In 1970, the first woman in the Lutheran church was ordained in Word and Sacrament.
In 1972, the first woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 Company was named. Under a woman’s leadership, The Washington Post flourished and famously broke the story of the Watergate Scandal to the world.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan nominates the first woman on the Supreme Court.
In 1987, Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1997, the first female Secretary of State – the highest-ranking woman in the federal government’s history.
In 2010, was the first woman to win an Oscar for the Best Director – including the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture.
In 2016, first female presidential nominee of a major party to achieve that feat, and fought off a strong challenge before clinching the glass ceiling-breaking nomination.
In 2021, first female – first black and first South-Asian Vice-President in US History.
In the first century AD, the first Canaanite woman, paves the way for the Gentile inclusion of God’s mission. And she does it single-handedly with her bravery, wit, and perseverance.
Last week, not only Jesus walked on water, but also Peter, if only a few steps…until he saw the storm come crashing in on him and his fear got in the way of his faith.
Peter cried out to the Lord, “Lord, Save me!”
Jesus stretches out his hand to Peter before he ever sinks, and they both get back into the boat.
The story ends with the disciples knelling at the feet of Jesus as they worship him and confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
They crossed over the lake where crowds of people met up with them and wanted to be healed by Jesus. In fact, many only touched the fringe of his cloak, and they were healed.
And then the Pharisees and the Scribes are looking for anything at all they can find to pick on Jesus about…
They ask Jesus: Why in the world, Jesus do you continually break the Jewish rules and traditions?
Why do you not wash your hands before you eat?
And Jesus responds, “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your traditions?
In other words, Jesus says, “For the sake of your tradition, you make void of the Word!”
Jesus says, In fact, Isaiah was right when he said:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Jesus then looks at the crowds of the people and says, “Listen and understand…”
Whatever goes into your mouth enters the stomach and goes into the sewer. But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.
For what comes out of the heart comes evil intentions and that is what defiles a person –
But to eat with unwashed hands – that doesn’t defile. (It’s not unhealthy)
And so, you see, what Jesus is trying to say is that it is a matter of the heart.
It is our hearts that dictate – gives us direction and guidance to our actions and behaviors.
And just after saying these things, Jesus and his disciples left that place and went to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
Tyre and Sidon were code names for the Jews that meant ‘Paganland.’ The word, “Canaanite’ meant everything dangerous to the faith of Israel.
But here they are…Jesus and the disciples in Paganland – and a Canaanite Woman – A Pagan Woman – A Gentile – and she approaches Jesus – crying – shouting – constantly – and annoyingly.
Have mercy on me, Lord. Son of David. My daughter is tormented by a demon.
And what does Jesus do? He ignores her.
What do the disciples do? They tell Jesus to send her away – Rudely, they tell Jesus to send her away because she is really annoying and she keeps shouting at us!
Honestly, they really don’t act like very nice disciples…especially just having a talk about ‘Matters of the Heart.’
And then finally Jesus turns to her to explain to her.
Look lady…I can’t help you. My mission is only for the people of Israel. I am not here for the Gentiles.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus told her that he felt clear about his mission and the will of God.
But this woman is thinking…His disciples want me to go away, but he didn’t tell me to go away. And he didn’t tell me no either.
Maybe I have another chance here…
So, she gets down on her hands and knees, recognizing him as the Son of God, and pleas with him, “Lord, Help me!”
Now we can hear the desperation in her voice. Her child is sick, and we realize that this woman is not going to give up easily.
She is at her wits end and she realizes that Jesus is her only hope.
And Jesus says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Jesus calls her a Dog. The Greek word for “Dog” in the Jewish culture means an “outsider.” Jews in those days called Gentiles “dogs” because they were considered outsiders – they were not part of the Jewish family.
Jesus insulted her from the standpoint of a Jew. The disciples standing next to Jesus most likely saw that Jesus was insulting her.
In other words, lady…you and your daughter do not belong to the “Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.” Therefore, I cannot help you.
She then she responds – “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.”
And here is where it gets tricky…here is where you need to understand the different cultures in order to understand this wonderful and fascinating conversation…
The meaning of a “Dog” was very different for this Canaanite woman. In Greek, in this sense, the word, “dog” means a “housedog.” Gentiles treated their dogs more like you and I do – they were their pets – a part of their family and they were kept indoors…
While Jesus thought he had the dogs outside in the street, this woman had the dogs inside…In fact, although she was under the table…waiting for the scraps to fall.
In all due respect, She saw herself still at the Table!
By Jesus calling her a ‘Dog’ literally put the Israelites and the Gentiles under the same roof.
Jesus cannot take that back…He has said it and she heard it.
And now here in a moment, they will both be at the table.
This Canaanite woman is in the house – where she has found hope!
She may be a Dog – but she is HIS DOG!
This woman is so witty that she literally traps Christ in his own words and uses Jesus’ own metaphor to turn the tables on him!
Yes Lord! Even the Dogs!
Faith was holding onto Jesus for dear life like a drowning person holding onto a life raft – believing that Jesus is good, even when his words don’t seem to be…
Jesus didn’t say NO and he was moving toward her…
And in a moment, Jesus makes the call to change his mission and break the barrier and heals her daughter – while never even touching her.
It’s hard to know exactly what Jesus was discerning in his moment of silence when he encountered this Canaanite woman…
Was he concerned that Salvation was only for the Jews first?
Was he considering if this woman was wealthy and perhaps did not deserve a place at the table?
It’s hard to say for sure…
But what we can know is that this Canaanite woman never asks Jesus for what she wants, but only asks for what she needs…
She does not ask for what others have…but claims for basic justice and to be treated fairly…
She argues for Jesus to give her a place at the table…even if it is on the floor waiting for the crumbs to fall…
She wants more than anything for God’s loving grace and salvation…
Nothing more and nothing less.
And so, you see…It is all a matter of the heart…
What else could Jesus possibly do at this point but tell her that the demon has left her daughter and she could now go home and find her well.
Her argument changed Jesus’ rejection into acceptance, and he pushed past the boundaries that created a mutual transformation.
The Canaanite woman’s perseverance, wit, intelligence, and bravery paved the way for the Gentile inclusion of God’s mission.
When I was about in the seventh grade, I was told that I could not be an acolyte because I was a girl, in which I did not understand why that had anything to do with being an acolyte and serving God.
In 2013, I was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America as a Lutheran woman pastor in which I serve the Lord and my God.
I believe that all of us can think of times when we have felt that we have been treated unfairly and unjustly – whether it be because of our nationality, our race, our gender, or even our sexuality.
Isn’t it true that in our society we tend to make assumptions and have beliefs or ideas that we take for granted as true without any proof or evidence.
We tend to let male or female – black or white – Asian or Arab – Jew or Christian – make our judgement calls as to whether or not someone should or should not hold certain jobs or job titles.
Our brains seemed to be wired to make these assumptions as they navigate our daily lives.
But here is the irony of the story…While Jesus could not get the Pharisees and Scribes…and even perhaps his own disciples to understand that how we treat each other matters!
It’s not about washing your hands before you eat!
It’s about treating others fairly and doing what is right and maintaining justice!
Could it be that was what was going through Jesus’ heart and mind during his moment of silence when the Canaanite woman was begging for Jesus to help her?
“Thus says the Lord: Maintain Justice, and do what is right…
Because my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
It’s not about the color of our skin.
It’s not about our gender.
It’s not about our ethnicity.
It’s about our faith in our Lord and how we treat and love one another.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like…
Jesus who willingly walked across the boundaries, broke down the walls, erased the lines and did so boldly and lovingly that He opened the door for all people to receive God’s grace and salvation.