Sunday 16th August 2020
Knowing Your Identity: Revd Pamela Ogilvie
Call to Worship -Claude
Song: "The Servant Song" (Brother, Sister let me serve You)
The Lord’s Prayer -Dylan
Song: "My Lighthouse"
Bible Reading- Genesis 45:1-5 Mya
Gospel Reading- Matthew 15:21-28 by Alexia and in Punjabi by Vic
Song: "All Hail the power of Jesus Name"
Sermon: Knowing Your Identity: -Revd Pamela Ogilvie
May the meditations of our hearts and words of my mouth be acceptable to you my Lord and my Redeemer. Amen. Thank you, Claude, for inviting me on behalf of the church. I have met many of you in person from the previous times I have ministered at Elmwood. This is somewhat different but nonetheless very effective. When Claude approached me about preaching and she informed me it was via WhatsApp, I was perplexed. I had not heard or experienced services via this forum; Facebook, Zoom and YouTube but not WhatsApp. I have to say, I have been so impressed by the quality of the engagement; you all participate! Please, I want to continue as part of your group!
The Gospel reading has been interpreted in many ways; however, I am choosing to see it in a way that may challenge some of you. The Canaanite woman refused to be silenced. Her daughter needed healing and no matter the insults, she would not be deterred. She was on a mission! First, it was the disciples who dismissed her out of hand. ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us!’ See this passage in the context of first century Palestine. The Jews hated and despised the Gentiles which this woman was. They saw them as unclean, dirty people; contaminated and had no association with them.
We see Jesus in his humanity, and I want to stress this. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine which seems a contradiction. He put on the garments of fallen humanity to identify with us totally; absolutely. For some they struggle with this portrayal of Jesus who is not perfect; that appears to be discriminatory, and dare I say even racist.
‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs (v26)!’ My goodness how must this woman have felt to be insulted and so publicly? Her response was immediate. ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table’. Wow! What a woman! She knew who Jesus was because she calls him, ‘Lord, Son of David’. She knew His identity and what he could do for her, but she also knew hers, who she was. She might have been trembling inside, but she would not be intimidated. She spoke truth to power. Jesus had an awakening. ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And we are informed that the Canaanite woman’s daughter was healed instantly.
The disciples insulted her; Jesus insulted her, but the woman was undeterred. She stood her ground; she risked her reputation to approach a group of men on her own. Was it out of desperation? Maybe she had received much rejection in her life; vilified and abused, however, she would not allow any of that to define her. She persisted despite the insults because she knew who she was. She knew her identity. A few insults would not stop her from her goal and at that precise moment, the healing of her daughter.
I wonder how many times she had been rejected and insulted in this manner. What does it do to your psyche? Is what we see her strategy in countering some of the unpleasant behaviours from others? Very calmly she made her case. That takes confidence that in the face of such opposition, you stand your ground and assert who you are. Neither your circumstance nor the definition of others will define you; you refuse to let it affect how you see yourself. You know your value and intrinsic worth which does not come from others or your circumstance but comes from who you are as a child of God. She knew her identity.
How do you hold onto self-belief when the prevailing culture seeks to define you in terms that can be soul-destroying? This is where the Canaanite woman’s story and that of Joseph’s intersect. They show persistence and faith in the face of opposition. Joseph knew who he was and stood resolute. He too did not allow his circumstance to define him. He could have and it probably took all he had to stay true to himself. He had 13 years of wilderness experience. Sold by his brothers, imprisoned for something he did not do. He had a lot of thinking time. Sometimes when we are faced with a situation that we did not plan for and is completely unexpected, our thoughts run riot and we can ponder the same thing repeatedly. It is often hard to break the cycle of negative thinking. There were times that he was probably desperate and in despair but just maybe he kept hold, even though lightly, of hope. Was it that he knew who he was, that self-belief despite the odds, just like the Canaanite woman? They refused to accept their place or their circumstance. That is hard position to maintain when everything, the world as far as you are concerned seems to be against you.
What sustained Joseph for 17 years when it looked as if you had been forgotten? What sustained the Canaanite woman in the face of repeated onslaught of abuse? What sustains you when you experience the unexpected? We are still in a pandemic. Some families have had two or three members dying in close succession. Grief, pain, fear, and trauma have been like a thick cloud hanging over many, many nations. What has sustained you these last five months?
Joseph probably took each day at a time. Lamentations tells us, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (v22-23). The Canaanite woman refused to give up without a fight; her daughter’s life was at stake. She would go down fighting for her child. Joseph and the Canaanite woman may not even have been aware of what kept them going. Sometimes we are not able to fully process our lived experience; we cannot make sense of it. But something keeps us going; it defies comprehension but something far greater than ourselves seem to keep us on track. At the time we are often not even aware of it. It is in hindsight that, my goodness, we see the hand of God in the very detail of our circumstance. Most certainly Joseph demonstrates the ability to look back and see God in the minutiae of his life. The Canaanite woman with the healing of her daughter would see the hand of God in her circumstance. She would be forever transformed by the experience. She may well have become an evangelist like the woman at the well in John Chapter 4.
What of Jesus in the Gospel reading? This may challenge you. Is it that we see the eyes of Jesus in His humanity opened? And I stress His humanity. Do we see an encounter with ‘Otherness’, the Canaanite woman who transformed His perspective on the Gentile community? We know that His ministry was subsequently opened to the Gentiles which include us, and we too share in the inheritance of eternal life through His death and resurrection. Was it, that one encounter lifted the veil on pervasive discriminatory and abusive encounters that led to new insight and recognition that the life of the Canaanite woman and her daughter mattered? If we can embrace a Jesus in His humanity who was open to an encounter that transformed, then, there is hope for us ALL. We too can be transferred and embrace perspectives that once challenged us. ‘For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1.37).’ God’s grace, mercy and justice WILL prevail.
Song: Bless the Lord OH my Soul
Prayers of Intercession- Basha
Song: "And Can It Be"