I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.

Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, August 23rd 2020.

Service led by David Sang-Joon Kim.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, and hold fast my covenant — these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. The Sovereign Lord declares — he who gathers the exiles of Israel:

I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.

So together, gathered by our God, we worship our God of Jesus Christ, whose salvation, whose deliverance is a vision of all gathered together from all ends of the earth, even those whom we would consider keeping out as outsiders, as foreigners, as being different, as unacceptable. As we worship, may God give us his heart of love searching beyond us to gather the missing pieces to make us whole that we shall become God’s joyful house of prayer for all.

I invite you now to a time of prayerful reflection. Please engage with my offering prayerfully. How you choose to engage with it, I leave that up to you.

Prayerful Reflection:

The Good Shepherd by Sieger Koder

I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.

Song:                                      ‘All Praise To Our Redeeming Lord’

Welcome, Notices and Celebrations:

Petersgate AGM. All are cordially welcome to Petersgate’s AGM at 29 Yaldhurst Rd, 3:30pm (refreshments) for 4pm on Tuesday 25th August. RSVP centre.manager@petergate.org.nz or phone 343 3391.

Prison Worship Team leads worship tonight at 7pm at the Men’s Prison.

Working Bee is on Saturday 5th of September beginning at 8:30am.

Song:                                      ‘Aaronic Blessing’

Praying the Psalm:  We will pray a psalm together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. This section of the psalm is a psalm of proclamation and praise. The poet names God as the God of grace and compassion, who responds to our cries and draws near. To a world where it is full of anger, lacks love, where there is no one who cares to hear our cries, where the loudest voices of the wicked drown out the praises of creatures, this poet proclaims this, the good news, that the Lord is gracious and compassionate, the Lord is good to all.

How like this is our world – to which we proclaim the good news, the goodness of God? How will you name the God you proclaim to the world that longs for glad tidings? Can I invite you to take a moment to pray in the silence and name the God that this broken and hurting world needs? Let us proclaim the name of God as we pray together the psalm. Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 145: 8-9, 17-21

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us —
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, God;
Let all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
Let the peoples praise you, God;
Let all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Prayer for others:

We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together

[the offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]:

Offering and Dedication Prayer:

Song:                                      ‘Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow’

Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28           reading from the New Revised Standard Version

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Sermon Reflection:

“Woman, great is your faith!” Last Sunday, we saw Jesus reprimand Peter, “You of little faith.” Then, here we have a great contrast. And so we have an opportunity to ask ourselves more about faith – what is faith, what is a fuller faith?

In the midst of a storm, out in the Galilean Lake, the disciples are fearing for their lives. Seeing salvation coming towards them, as Jesus comes walking towards them, Peter asks that he comes towards Jesus. In this we observed that Peter is leaving behind his community. When he sees the wind surging up the waves, he begins to drown and shouts “Lord save me!” Jesus reaches out to save him. Here Jesus reprimands, Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Importantly, we observed that the storm has not ceased. Jesus and Peter and the disciples are still in the midst of the storm. It is, in fact, when Jesus and Peter return to the boat, return to his community, the Scripture says, the winds ceased.

In taking the whole of the story, we understand that Jesus’ reprimand of little faith to Peter is not focused merely on his incident of drowning but rather on the whole event of him leaving behind his community in the midst of a storm. This is of little faith. It is faith that Peter understands that salvation is found in Christ, where Christ is there is peace like no other, where Christ is there is deliverance. However, It is little in the sense that it is not full. A fuller faith would see salvation in Christ not as mine but as together with the community.

Interestingly, there is a dynamic of a piece of a whole. In Peter leaving the boat, there is a piece missing. It is no longer whole, the completeness of the boat is broken. A similar dynamic is played out in the Gospel story for today. But with a significant difference that shows what a fuller faith is. What is worth praising as great faith. If we see Peter leaving the community, in this story, we see a person coming into the community.

Sometimes when we talk about community, often we talk about who belongs and who doesn’t. This is not necessarily wrong. This is actually important to strengthen the community and keep the community healthy and safe. And more often than not, this is talked about by those who are already part of the community, which makes sense. But what I think is important is that this conversation must be had with the openness to questioning the boundaries of that belonging.

