One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Several times it repeats the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors.” And there’s a part of me that believes it’s true! I like boundaries. I like to know “my space.” I like the security of it all. But the poem highlights another truth I hold in my heart. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” There are forces that work to tear them down, piece by piece, bit by bit. The poem challenges us to think about who we are walling in and who we might be walling out. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”
Our scripture reading for Sunday tells of the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite woman. It’s all about the walls and boundaries that separated people in that day and age. And the woman in the story, a mother, crosses those boundaries in bold ways in order to save her child. Jesus’ response to her, initially, is less than warm, making this an extremely challenging passage to digest. She persists, confident that God’s mercy is not just for “the house of Israel,” but for her and her daughter as well.
We’ll wrestle with this text on Sunday, exploring the response of Jesus and the disciples to this desperate mother. We’ll open our ears and minds and hearts to the voices that are challenging us today to expand our understanding of God’s mercy and to whom it belongs. We’ll give thanks and praise to the living God who is always at work within and around us, drawing the circle of justice and mercy, peace and grace, wider and wider.
I’m looking forward to being together on Sunday!
Read “The Mending Wall” by Robert Frost here.
Matthew 15:21-28 (CEB)
From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” But he didn’t respond to her at all.
His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.”
Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.”
But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”
He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.”
She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.”
Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed.
Consider these questions:
- How do you think about/make sense of Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman?
- How do you see/understand the Canaanite woman? Are there ways in which you relate to or understand her?
- What voices, calling out for mercy, are we ignoring or failing to hear? What voices do we wish would just go away?
- Jesus grows and changes in this encounter with the Canaanite woman. As a follower of Jesus, what are ways in which God is inviting you to grow and change?
1. How do you think about/make sense of Jesus’ response to the
Canaanite woman? I think that this story violates what Jesus is and does. The story from John about boundaries in this arena, “the woman at the well,” is not trustworthy either, but it shows Jesus’ openness to a) foreign non-Jewish people b) a person of another gender c) a willingness to go to the Samaritan village to be with non-Jews.
I think that Jesus’ true modus vivendi and modus operandi are willfully universal. Recently I read that scholars found a Hellenized Jewish community only three miles from Nazareth. So now when I read the Greek Christian gospels and letters, I wonder if Jesus spoke some of those words.
He is the opponent of separative boundaries, I think and believe. He is not the opponent of boundaries against evil and oppression.