• Rossendale Circuit

Sunday Service - 16th of August - With God there are no boundaries

Video Service


Scroll down to view the written transcript (not exact to the videos) and click here to view directly in youtube.

Part 1


Hymn:


MP 559 Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed Redeemer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_nIRLD_5gE

Fanny J Crosby would love this version


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xIVCb-cFfw

a more modern take, but I’m sure she’d love this one too – it includes Psalm 150


Part 2


Hymns:


MP 329 In Christ there is no east or west

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpITJOShix0Songs of Praise

Check out the Mavis Staples version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAsE-89wNWQ


MP 825 Faithful One, so unchanging

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HROSwkRwpPI


Part 3


Hymns:


MP 651 The kingdom of God is justice and joy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqCOqgQhFyo

The 2020 anthem for, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ – with rewritten lyrics set to the music of ‘Tell out my soul’

Thy Kingdom come– sung by Pete James

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWhL6v8oQZ0



Part 4


Hymn:


MP 862 I’ll go in the strength of the Lord

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOknG-JGeHw




Written Version


*As usual please be aware this is not exact to the video.


With God there are no boundaries


Call to worship: Read Psalm 93

Hymn:

MP 559 Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed Redeemer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_nIRLD_5gE

Fanny J Crosby would love this version


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xIVCb-cFfw

a more modern take, but I’m sure she’d love this one too – it includes Psalm 150

Opening Prayers: Merciful Father, thank you for creating all people equal and calling us your children.

We thank you for the peace that comes when we live together in harmony.

Forgive us for the times when we have caused division and been quick to speak and slow to listen.

Help us to be humble in heart and seekers of reconciliation and peace.

Risen Lord, thank you for uniting us with your Spirit and making us one in you.

Thank you for choosing us to be your body in the world to proclaim your good news and act in ways of love.

May you be glorified through us and be made known to the ends of the earth.

Compassionate Jesus, thank you for showing us your heart for all people for demonstrating welcome to the marginalised and hospitality to those who others declare unworthy.

You do not overlook anyone but know them by name.

We thank and praise you for the same concern you have shown each of us.

You are our Good Shepherd, the giver of abundant life and we praise you. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Introduction to Gospel reading:Matthew places the story we are about to read immediately after Jesus has argued with the Jewish authorities about what makes a person clean or unclean. Jesus’ disciples had been spotted not washing their hands before eating which meant they were unclean. Jesus responded by accusing the Pharisees and scribes of not honouring God because they did not honour their parents and telling them that it is what comes out of a person’s heart that proves whether they are unclean or not.

The story of the Canaanite woman’s faith radically disturbs previously clear boundaries and further questions the accepted definitions of what was clean or unclean.

Read: Matthew 15:21-28

Hymns:


MP 329 In Christ there is no east or west

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpITJOShix0Songs of Praise

Check out the Mavis Staples version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAsE-89wNWQ


MP 825 Faithful One, so unchanging

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HROSwkRwpPI


Photo by Gabriel Jimenez via Unsplash

I wonder if the recent reports of refugees risking their lives crossing the English Channel have upset you?


And how about the racist comments from some people saying that the refugees should have their boats turned round and they should be sent back to France?

To quote Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action,


‘Our Government's response to date has been characterised by hostile rhetoric - not compassionate and effective solutions.


Most of us are fortunate enough to be unaware of what it’s like to have family members murdered, your home destroyed or to undergo torture. Many of these people are not. 


Before all of the debate about borders, safe countries, security and economics begins,we must startfrom a place of humanity. The people who are the subject of these debates are desperate. They have been through hell and need help.’

What is it about the ‘foreigner’ that seems to bring out the best and the worst in us?

It hasn’t taken long for many who were applauding ‘our NHS heroes’ to forget that one in four hospital staff were born outside the UK and now they are insisting that we close our borders to people in desperate need and ‘send them away’.

Two weeks ago, I preached on how Jesus never sends anyone away.


The account of Jesus’ meeting with the Canaanite woman appears, at first sight, to throw this statement into question.


Forty days after Jesus’ birth Simeon declared him to be ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your (God’s) people Israel.’ (Luke 2:32)

From the beginning Luke and Matthew, (don’t forget the wise men were Gentiles), make it clear to their readers that Jesus was born for the sake of all people.

John too spells it out, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)

So, here are a few questions:


Did Jesus have to work this issue out for himself too?

Did Jesus have pre-set boundaries that needed to be challenged?

