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Seeking Attention

Scripture :   Matthew 15:21-28 CEB

In our passage today, we find a woman who did all she could to gain Jesus’ attention for the sake of her daughter. Her experience reminds me of another story about a man who also did what he had to do to be heard. In this story, a man and his wife were heading up to bed one night when the wife noticed some light shining into their bedroom window. She informed her husband, “You’ve left the light on in the shed outside!” Well, he knew that he hadn’t been in the shed that day. As he looked out the window, he saw some people stealing things from the shed. He promptly phoned the police, but was told that no officers were in his area; there was no one available to catch the thieves. The man replied, “OK,” and hung up. He then counted to 30 and called the police again. This time he said, “Hello. I just called a few seconds ago because there were robbers on my property. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now. I’ve just shot them all.” Within five minutes there were half a dozen police cars at his home and an armed response unit. They caught the burglars red-handed. One of the policemen said to the man, “I thought you said you’d shot them!” The man replied, “I thought you said there was no one available.” (haha)

Sometimes you just feel like you need to get somebody’s attention any way you can.

We all face trials in our lives. Sometimes even though we have done all that we can do, it isn’t enough. At the same time, we also continue to learn that there is a big world outside of our own troubles. God cares about us and the whole world. In fact, the kingdom of God is bigger and more inclusive than we would ever have dreamed. Today’s scripture lesson has two essential lessons that we can learn from the characters in the scene:

  1. The Canaanite woman gives us an example of the kind of faith we need to have, especially when we face impossible situations.
  2. We can learn with the disciples a lesson about inclusion as we watch Jesus pay attention to and answer this non-Jewish woman’s request.

First, I’ll talk about the Canaanite Woman and her great faith. This woman’s words and actions display active persistence, humility, and a very respectful approach that eventually wins her Jesus’ attention. Throughout the interaction, she shows reverence and faith. She recognizes who Jesus is and keeps her focus on the issue at hand, her daughter’s deliverance. The woman kneels before Jesus, and acknowledges that He is the only One who can help. She then asks Him to do so. We learn from this woman that when we are at the end of our rope, we should turn to Jesus for help. Our faith must be persistent. We shouldn’t give up.

In this conversation, Jesus also teaches His disciples a great lesson. It is as if He were holding a mirror in front of their faces, letting them know that God doesn’t distinguish between people’s origins, social status, or culture. Instead, God responds to all whose faith rests in Him. You may notice that the disciples are silent throughout Jesus’ interaction with the woman, except to urge Him to send her away. They obviously disapprove. Even Jesus is silent at the start, almost as if He is waiting for His disciples to understand the bigger picture. Jesus then speaks aloud what they are thinking: “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” and “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” In the end, Jesus expands their understanding of who should receive His love, healing, and attention. By revealing to them the Canaanite woman’s strong faith, and by healing her daughter, Jesus changed their ministerial understanding. Salvation should be shared with everyone, to the Jew and the non-Jew.

Likewise, Christians are called to cross beyond our boundaries, to go outside our comfort zones, in order to extend God’s kingdom. To be able to do this, we need to have a clear vision of who we really are, and to understand what it is we are called to do. This clarity comes when we draw near to Jesus and let Him cleanse our hearts, rid us of our prejudices, and broaden our understanding of His will. We become open to the Holy Spirit, teachable, and able to do good deeds. The result is a strong faith that will enable us to experience miraculous moments like Jesus’ healing of the Canaanite Woman’s daughter. 

It is important now more than ever to keep a pure, focused, and loving servant heart for everyone. If we do this, we will be able to avoid discrimination of any kind against others, and we will be able to expand God’s kingdom.

Also, I haven’t forgotten about the Canaanite woman. If you ever think that God doesn’t have time to hear your prayers, or that they aren’t worthy enough for Him to respond, you are far from the truth. God really does listen to every word we say and hears all that we ask. We don’t know the full picture, so just like the Canaanite woman we must persist. How we respond to our waiting might hold a lesson for others who are watching us and observing our faith. The time of waiting might be for them. In the meantime, we must humbly persist, and God will respond at the right time. 

Let’s pray.

(end of service) Closing Prayer:

Gracious Lord,

Help us to understand how important and precious 

we are for You, 

that always take care our deepest concerns, 

and give us the assurance 

that You are always waiting for our most humble prayers.

In the Name of Jesus, we prayed.