Course Correction

A Sermon preached on Matthew 15: 21-28 on August 17 2014 for the Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Lake George, New York.  I very much enjoyed David Lose’s ideas around the passage for this week!




Imagine if you can this life…

You are a parent, and your child is sick.

You live in a place of few resources and you

are part of a marginal group of people.

You are poor and you are a woman.


Have you ever had a sick child?

Have you ever been desperate?

Have you ever felt as though no one is listening to you?

Have you ever felt as though resources are scarce or out of your reach?

If so you can relate to the woman who comes

to Jesus asking for healing for her sick child.

She is not about to give up.

Even if Jesus or the disciples who are with him

are not ready to listen to her.

Even if the ethnic group she represents is the “other”

and some are not ready to embrace or help her.

She is a mother.

Her child is sick.

That is all we need to know about the sort of tenacity and strength she will have.

That is all we need to know about the woman Jesus has encountered.


The strange part of this passage is that Jesus at first seems to not want to help her.


This passage raises all sorts of questions for us.

If Jesus is perfect, than how could he make a mistake like this?

Not listen to someone, not respect someone.

Not have time to stop and help?  

Worse yet, if Jesus is perfect,

how could he compare this woman and her child to dogs?


We can excuse the disciples and their behavior,

so often they are presented in the Gospels as the ones

who didn’t

“get it,”

or those who

needed to learn.

But Jesus?

Surely he couldn’t behave this way?

Say that he is only on earth to save one group of people and not other.

Talk to another person in a rude or condescending way.

To almost walk away from pain and hurt,

miss the opportunity to be the healer he was.


This passage raises painful and difficult questions for us.

If Jesus is perfect, if Jesus is who we are called to follow…

…what then do we do with this passage?

Is this a version of Jesus that is someone we want to be like?


After Jesus refuses to help her,

The woman, (because as I said at the beginning)

Is a mother with a sick child,

So she already has nothing to lose

Tells Jesus that he is wrong.

And Jesus realizes it.


And so at the end of the passage Jesus realizes what he is to do.

He blesses the woman, he says to her,

“Great is your faith, let it be done for you as you wish!”


We are presented with the Jesus who has to learn something new.

Who is brought up short.

Who finds out that he was wrong.

The Jesus who is human.

A product of his culture, his upbringing, his social prejudices.

Even Jesus, our Savior was human.

Even Jesus sinned and judged others.

Even Jesus had to learn again.


I find that this passage gives me strength.


I know it is a difficult one because it portrays Jesus in an odd light,

as someone who was as broken as you and I are at times.

We too have days like this,

when the racism,

or classism,

or sexism,

ageism, etc.

that is in all of us comes out.

And we react.

Later, we scratch our heads and say to ourselves,

“Did I really do that?”

“Did I really say that?”


“I am so embarrassed.”

I know I have had moments like that in my life.

I bet we all have.


So why does this passage give me strength?

It gives me strength because it reminds me that

even Jesus had something he needed to learn from time-to-time.

Even Jesus needed to make course-corrections.

Even Jesus needed to be scolded every once in a while.


It gives me strength because even in my own brokenness

I know that there is grace.

And that Jesus experienced grace in his life

And he offers incredible grace to each of us.

And to our beloved Church.


I want to encourage you during this season

in the life of your congregation to

think, pray, meditate and spend time on these twin themes

from Matthew’s Gospel that we are presented with today:

learning again and grace.


Learning Again

What will it mean for you, Caldwell Presbyterian Church

when your new pastor arrives?

Will it be business as usual,

will do you do all of your work and ministry in the same way?

That can only be possible if nothing has changed,

if your community is staying the same,

if your congregation is undergoing no changes.


The truth of course is that everything is changing.


We know that how those who are a part of a congregation and

those who are new are both relating in new ways.

New trends are emerging, changes are being felt.

We know that being Presbyterian or Protestant or Christian

doesn’t hold the power or the privilege it used to.

We know that as our children grow up many of them choose to no longer

“go to church.”

And that we live in a pluralistic society

That asks us to find new ways to speak and proclaim the Gospel.

That we live in a world where we must constantly re-examine our own lives as Christians and how we might seek to live as peace-builders.

The world around us is in constant change.

And even this community of Lake George is experiencing change.

Which means we will need to learn some new ways of being,

So that the Gospel can be heard and lived out in a new way.

So that the Church can continue.


We all must learn again.


And this is not because you will soon have a new pastor.

The hard task of learning again won’t be his or her fault.

It just is what it is.

And a good leader will invite you into a journey of learning.

Because “learning again” is the moment we are in in the larger Church today.

And it is the urgent task so that the Church can live into its new day.


Some questions to ponder:

What can we learn, what do we need to learn with a new pastor arriving?

How can we do things differently?

How can we say that the good news is not just for us

but for new and emerging communities and micro-communities around us?

How can we let go of our fear and be ready to embrace the new?

What are we willing to give up to follow Jesus into a new tomorrow?

Where are the places where our comfortablity is holding us back?

Or our prejudices?

Or our fears?

How can we let go of these things as those who trust in Jesus Christ?

How can we embrace learning and living in new ways as those who follow Jesus?


Learning again requires us to change,

To step out into uncharted territory.

To risk, to dare to dream.

It is exhilarating, but it also is scary.


Here is what does not change.

God’s love is with us no matter what.

God’s care abounds in our lives no matter the season.

Even as things change and shift, God’s grace does not.

Will you do everything perfectly when your new pastor arrives?

I hope not!

Will she or he be perfect, and do everything you ever dreamed of?

I hope not!

Will you have a good relationship together?

Yes, but it will take work and grace no matter what.

God’s grace.

The love of Jesus Christ.

This is the Good News for today.

Even Jesus needed love and grace that day

as he encountered the Canaanite woman.

And the woman was begging for love and grace as well.

Neither one of them was perfect.

Neither of their lives was uncomplicated.

And yet grace abounded.

And then healing arrived.

And learning happened.

And new life blossomed forth.


As you enter into this season as Caldwell Presbyterian Church.

This season of preparing and waiting for the arrival of a new pastor,

Who yet you do not know who it will be,

I encourage you to engage in the holy practices


Of learning again.

Of grace.


Make them your markers.

Your watch-words.

Build a life around these two things.


So that as your search nears the final stretch,

as you prepare for the pastor who God has already prepared for you

and who I believe is soon to come and serve you,

you will be ready to embrace him or her.

And to say as she or he walks through the doors here at

Caldwell Presbyterian that you are committed

to learning new things and living with grace.

And engaging in the ministry of Jesus.

May God bless this holy time in which you journey.

Amen. Amen.


2 responses

  1. An interesting discussion on a very difficult passage. So glad I could read it as constant learning seems to be important for me. Thanks.

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