Did Jesus have to discover for himself the truth of John 3:16?

The answer to these questions is a simple, ‘No’.

Some writers, using this story, have accused Jesus of being fallible and racist. But that rather misses the point of Hebrews which says that Jesus was ‘tempted like us, but without sin’ (Hebrews 4.15).

To read into this story that Jesus was racist also suggests that whoever is making the claim hasn’t read the first 14 chapters of Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew’s gospel was written predominantly for a Jewish readership and yes, Jesus says more than once that he has come ‘to the lost sheep of the [house of] Israel’ (Matt 15.24, compare Matt 10.5–6), butas the writer and theologian Ian Paul reminds us:

‘the inclusion of Gentiles runs as a counter-theme threaded all through the narrative. Non-Jews are woven into the genealogy of Jesus in Matt 1.3–6; one of the major distinctives of Matthew’s birth narrative is the prominent presence of ‘magi from the East’ in Matt 2.1–12; the start of Jesus’ ministry is hailed as the dawning of light to ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ (Matt 4.15) and his early ministry has included people from ‘Syria’, as well as the largely Gentile Decapolis (Matt 4.24–25). And of course Jesus has already delivered two demon-possessed men from these Gentile regions in the north (Matt 8.28–34). 

And, I would add, in the account of Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s servant in chapter 8 Jesus says, ‘many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham’ (Matt 8.11). This is a reference to non-Jews and the Centurion, who again is not Jewish, is commended for his faith, the like of which Jesus says he has not found in anyone in Israel.

Jesus’ calling was to the house of Israel but that excluded no-one, which is why Jesusdid not send the Canaanite woman away.

But even after all this we still perhaps find ourselves asking, where is the welcoming Jesus, the compassionate Jesus, the Jesus who is always ready to reach out to people in need?


Here we see a Jesus who reminds us about his calling to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and who calls a woman and her people a dog!

Why?


Such questions are answered by a careful reading of the text.

Jesus had moved north, left Jewish territory and was in the district of Tyre and Sidon when the Canaanite woman greeted him.

News about Jesus had obviously spread to the area and the woman knew who Jesus was (Mark 3:8).

Not only did she recognise him, but as she begged for mercy, she addressed him as a rightful king calling him “Son of David” which is also a Messianic title.

This Canaanite woman showed that she had a better grasp of Jesus’ identity than the disciples. And now she wanted him to cast out the demon that had possessed her daughter (v. 22).

How was it possible that this woman had more insight into Jesus’ identity than his disciples?

She was, after all, an unclean outsider, part of a people who were remembered as an old enemy of Israel.

At first Jesus ignored the woman; ‘he didn’t answer her at all,’ much to the frustration of his disciples.

Jesus always seemed attentive to the needs of others, he heard their cry before they had finished speaking, he sought out the sick and was always ready with a word of comfort and peace and yet to this poor woman he turned a deaf ear.

But notice, he didn’t send her away. It was the disciples who did that – they obviously hadn’t yet understood Jesus’ wider vision of his ministry. So the woman wasn’t put off.

Perhaps Jesus resisted her pleas to give her the opportunity to show her faith?

When he did respond to her he defined the boundaries of his mission: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The woman was a lost sheep, but she wasn’t a of the house of Israel and therefore, maybe, not part of Jesus’ job description. Or was she?

She called Jesus ‘Lord’ and ‘Son of David’ but then she came close and knelt before Jesus, just as the wise men did at the manger when they offered their gifts fit for a king. Matthew uses the action of kneeling to show a recognition of kingship, power over sickness (Matthew 9:18) and evil, and as a sign of worship. The woman was certainly aware of what she was doing.

She knelt and very simply stated he request: “Lord, help me!”

What would Jesus do? Send her away or meet her need?

Jesus’ response to her, was a well-known and challenging saying: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs”.

This does, at first, sound insulting and even racist!

But we’ve already seen that Jesus wasn’t at all racist.

He was, however, perfectly happy to challenge people in order to help them grow in their faith.

As a former teacher I wasn’t averse to challenging my students with views I didn’t necessarily agree with to make them think through their arguments more clearly.

One of my favourite lecturers at college regularly used the same technique with me.

David Rhoads, another theologian, suggests that Jesus is using the saying about children, bread, and dogs as a riddle to give the woman an opportunity to show how she clearly understands his mission. I wonder too, did Jesus use the saying in such a way as to show that he didn’t believe it to be true? Even with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips?

