Sermon Response: “Even the Dogs”

I write this to my friends at Princeton United Methodist Church, as I wind and rewind the opening of today’s service. so that I can enjoy the soprano/alto duets for the pre-service hymns, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” “To God be the Glory,” “How Can I Keep from Singing?”…..Barbara Fox 

What was your reaction to Pastor Jenny’s sermon today (’Even the Dogs” 8/16/20, available at on the facebook page or on that date at PrincetonUMC.org) about the Canaanite woman “Justa” pictured above? It was based on Matthew 15: 10-28 (video of the first part of that passage here).

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Admitting it was a difficult story (did we catch Jesus on a bad day?) Jenny reminds us that Jesus was not only divine, he was human, raised as a Jew to followed the “clean and unclean” laws. The Hebrews believed that only by following the purity codes could they survive as God’s people.

In the comments I connected Justa  –who persisted against all odds to get Jesus to heal her daughter – with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and author of Fight Like a Mother, showing how the skill sets mothers use to manage their families can empower them to help any cause ”Every mom is already an organizer, a multitasker, and a hero going into battle every day for the ones she loves. Learn how to use those skills to enact change, pass laws that save lives, and FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER”

Then – I regretted posting that in haste. Did I distract or irritate someone who (quietly, because it’s really unpopular in Princeton) supports gun ownership? I can understand both sides. My late husband was raised in a family of hunters but came to reject the unreasonable gun lobby. Some of my children and grandchildren own guns, practice at gun ranges, honor the animals they hunt and are nourished by them. Others of my children and grandchildren – opposing the misuse of guns – march to support Moms Demand Action.

What connects Justa with Shannon Watts? All the mothers everywhere who fight for their children. I thought of the wives and mothers in the civil rights movement who put themselves ‘in harm’s way’ because they were less likely to be harmed than their men. Of mothers of children with rare diseases who fight for cures for their children. Of Deborah and Sara Hicks, fighting today at CHOP for the health of Zion.

Which person in this story are you, Jenny challenged us to ponder?

  • the daughter, who needs healing?

  • the disciple, who rejects the outsider

  • the Son of God, who we might say is changed by Justa?

  • the mother who raises a ruckus to make change?

One way “to grow as disciples of Christ” is to be in conversation with each other about our beliefs. You could comment in the link under the Facebook post, or talk about it in your small group, or email the Communications Ministry Team (Communications@PrincetonUMC.org) to have your thoughts published, or for a more private dialogue, email me or Jenny. What was your response to this or any other aspect of this passage? Had you heard of the Justa Center? Does my response smack of politics and you think politics should be separate from religion? What challenged you?

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