Sermons

Sun, Aug 20, 2017

Part of the family

Series:Sermons

I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.

Desperate people do desperate things...

and I was desperate.

For some time, my daughter, Shua, had been acting strangely.

It all started, really, after her father died.

She began speaking her mind--

openly and honestly...

not worrying about what other people thought...

saying things that some considered impolite or too confronting...

not behaving like people expected a good girl should.

So one of the neighbours said, "She's got a demon".

Soon all of the neighbours started saying it...

and the rumour spread.

When people tell you that often enough, it becomes true.

Shua's behaviour became even worse.

People felt uncomfortable.

My neighbours stopped chatting to me.

They seemed to avoid me--

left cafes and shops when I entered...

pulled their children inside as we passed by.

We became social pariahs.

After all, someone with a demon is dangerous--

a threat to society.

Some people even told me that I must have been a bad mother;

that it had to have been my fault;

that she was like that because of something that I had done.

So no-one would help.

Alone and unsupported, I was desperate.

I needed help...

from someone... 

somewhere.

And I had nothing to lose.

 

Even so, it was a big risk.

In our society, women are meant to stay at home.

Respectable women don't go wandering the streets.

Nor do they speak to a man in public--

not even their husbands or sons or fathers.

But to speak to a strange man in public--

someone who isn't a relative--

why... 

only prostitutes do that!

And yet, that's what I did.

Because I was desperate.

What's more, the man I spoke to wasn't just any old man.

He was an Israelite...

a holy man.

And I'm a Canaanite.

Israelites and Canaanites hate each other.

It's a hatred that's been going on for centuries.

Ever since they settled here and all but wiped us out.

Their prophets denounced our religion...

called us heathens... 

pagans... 

or far worse;

and killed our priests.

But, truth be told, we weren't much better really.

We kept attacking them.

We didn't respect their values or beliefs either...

kept trying to convert them to our religion.

And so it's been going on for centuries...

tit-for-tat.

So, given all of that, I had no right to ask.

And he had no reason to pay any attention--

which, at first, he didn't.

But I kept following them down the narrow little streets of the city.

Beneath the overhanging apartments- 

so close together that you could shake hands with your neighbour across the street..

All the time, I was yelling... 

"Have mercy on me, Lord.

Have mercy on me, Son of David.

My daughter is tormented by a demon.

Please help me".

People were poking their heads out of windows to see what was happening.

A hush came over the shops as we passed by.

Some stopped and stared...

whispering to each other...

pointing.

All the while, he and his followers just kept walking.

And I kept following... 

yelling... 

"Have mercy on me, Lord.

Have mercy on me, Son of David.

My daughter is tormented by a demon.

Please help me".

 

He must have been embarrassed.

And, maybe, I wanted him to be.

His followers certainly were.

They wouldn't even look at me.

They just kept muttering to him--

no doubt telling him to get rid of me;

to make me go and leave them in peace.

But he didn't shoo me away.

He just... kept... walking.

And I kept following and yelling:

"Have mercy on me, Lord.

Have mercy on me, Son of David.

My daughter is tormented by a demon.

Please help me".

But I could tell that he was listening.

Almost... like... he wanted me to keep trying.

And I did.

I didn't care if I was acting shamelessly.

I didn't care what people thought of me.

I didn't care if they thought that I was a prostitute--

because only a prostitute would carry on like that in public.

I didn't care if I was breaking all sorts of taboos.

My daughter's wellbeing was too important.

If only she could be restored...

then we might not be shunned anymore...

and we could live a normal life... 

be part of the community once again.

 

But they kept walking.

And I kept following and yelling.

Then all of a sudden... 

he stopped--

in the middle of the road--

and turned around.

Like... he wanted me to approach.

So I ran up...

and threw myself down on the ground...

flat at his feet...

just like you would before a king.

"Get up", he said to me.

"Tell me what you want".

As if he didn't already know!

"Help me!

 Heal my daughter".

"It's not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the housedogs", he replied.

That's just what I would have expected an Israelite to say to a Canaanite...

or a Canaanite to an Israelite.

I already knew that I had no right to ask.

And yet...

he hadn't told me to get lost.

And he didn't tell me that now.

He had stopped in the street...

turned around-

as if to invite me to approach-

and here he was, speaking to me in public.

Me... 

a woman...

and a foreign woman at that!

What did he want from me?

Did he want to know how desperate I was?

Well... that was pretty obvious!

There had to be something else.

Did he want me to acknowledge that I had no right to ask...

or to expect anything?

That was pretty obvious too.

 

Wait a minute!--

I thought.

This man speaks about a God who is merciful.

He eats with those considered sinners and treated as outcasts.

He touches the impure.

He welcomes people whom others say don't belong--

people who are excluded--

so why not me?

Okay... maybe I don't have a place at the table.

But I do still belong.

Yes... he used an image of a dog.

But he didn't speak of some scungy stray...

but a puppy... a pet.

And they belong.

They're also part of the family.

And, in a flash, it came to me:

"Yes... but even the housedogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table".

I think that my reply surprised even him.

He did what I asked...

and made my daughter whole;

restored our place in society.

 

At the time, I was simply over the moon.

But, later... 

I started to think about the implications of what had happened...

and what it all meant.

Maybe the whole thing was about getting me to realise that I do belong;

that I too belong to God's family.

Me!

A foreigner.

Someone from a different faith.

Someone who behaves inappropriately.

Someone whom others would say doesn't deserve it.

 

What sort of a God does that?

What sort of a God bothers to listen...

accepts and welcomes...

restores and makes whole...

when we don't earn it...

or we think that we don't deserve it?

Hmmm... 

in the end, maybe, God is just a dog-lover.

And it actually doesn't matter whether you're a pedigreed pup...

or a mangy old mutt.

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