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For the Dogs

Jan 21, 2018 - Rev. Victoria Robb Powers

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The Powers family have a beautiful golden retriever named Winston. Dog-lovers and passers-by alike cannot help but notice that he is a particularly attractive. However, the casual acquaintance is not aware that Winston is also very hyper and rambunctious, causes damage and chaos around the house, and is often smelly or downright gross. Dogs are fantastic and beloved pets, but at the end of the day, they are still dogs and can be somewhat disgusting.

In our Gospel Lesson this week, Jesus alarmingly calls a woman a dog – not because she has the same winning looks as Winston, but because she’s lowly a nuisance, and maybe even a source of disgust. Jesus had retreated to the north – into Tyre and Sidon – because the situation was getting more threatening for him and he and his disciples needed a place of rest, where they could stop fishing for people and only fish for dinner.

In the middle of their Sabbath retreat, a woman shows up asking Jesus for help. However, this woman received no patience or compassion – perhaps because she was a Gentile and a Canaanite rather than a Jew, she was a woman without and male representation in a patriarchal culture, and she was disrespectful as she shouted and pestered Jesus and the disciples.

She was there with a group of men who just wanted her to go away. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Many women in our world know this Canaanite woman, because they are this woman – still marching and crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.”

Why is such a bizarre story with Jesus’ harsh behavior recorded in our Scriptures? Perhaps because this woman understood what religious elites often miss – that grace, forgiveness, and divine love are always for the people who are seen as dogs. She conceded to Jesus that she was perceived as a dog, and she came on her hands and knees begging for Jesus’ mercy like one unworthy of him. She reminded Jesus that he came for the dogs – to be a physician for the sick, not the healthy (Matthew 9:12).

If you feel unworthy, or if you find yourself forgotten, or if you have sinned – Jesus came for you. We all come to worship and daily to Jesus like a pack of dogs – unworthy and often unruly, but asking in faith for grace and mercy.

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