Sermon Archives

Divine Agitation ~ Matthew 15:21-28

There is no audio recording for today’s outdoor worship service.

Remember the classic story of the Spanish gentleman La Mancha Alonso Quijano who, in states of dementia would take on an alter ego, Don Quixote, and chase imaginary windmills, fight dragons and save maidens in distress?

In this demented state he saw deeper truths: he dreamed impossible dreams and chose to be a man of virtue in a world of intolerance and fear. He treated a prostitute with honor reserved for the highest lady of the court. He saw people as they were, as beloved children of God, not as the social order of the day determined.

In one place in the book Don Quixote says this: “I know who I am, and who I may be, if I choose.”

Don Quixote, you and I, we as a community of faith, and as citizens of this country that we love have to choose who we are going to be. You and I have to choose who we will be in light of the rhetorical and real violence that hovers over our nation at this time.

Coming to church and loving one another is not protection from real life; there can be no cover up.

Accepting each other just as we are, race, gender, abilities, politics is what we say – but the time comes for each of us to choose how we respond to evil and intolerance as the chickens of ignorance and fear come home to roost.

We have to choose who we will be.

Jesus knew who he was. He had this deep abiding relationship with God who he called Abba – “daddy” – Jesus had THAT kind of intimacy (and by the way you and I can have that intimacy too, if we choose).

But knowing you are in a deep and abiding relationship with God does not save you from making difficult choices of who you WILL be, and what you WILL do.

Your next act is the most telling. Your next choice is what matters. Intentions at the end of the day are meaningless if they do not turn to actions. The way to hell is paved with good intentions!

Being the Son of God doesn’t mean that you won’t have to face some divine agitation forcing you to choose how to live out that identity.

This story is so amazing – Jesus the Son of God, our Lord and Savior, has to choose what he is going to do. As a Jewish reformer, Jesus sees his mission as calling Jews back into right relationship with God.

But then he bumps into a Canaanite woman. The Canaanite woman doesn’t even have a name – she is one of “those,” an “other.” Probably has too many kids anyway.

Now one thing you all need to know is this: Canaanites and Israelites did not like each other. To a Canaanite, Israel was an oppressive invader. To the Jew, a Canaanite was a heathen, worshippers of Baal, they were the “other.”

A Canaanite and a woman – don’t know where her man was, perhaps didn’t have one – I think we can infer that she was low status – and then she starts making a scene. “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is tormented by a demon.” This is not a polite request. The text explains that she was shouting! (v.22)

What did Jesus choose to do? (And don’t jump to the end of the story!)

His first choice: “He did not answer her at all.”(v.23)

Next, Jesus talked to his leadership team. The disciples’ advice was quick and certain: “Send her away because she keeps shouting.” After all, there’s nothing worse than an angry Canaanite woman—this could hurt fund raising!

If you think that she is politely asking for a favor and that Jesus wants to test her faith – please!

This Canaanite woman was not welcome in her own land. She is an African American mother screaming at the police because they shot her son! She is a Latina who can’t believe she is being deported after 25 years in this country – and so she is going to let you have it before she is flown to Nuevo Laredo. She is any mother needing medical help for her child and having to go before an all-male committee.

Jesus’ response after listening to his leaders (who were all men) is typical:

“Sorry, my mission is to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. You will have to go to the department in charge of Canaanite affairs.”

“I can’t marry you, Martha and Jane, even though I think you are wonderful, because my denomination doesn’t allow for same-sex weddings and it might anger some members.”

“I can’t protect you, Jew, because the neighbors might tell the Gestapo.”

“We can’t give you sanctuary because it is against the law.”

The trajectories of these responses, or better non-responses, always lead to standing by the false protection of the status quo while some one else suffers.

Lord, help me.

But this is where it turns and gets really hopeful and gracious. This interaction becomes holy! The Canaanite woman – the other – sees something deeper in Jesus than I think Jesus sees in himself at that moment. I think she knows more about who Jesus really is than Jesus does at that point.

Jesus says: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Those had to be the real words of Jesus because how would the early Christians ever leave them in the scripture as the Word of God?

Now for the divine agitation!

“Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s tables.”

My, oh my! And from that moment Jesus knows something more, sees something more universal and transcendent. He breaks out of tribal narrowness by the divine agitation of this woman; who is revealing GOD – her creator and his – to the son of God. That is deep!

Jesus moves from the shadows of silence, and excuses, he moves beyond self-defensiveness and is changed.

From then on he knows God mission is for everyone – there is no distinction.

It’s a long way from “taking the children’s food and throwing it to the dogs” in this passage to “Go therefore and baptize all nations” (28:18) at the end of the gospel.

You and I must be divine agitators – hold each other accountable as beloved children of God; revealing God to one another!

It is only by holding one other accountable to love, seeing each other as we are and as we could be, by not being so polite, not being so defensive:

If someone calls you on a micro-aggression or on your white privilege, thank that person, don’t dismiss them.

If someone is hurt by the impact of your words, even if that was not your intent; don’t be defensive and walk away – say “I’m sorry, help me understand why?”

Let me tell you, it has only been through your divine agitations that I have become who I am – and there is a long way still to go! Keep it up. (Well, you can lay off me, a little bit!) Seriously, we need to cultivate divine agitation because we love each other and want the best for each other.

We see in each other something that glows with grandeur, and stature, we see each other as beloved children of God, we catch a glimmer of what this country can be, what this church can be, and we push each other to move in the direction of our best selves – towards the revelation of God and indeed our own divinity!

It is time to choose who we may be.

To God be the praise and the glory.