Podcast Reflections

Sermon for Trinity 14 (2021)

Listen to a sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, 5 September 2021

Let us begin by closing our eyes …

Now take a deep breath and let your imaginations do some work …

In your mind’s eye, I want you to picture the Jesus you know in your life.

What do you see?

For many there will be an image that was familiar to you in your childhood … perhaps it was a picture that you saw in Sunday School, or in a Bible …

  • full beard
  • white robe
  • calm/serene facial expression
  • surrounded by children/animals
  • arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture
  • performing a miracle or act of healing.

BUT … is this really the Jesus of scripture?

Preceding today’s gospel reading, Jesus has …

  • healed the sick;
  • healed those who were possessed by demons;
  • walked on water;
  • fed 5000 people with just a little bread and fish.

When we think of the busyness of our own lives … which are filled with far less worthy activities than these … we will quickly understand that Jesus was in need of a time of rest.

BUT … then comes the woman who sees Jesus as the only hope of a cure for her precious daughter.

Now we see the unfluffy Jesus … Sarcastic! Reclusive! Grumpy!

Surely, we can all imagine how that Syrophoenician woman felt at Jesus’ initial rejection … Perhaps we can also feel the indignation and despair that caused her to persist in arguing for Jesus to save her daughter.

If we set aside our simplistic version of Jesus we might catch a glimpse of something different … a different way of reading this passage …

Rather than rejecting the woman’s desperate request, we see Jesus recognizing the true depth of her desperate belief!

A woman … a mother … frantic with worry … at her wits’ end … hears of a man from Galilee who can cure all the physical ills of this world.

Instead of dismissing the accounts she had heard as the ‘idle chatter’ of the superstitious and ill-educated, she approached Jesus in hope … she went to Jesus believing in him, and in his redemptive power.

It was genuine, desperate belief that drove her to find Jesus … and then to confront him … and even argue with him.

The Syrophoenician woman demonstrated a depth of belief that we should see as a perfect model of what Christians call faith.

BUT … this great demonstration of faith … a faith which is both recognized and rewarded by Jesus … is found in an outsider, someone who has nothing going for them …

  • a foreigner;
  • a gentile, that is someone not of the Jewish faith;
  • a woman!

Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman and the words we heard from the Letter of James are a direct challenge to the way in which we live out our lives … lives we like to think of as being Christian!

In today’s gospel passage we encounter the ‘real’ Jesus … the Jesus who shared in every aspect of our humanity.

A mother’s request that was met with a simple demonstration of love and healing would not have served us well at the beginning of the 21st century … it would have reinforced our unrealistic view of Jesus.

This moment in Mark’s gospel shows us the absolute necessity of a real and profound faith in God … a real and profound faith that sets aside all of those preferences and prejudices that we value so highly.

This passage also shows us that faith is NOT about what Jesus does, it is about who Jesus is.

Faith is not about getting what we ask for … it is about drawing into an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Faith is NOT about our needs, our wants, our plan A … it IS about Jesus’ needs, Jesus’ wants and Jesus’ plan.

Ultimately, faith is not about us at all … it is about Jesus … our Saviour, our Messiah and our Lord.

We human beings struggle with putting anyone, other than ourselves, in poll position … We are obsessed with ‘self’, which means that we struggle with the teachings on faith we receive in today’s gospel.

So, what hope can there be for us?

If we can learn to let go … if we can learn to let the life of faith unfold according to God’s plan (rather than our own) … if we can accept just how far from ‘perfect’ we really are … then we will be ready to receive the forgiveness and the hope that Jesus offers freely and joyously to us all.

We need to internalize and learn to live by these simple facts …

  • Jesus is the only one we can rely on …
    even in the midst of our deepest despair.
  • Jesus is the only one in whom we can hope …
    even when it seems that all hope is lost.
  • Jesus is the only one we should seek out … fall at his feet … and beg for even just a meagre crumb of the grace he alone can offer.
  • Jesus is the only one who can take our desperate belief … and call it faith!

Surely this Jesus is so much more than the ‘sugary’ and ‘fluffy’ Jesus of our Children’s Bible imaginations.

Next time you close your eyes and think of Jesus, I hope and pray that you will encounter the Jesus who:

  • surprises;
  • amazes;
  • astonishes;
  • and even offends!

as he works his great wonders and carries our faith into a reality beyond our imagining.