Sermon on Grace, Dogs, and Sass-Mouthed Women

 

 

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Years ago a couple friends of mine, who are both stand-up comics, decided that for the Valentine’s Day season, they would try and get in on the chocolate heart business.

Only, their chocolate hearts were special. Because their chocolate hearts were anatomically correct. Complete with 4 chambers and a red aorta. They even came packaged in a little white box with a handle that looked just like the igloo coolers in which organ donations are transported.

It was totally hilarious and an absolute business failure.

I thought about that this week as I read our text for today. Because I never understood why the heart – the 4 chambered thing with a red aorta is the place where we say love and friendship and sentimental pictures of puppies comes from. Honestly, I’m not sure why we envision those things coming from an internal organ at all. Anyhow, the point being that, most times when we speak of the human heart we speak of love and affection and sentimentality and friendship and, of course, puppies.

Which is just so sweet, isn’t it. And don’t we just love people who have a big heart? Sometimes in church circles – actually only in church circles because really only Christians say things like this: you’ll hear people say: I just have a heart for….fill in the blank – some group they are not a part of. I just have a heart for Guatemalans…or the gays…or artists in the city.

Anyhow…this is how we most often speak of the heart. Love, concern, affection, rainbows etc. But, just in case you didn’t catch it in our Gospel reading for today, this is not how Jesus speaks of the human heart. I’ll repeat it just in case you didn’t catch it the first time

“For out of the human heart” Jesus says, “out of the human heart comes evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and slander”. Wow so much for friendship and rainbows.

I think maybe Jesus has a slightly different view of the heart thanwe do.

See, right before he says this thing about the darkness of the human heart, Jesus had just had a little thrown down with some super religious dudes who were feeling a wee bit superior.

These Pharisees were like, “hey Jesus, your disciples aren’t washing their hands and they are eating the wrong kind of food with the wrong kind of people”

The Pharisees were pointing out how everything the disciples were doing and eating and thinking and saying was wrong wrong wrong as a way of also showing how everything about them was right right right and I thought, man, these guys would have LOVEd Facebook.

So the Pharisees were like, man, Jesus disciples, what a bunch of losers who don’t get it.

So Jesus says,…you think you’re all that because you keep all the rules and eat the right stuff…you think that makes you pure of heart?

It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles, Jesus says, but what comes out of it. For out of the human heart comes evil intentions, murder, etc.

And after reading this, I’m like man, the Pharisees, what a bunch of losers who don’t get it.

Which, I will suggest, is also exactly what the disciples were thinking…so to now teach them a lesson, Jesus moseys over to the wrong side of the tracks and this Canaanite woman – this unclean, impure woman comes shouting for mercy and healing.

And like any good disciple of Jesus, these guys – feeling a wee bit superior were like, “Wow, that’s annoying. Jesus should really just get rid of this women?”

So Jesus decides to play with them a little more, and he’s like, yeah, she’s such a loser who doesn’t get it. After all, I only give mercy and healing to winners who already totally get it.

To actually quote the text,

And the Canaanite woman came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

(And then – and here’s why this Canaanite woman is basically my hero – because then she sasses him.)

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

On a totally personal level, I love a text in which Jesus commends the faith of a sass-mouthed woman.

A lot of folks get hung up on the fact that Jesus seems to us to be a real jerk in this story, But the thing is, I think he wanted us to know that the Canaanite woman got a very basic idea of Christianity that the Pharisees and the disciples didn’t get:

And that is that Grace and mercy and healing has always been for people who are basically dogs.

It’s kind of like the tale of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector from Luke 18 all over again. Remember that one – when the super-duper religious guy prays “Lord thank you that I am not like this tax collector here., Thank you that I am not like those Christians who say stupid things like “I just have a heart for Guatamalans”, Thank you Lord that I am not like the people at church who never bring food for the potlucks or like those intolerant people or like my parents. Thank you Lord that I am not like those racist cops. Yes, thank you Jesus”.

And again, this is what it looks like to justify ourselves. This is what it looks like to use our self-named virtues to try and justify ourselves before God and others. This is what it looks like to say that our human hearts are a source of only love and goodness and rainbows.

But Jesus calls BS on that. He calls it on the Pharisees and he calls it on the disciples and he calls it on us. He names the human heart for what it is and in Luke 18, he asks: who is justified before God, the righteous one who prays thank you that I am not like that sinner, or the sinner who prays, Lord Jesus Christ son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

See, the Canaanite woman is the hero of this story because she doesn’t try to justify herself before God, she’s like, “Jesus, you’re right. I AM a loser who doesn’t get it – so, you know, hand over the goods already”

She knew that if our hearts were pure and undefiled and filled with nothing but friendship and sentimental memes of cute puppies and inspirational verses then we would not even need Jesus.

The sass-mouthed Canaanite woman was like, yeah – of course I’m a dog – why else would I be on my knees asking for mercy and healing? Just to be clear – that’s not having low self-esteem, that’s just finally admitting the truth and admitting the truth is always an act of faith.

Never once did Jesus commend the faith of anyone who was a wee bit superior and pure hearted and smug and not actually needing him. You know why? He came to save sinners. He came to heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind so how the Hell Christianity became about being smug and intolerant and a wee bit superior is beyond me.

So, if you are a loser who doesn’t get it. If you have a heart that is sometimes dark, and selfish. If you are a liar or if you rely too much on alcohol or if you are a thief or think some really horrible things about other people, like almost ALL THE TIME, then know this: Jesus came to trade all that broken crap for his own righteousness. All of it. You can just lay it down at the foot of his cross and let him take it from you. It’s his now. He can make you new. I know it sounds crazy, but I just cant tell you how true it all is that when we were yet sinners, when we were yet losers who didn’t get it. when we were yet smug perfectionists, when we were yet racists, Jesus came to save.

 

Let us pray,

Have mercy on us Lord, for we are indeed losers who don’t get it. And like the Canaanite woman we are on our knees begging for mercy and healing and help. We have made a mess of things here in this world and we frankly don’t know what to do and posting things on Facebook just isn’t helping. So Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us. Have mercy on black boys and racist cops. Have mercy on Palestinians and Israelis, have mercy on victims and perpetrators. And bring some healing, Lord. Bring it. Bring it in our hearts and in our lives and in our world. And if we sound a little sass mouthed about this, good. Because today we are holding your feet to the fire. Because you promised. You promised to be with us and to bring salvation and new life. And even if it is nothing but crumbs from your table and even if we are but dogs, we are bolding are claiming those promises as our own and reminding you to show the hell up and do for us what we simply can not do for ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org


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