Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments
The Great Commission more recently has been used by some conservative and breakaway groups as a litmus test to determine in their mind just how Christian one really is.
What is often overlooked are Jesus’ words in verse 20 about teaching those new disciples “everything that I have commanded you.” Everything would include the Great Commandment: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.
But what is also overlooked is how Jesus got to that final instruction to his disciples because he didn’t start out that way.
So why did God Incarnate change His mind anyway? Well there was this Syro-Phoenician woman, see, and…
So what happened to Jesus? Well, there was that uppity Canaanite woman a few chapters later (Matthew 15:21-28) who came shouting that her daughter was ill and would the “Son of David” please heal her. We see a different kind of Jesus, I suspect, that most of us would not like. He ignores her, which would have been acceptable in that culture given the norms of men not speaking to women in public. His disciples urge him to send her away. But she pleads with him. His response: “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.”
The Son of the Living God was nasty to her and everything.
She kneels before him and begs. His response borders on rude and condescending: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
But she taught God In-Freakin’-Carnate a thing or two.
Here we see a side of Jesus we’d rather not. He has just called her a dog as well as the indigenous people of Canaan. Was she insulted? If so we don’t know. But she does challenge Jesus saying, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
So Our Lord learned something from her that He didn’t know.
That is a turning point in Jesus’ whole ministry. From then on this gospel we have been given became available to everyone. That encounter with an uppity Gentile woman changed Jesus forever.
Or…or…or…He directed her faith to where it was supposed to go. You might say that this was a teachable moment, Dan.
So when we are challenged by a changing culture, changing neighborhoods and changing attitudes, why do our congregations not change? Are we afraid? Might we fail? Might we do something wrong? All understandable responses. But Jesus promises in Matthew to be with us always.
How about because letting the culture determine our theology means that we’ll eventually turn out as weak, useless and ineffective as the Episcopalians currently are?
What’s stopping us?