Fr. Philip Sang: Receiving What is Not Deserved

Sermon delivered on Trinity 10A, Sunday, August 20, 2017 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church. Westerville, OH. What a splendid day to listen to this fine sermon! Praise God that Father Sang has even learned how to write!

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 45.1-15; Psalm 133; Romans 11.1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15.10-28.

In the name of God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our readings today, the theme that i see running across is receiving what is not deserved. In the story of Joseph and his brothers, the guilty brothers were “so dismayed at [Joseph’s] presence,” they were failing to hear his words and believe them. I imagine their minds were caught between, “Is this Egyptian prince going to kill us, or will dad kill us for selling his favorite son and lying to him that the lions ate Joseph?” They heard words, but that could not have faith in them. They could not believe that they were receiving such treatment from their brother whom they sold. They did not deserve.

In the first part of the gospel, we have entered into a setting that keeps us from realizing that the Pharisees had just complained to Jesus about his disciples eating food without washing their hands first. They complained that the tradition of the elders was not being maintained. Jesus then “called the crowd to him and said, “It is not what goes in the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

The disciples then whisper to Jesus that the Pharisees took offense at what Jesus just told the crowd. The Pharisees had missed the point of God’s Law and had forgotten the warning of Isaiah. The words of the Torah had been read, but the Pharisees had a failure to understand and communicate the intended meaning properly.

Jesus then used a parable about the blind leading the blind, when he told the disciples why the Pharisees were offended. Peter stood up and said to Jesus, “Explain this parable to us.” Obviously, there was a failure to understand the precise reason how Pharisees with working eyesight and a crowd without any blind people could be called “blind.”

In the letter that Paul wrote to the Romans, there was doubt about how the Jews could still call themselves “the chosen ones of God,” when they had screamed out that Jesus should be killed. They sold Jesus into the slavery of a punished prophet. Paul explained how disobedience today does not mean disobedience tomorrow; so even though the Jews killed Jesus, they are still called God’s children. Though they don’t deserve Jesus had explained to Peter and the disciples, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” That statement reflected verbally and vocally that one’s inner level of defilement – or righteousness – presence of or lack of either and both – comes out through the words you use. We speak from the heart – good or bad as Jesus spoke; but his words did not sink into the disciples’ hearts.

As they walked into Canaan, some crazy Canaanite woman began shouting at them. “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.” The disciples urged Jesus to ask her to go away, causing him to say, “I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus was a Jew, with only Jews following him. He was, in essence, a Jewish ram leading twelve mindlessly lost sheep, who were now frightened by a woman that was not one of them. Before anyone could tell the woman to shut up, she ran before them and knelt down before Jesus. She said, “Lord, help me.” She prayed for mercy. Her words spoke the truth of her heart. Jesus told her, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to dogs.” At that moment, Jesus had just come up with another parable. Peter had asked Jesus to explain the “blind leading the blind” analogy. Now, Jesus was talking about children, and food, and dogs, none of which were a part of that present reality.

But, the Canaanite woman understood what Jesus was saying. Her immediate response was, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” She understood she was like a dog, begging for help, completely dependent on the master. Yes she did not deserve but was pleading for mercy. She understood that she was not invited (yet) to sit at the table with the master, able to have a full bowl of food, meaning she was not allowed (yet) to follow Jesus as a disciple and be fed by his words so they filled her heart with understanding. She understood that she would be happy if only one crumb would fall her way, a crumb that would save her daughter from demonic possession. Jesus exclaimed, “Woman, great is your faith!” Finally, finally someone is getting it! Jesus said (in essence), “You understand because my words have missed your mind and hit your heart.

Back to the Old Testament lesson, we see how the outpouring of emotion, between Joseph and Benjamin, where there was hugging and weeping and kissing taking place in front of the other brothers, that was when the brothers could begin to talk to Joseph once again. When they processed his words in their minds, they were speechless. They could not communicate.

But, when their minds were triggered by their hearts, they cried, realizing their level of defilement, while FEELING how amazing it was to be forgiven for their sins. Though they did not deserve The brothers wept before the words could come from their mouths. Their heart would then be the source of their confessions and repentance, they realized they had been dogs, blessed by a crumb of forgiveness from the master’s table. They did not deserve the mercy and the love they are receiving.

The focus that needs to come from today’s readings is we are all in one or more states of being that the words of Scripture highlight. We are blind, until our eyes are opened to see the truth. We are headed to a fall in the pit, until we see the right path that must be taken. We lead others to do as we do, when we have no clue about what it is we should do. We are led by evil intentions more often than by righteous emotions. We take offense at those who understand things we misinterpret. We like to feel special as lost sheep, crying out for our leaders to run off outsiders. We ask Jesus to explain everything for us, rather than becoming emotionally one with God, so that our mind speaks as Jesus, knowing in our hearts what God’s plan is.

In the Gospel reading, it was a stranger that readily recognized Jesus as “Lord” and as a “Son of David.” She knelt before His presence and prayed, not for herself directly, but for her daughter, whom she loved with her heart. Her prayer was answered because of her faith. I am sure we all have experiences where our prayers have been answered. Not because we deserve. When we pray we pour out words from the heart. Still … Many times, we do not realize how well our prayers have been answered, until years after the fact. It is in hindsight that our eyes can be opened so we can see. The length of time between prayer and realization of a crumb being within our grasp, depends on our persistence and dependance on God as emulated by the canaanite woman. Faith does not make things easy, it makes them possible Paul wrote, “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” There “may be mercy” granted, once our understanding with our brain is replaced by a faithful heart. You effect the outcome.

Let me conclude by sharing a testimony, I once prayed earnestly to God for a sign that I was doing the right thing, making radical changes in my life, while trembling that everything I was embarking upon had no clear future. This is when i had to leave my family in Kenya to come to the united states to study not knowing how things were going to be, Philarice in Kenya and i here in the states. With the college I was attending, I was only approved to received Tuition assistance but not living expense. It was hard life but this foreigner kept going through the Grace, mercy and love of God send through his people. Once i was done with schooling i was caught in between taking the job i had been offered back in kenya and moving to the states for the unknown. I chose the latter trusting that God will provide, and truly he has provided. On our arrival we decided to settle in OH, columbus to be specific, where we knew only one person, Christopher. God led us to st. Augustine’s where we have found mercy and love not that we deserved it, but it is because of the love of God, especially being outsiders or dog as Jesus calls. We prayed with the support of the church that God lead me to find a job that would provide for our needs and enable me to serve his people. In 2014 I took another turn into chaplaincy which this church has been part of my support and encouragement. You have shown us Grace, mercy and love of God. to cut the long story short, as I speak I am happy to announce that I graduated from my residency as a chaplain on Tuesday from OSU and God has Graciously answered the prayers that Father Kevin asked you to pray for me to get a job. I have accepted offer of a job as a chaplain staff with OSU wexner medical center as a chaplain effective today. Join me in giving thanks to God for his Grace, Love and mercy.

As I said earlier the prayer of the canaanite woman was answered because of her faith. When we pray we pour out words from the heart. Still … Many times, we do not realize how well our prayers have been answered, until years after the fact. It is in hindsight that our eyes can be opened so we can see. The length of time between prayer and realization of a crumb being within our grasp, depends on our persistence and dependance on God. How I pray this morning that God will grant us his Grace, mercy and love as we surrender our lives to Him.

In the name of God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.