Boundaries give guidance to what is right or wrong, what is acceptable and what is not, what is to be encouraged and what is not – in the community in which we belong. But boundaries – when they are set in stone, sometimes, they become an immovable monument that is merely self-serving. Rather than the boundary serving us, we become a servant to the boundaries. As they say, gate keepers. With this in mind let’s return to the Gospel story to see what is here to be proclaimed as the Good News of God.

Jesus with his disciples are in the district of Tyre and Sidon. They have travelled to a territory that is not customarily Jewish. They have crossed a physical boundary to a place where they are the minority, where it’s not their turf. I wonder whether we can appreciate that their senses would have been heightened being in someone else’s turf. Then we hear a Canaanite woman approach Jesus.

She is of this region. Though this is where she resides, it really isn’t her turf. she lives in a world where the boudaries of the physical, social and cultural world are created by men and for men. Though Jesus and his disciples were foreigners, they had more freedoms than her. They belonged here more than her. In her own homeland, she would have been frowned upon by her people for approaching a man in public without her husband or male family member.

What’s more she is a Canaanite. Israelites and Canaanites are ancient enemies, whose atrocities against each other through wars, have forever scarred their relationships. A Canaanite in her own land kneels before an Israelite and calls him Lord with an accolade of kingship, Son of David. She would not have been popular with her fellow locals.

So, in her approaching Jesus, the Canaanite woman crosses at least 2 boundaries; the social appropriateness of a woman’s behaviour and the cultural appropriateness of bowing to an enemy. She would have upset many people. She would have risked being ousted and rejected and she did this all for the sake of her daughter’s healing.

She does receive rejection. Though she calls out “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David” because her daughter is in distress, Jesus remains silent. She doesn’t give up. She is persistent. To her chagrin, Jesus says: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus sets the boundary of his mission. The blessing of salvation is for his community alone.

This only makes the woman become more determined for the sake of her daughter, stopping Jesus along the way, begging, “Lord, help me.” To this Jesus speaks words that arise from the anger of the pain and suffering of his people from the atrocities of Canaan, it arises from that deep human question of justice – is it fair to feed those who would only return to destroy? So he says: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

And this woman who has crossed the social and cultural boundaries risking rejection from her community, who has risked it all, shows absolute courage and dares to push the boundary once and for all. The Canaanite woman takes this difficult conundrum on its head. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” I am not the dog, I am not the enemy, yet will you deny my child even a crumb fallen from your table?

I hear her saying even more than this. I hear her say I thought you were the face of God, I thought you were calling your people to be who they are, the people of God’s blessing to the world, I thought you fed your people, 5000 of them and what was left over was 12 baskets full of food, I thought your kingdom is one of abundance and generosity rather than like our kingdom of scarcity and fear. Who are you? Are you who you say you are? Will you be who you’ve always said you are? I believe this is who you are. I believe this is the God you are. I believe this is the people you have come to gather into the house of God, the house of prayer.

Jesus proclaims and praises her for her great faith! “Woman, great is your faith!”

The greatness of her faith is because she believed in the God of Jesus Christ to be the God of abundance and generosity even to enemies, even to women aka people in the fringes of our society, she dares to come up to Jesus, who is the face of God, against the frowning society, she dares to come to ask for help to a sworn enemy, against the hate-filled culture. This is the long distance, the great hurdles she had to face and cross. Yes, great is her faith!

What this conversation between Jesus and the Canaanite woman shows is a real tension when we actually live out what we believe. As Christians we speak of forgiveness. We speak of reconciliation. We speak of love as the tenets of our faith. But when we find ourselves in it, living it out actually isn’t as easy as saying it and singing it. This episode in Jesus’ ministry illustrates the tension of what really living out what we believe requires of us. It requires a brave conversation with those with whom we don’t see eye to eye, being honest. But to be honest, we need that person of great faith to approach us with audacity and bravery to cross our boundaries. Because let’s face it, we don’t know who we are until someone crosses the boundary. Until someone asks us to be who we always say we are. Then together we can name our boundaries and to ask the tough question: should it be moved?

Song:                                      ‘He Came Singing Love’

Sharing of the Peace of Christ: Peace of Christ be with you

Song of Sending:                  ‘Where The Road Runs Out’

Benediction:

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever. Amen.