughter is tormented by a demon." At first Jesus ignores her plea. And because the woman is not a Jewess, Jesus' disciples tell Him to send her away. Jesus seems to agree. He reminds her of the popular impression of His ministry. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel," He says. But the woman persists. She kneels and pleads, "Lord, help me." Then, using the disdainful word the Jews applied to the Gentile "pagans" in those days, Jesus replies, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." To which the woman replies, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs from their master's table" (Mt. 15:25,26,27). And it is this observation of that woman that leads us to the point of emphasis in today's Lesson.
This whole scene is in anticipation of the time when there would no longer be any division between Jew and Gentile; when it would become plain that in God's Plan, salvation is open to each of them. In the fullest New Testament context, the Lesson is an expression of God's universal redeeming Will. In other words, Christianity cannot be contained or confined or isolated. Christianity spontaneously extends out into the world. Eternal fulfillment under the Rule of God is open to all. No exceptions! God does not play favorites! God's creative intention for each human being who comes into this world is eternal fulfillment in His Kingdom of Love -- no exceptions!
The woman in today's Lesson believed that. She said "No!" to the notion that she and her daughter were less valuable, less precious in God's eyes, than the people in the House of Israel or anywhere else. And so, as the story ends, Jesus says to her, "Woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mt. 15:28). The child who had been "out of order" inside -- "severely possessed by a demon" -- was made whole again through her mother's act of faith in God's love and mercy for all.
In a poem called, "Out of Order," the author describes how he felt when he saw a young mother and her four-year-old son standing at a popcorn machine. The mother says,
"You can't get any popcorn, child.
The machine is out of order.
See, there is a sign on the machine."
But he didn't understand.
After all, he had the desire;
and he had the money;
and he could see popcorn in the machine.
And yet, somehow, somewhere,
something was wrong
because he couldn't get the popcorn.
The boy walked back with his mother,
and he wanted to cry.
And Lord, I too felt like weeping,
weeping for people who have become
locked-in, jammed, broken machines filled
with goodness other people need and want,
and yet will never come to enjoy,
because somehow, somewhere,
something has gone wrong inside.
In a book called, "Adam and Eve and Pinocchio," the author, an eminent psychiatrist, observes that the people of the Western World no longer look upon humanity as the masterpiece of Divine creation "in an ordered Universe." Instead, he says, we of the Western World often describe ourselves as failures in a world of chaotic events. "We are losing faith," he writes, "not only in our institutions, but in ourselves." He says that unless we begin to "fully value and understand what makes us human, our culture is critically close to a tilt-point that could lead to our destruction."
Whether or not we agree with the pessimistic tone of this book, if our self-esteem falls short of the Good News that we are infinitely precious in God's eyes, that God loves us beyond our ability even to imagine, then something is out of order inside. And to the extent that we are failing ourselves in this way we are failing others. If you don't really believe that God loves you in this way, why should you believe that He loves me? If you don't really believe that you are fabulously worthwhile, why should you believe it of anyone else?
Many years ago, at the University of Wisconsin, there was an undergraduate literary club -- a group of brilliant male students who had demonstrated considerable talent for writing. They met regularly and, at each meeting, one of the members would read aloud a story or an essay he had written, and then submit it to the criticism of the others. When the criticism got underway, no punches were pulled. Nothing was held back. The material was mercilessly dissected, almost line by line. So brutal were the sessions that the members called themselves "The Stranglers." Then a similar club was formed. It was called "The Wranglers," and its membership consisted of female undergraduates who had demonstrated considerable literary talent. They too read their manuscripts aloud at their meetings, and then submitted them to the other members' critiques. But there was a significant difference in the criticism. It was exceedingly gentle. In fact, there was almost none at all. The Wranglers tried to find kind things to say. They spoke in positive rather than negative terms. The key attitude was encouragement, even for the feeblest efforts.
About twenty years after "The Stranglers" and The Wranglers" had been born, a University alumnus made an analysis of the members' careers. She discovered that not one of the bright, young talents in "The Stranglers" had made a literary reputation of any kind. On the other hand, "The Wranglers" had produced half a dozen prominent, successful writers. The basic talent in the two groups had been much the same. The Wranglers uplifted and encouraged one other to believe in themselves, to esteem themselves highly, to aspire to their true worth. But the Stranglers did exactly the opposite, promoting self-doubt and self-discouragement and low self-esteem. In choosing a name for themselves, "The Stranglers" had been wiser than they realized.
If you are at a point where the inner-strangler's voice telling you that your life is meaningless, worthless, unimportant, going no place, is getting more and more believable, you're "out of order." Somehow, somewhere, something is wrong inside. You need a spiritual tune-up -- maybe even a complete overhaul.
You need to reorder your life on the basis of the Good News that God is for you; that God has a wonderful plan for your ultimate fulfillment; that you were made by God to fill an all-important place in His Blessed Kingdom. And you need to reorder your response on the basis of the further Good News that God is for all His human creatures in that very same way.
The ultimate in self-esteem comes in the experience of God's loving Presence within you; the experience of knowing that God Almighty is with you, that God Almighty really cares about you.
The ultimate in esteem for others comes in the certain knowledge that God Almighty is also with them, that God Almighty really cares about them!