Whichever way he said it, she certainly rose to the challenge.


To the casual reader it seems that Jesus’ answer had put an end to any hope she still had for her daughter.

But the woman was not deterred: “Yes, Lord,” she agreed with him about his being called first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel but then she continued: “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”.

The woman was claiming a place in the household, even if it was the status of the family’s dog because even the dogs enjoys crumbs from the table.

She placed her hope in what others discarded.

She knew that the Son of David had so much power that there was enough for the house of Israel with more than enough left over for her.

She was not trying to hinder Jesus’ mission – she just wanted a crumb, recognizing that even a crumb was powerful enough to defeat the demon that possessed her daughter.

And Jesus praised her faith.

This woman seemed to understand what the members of the household of Israel had still to understand. Jesus was not just the hope of Israel, he was the hope of the world.

To quote Ian Paul again: ‘Jesus is the Jewish messiah, and it is out of the overflow of God’s grace from Israel to the Gentiles that we are saved. Gentiles do not displace Jews in God’s economy of salvation, but in fact get to share the same ‘bread’ of Jesus and his provision.

Jesus recognised the woman’s wisdom, insight and ‘great faith’; this is the only time that faith is described as ‘great’—something of a contrast to the ‘little faith’ of Peter when he got out of the boat!’ (remember last week?)

The Canaanite woman called Jesus, ‘Son of David’, knelt before him, acknowledged his power to heal and in so doing revealed her great her faith, and Jesus was impressed, “Woman, great is your faith!” he said and he healed her daughter.

She wasn’t unclean after all.

She hadn’t given up when Jesus mentioned boundaries and she showed that she understood Jesus’ mission better than his disciples.

Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman prepares us for the risen Jesus’ great commission to go and make disciples of all nations (28:20) and reminds us that the Church should always be busy breaking down the boundaries of prejudice and injustice.

God is happy to meet with those we consider as unclean outsiders.

He calls them to faith and grants them not just a crumb, but a place at his table.

God’s unlimited love and mercy know no boundaries; they even reach out to you and me who, in the words of the communion service, are not worthy to even gather up the crumbs under his table.

When it comes to barriers and issues of prejudice and justice; when we watch the boats filled with refugees crossing the Channel, when we find ourselves thinking, ‘send them away’, in whatever context, we need to kneel with the Canaanite woman before Jesus and echo her prayer: “Lord, help me. Lord, help me”


Photo by Ra Dragon via Unsplash

MP 651 The kingdom of God is justice and joy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqCOqgQhFyo

The 2020 anthem for, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ – with rewritten lyrics set to the music of ‘Tell out my soul’

Thy Kingdom come– sung by Pete James

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWhL6v8oQZ0

Prayers of Intercession:

Almighty and loving God we pray for refugees and asylum seekers who are so desperate to reach a place of safety that they are willing to risk their lives to cross the Channel.

We pray for changes in government policy, a warm welcome and a new beginning far away from war, famine and injustice.

We pray for the victims of the train crash in Scotland, for those who have been injured and for those who mourn. Fill their lives, we pray, with your healing power, your peace and your comfort.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

We pray for the Church; that we might truly be your people working for justice and peace in the world. Where there is injustice and prejudice may we be willing to be faithful messengers of justice and hope and always ready to speak out, and act, on behalf of those who have no voice.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Like the Canaanite woman we come before you Jesus, bringing others in prayer.

We pray for our friends and family and ask you to meet them in their need. Bless them and fill them with the Holy Spirit to equip them to do all they can in the work of building your kingdom of peace and justice.

Lord, we thank you that the Canaanite woman showed great persistence; she did not allow the disciples’ irritation or Jesus’ challenge to put her off. She knew what she wanted, and she trusted that Jesus would help.

We pray that our faith may have something of her clarity and persistence.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer


Today I want to pray too for Christian writers using their gifts to share the good news of the kingdom of God, and especially for a friend of our church who has written a book for children called The Star Thief. May the book speak of God’s love and justice to all who read it.


Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer


We thank you Father that you hear our prayers which we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen

Blessing:

Go in grace, and know that you are called,

Go in love, to find that calling and pursue it,

Go in the Spirit of the Living God, to grow and learn and be transformed,

Seeking justice and peace in our world, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Hymn:


MP 862 I’ll go in the strength of the Lord

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOknG-JGeHw



Refugee Action is a registered charity. Charity number in England and Wales: 283660, Company registration number: 1593454. Victoria Charity Centre, 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 1RB

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