20th August 2023 10.30am – Eleventh Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 56.1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.

Matthew 15.21-28

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she 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.’ 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.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Catherine, Reader at St Mary's


The Women’s World Cup final is about to begin/has just begun.  If you secretly wanted to miss St. Mary’s today in order to watch another Mary’s skill in goal, don’t worry -  I’ll keep this short so you can catch the second half…
Football is tribal.  Us and them.  For at least 90 minutes, you do whatever you can (within the rules) to confound the opposition and win the game.  Sadly with the men’s game, the rivalry between fans often turns ugly.  To maintain order and safety, pubs restrict customers to home fans, and the police bring out the dogs and helicopter.
The women’s game has been refreshingly different, and has become deservedly popular in recent years.  It’s been noticeable that the players are kind to each other and those winning are often quick to console their tearful opponents.
Because you need two teams to make a football match possible.  You need many more to put on a tournament.  You need players of great skill on all sides to make the match challenging and entertaining.  For a World Cup you need teams from all over the world.  This year’s tournament did that well.
Players might be light or dark-haired, have dark or light skin, wear a blue shirt or a red one, but ultimately, they’re all footballers.  Some have only been opponents during this tournament.  During the rest of the year, they play on the same team for the same club.  And all of the teams in this World Cup have faced the same challenge – to encourage people to take the women’s game as seriously as they do the men’s game.  These women have all ultimately been on the same side.  Far more unites them than divides them.
Forming tribes and groups happens in all walks of life.  It happens in sport, politics, between different racial or socio-economic groups and different religious groups.  It happens within the same religious group.
Today’s passage from Isaiah shows that this is not new.  Its backstory is found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  After 70 years’ exile in Babylon, the people of Judah have permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and temple.  Those who have returned now follow a strict interpretation of God’s Law.  They see the exile as God’s punishment for having strayed from the Law, and want to get things right this time.  They worry that foreigners might contaminate their worship and society with other beliefs and practices.  So they refuse to let the people of Samaria help with the rebuild, and tell anyone with a foreign wife to send her away.
The prophet objects:
...my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
Besides those already gathered.
“You were far away and I brought you home.  But others love me too.  I want them to worship and serve me, just as I want you to.  My temple shall be a house of prayer for everyone.”
The issue is still alive and well in Jesus’ time.
When a Canaanite woman follows Jesus’ group, crying out repeatedly for Jesus to heal her daughter, his first response is to ignore her.  When she persists, his disciples urge him to send her packing.
Finally he speaks.  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Is he speaking to the disciples or the woman?  It isn’t clear.  Is he speaking with conviction, in jest, or with a hint of doubt in his tone, suggesting a change of mind?  We don’t know. But she sees her chance, comes nearer and kneels before him.  When he suggests that his own people might need him first...
“It isn’t fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”
...she is ready with her response:
“Even the dogs will eat up the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
She’ll gladly have whatever his people will discard.
An encounter with a foreigner, a woman at that.  But one in which she stands her ground, opening up the possibility to Jesus’ disciples, yes and maybe even to Jesus himself, that God’s love may be broader than ever previously imagined.  And so her daughter is healed.
Far more unites us than divides us.  God is on your side, my side and their side.  So whatever our individual differences let’s remember as a church that we’re ultimately all playing together for God’s side.  And that God’s love is still broader than we can ever imagine.

The Prayers
Prepared by Kath

God our Father, hear us when we pray to you faith.
We give you thanks for this day, for our lives and the amazing world you have given us to live in. Help us to be good stewards and to look after it for this generation and the generations to come.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Father we pray for your church throughout the world and for those of other faiths who worship you. May we find ways to live together peaceably and handle our differences respectfully and with open minds that we might learn from one another. We pray for those caught up in the inter-faith strife taking place in Pakistan; for the Muslims who believed that their holy book, the Quran had been desecrated and for the Christian community who suffered the indiscriminate violent backlash to this. We pray for a peaceful end to this awful situation and that in time relationships between the religious communities can be rebuilt.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the world and all peoples, especially those who live in troubled places because of wars, oppression, natural disasters, political strife, economic problems and great need for the basics of life. Father help us to work together to end these terrible situations wherever possible and to share the earth’s resources fairly for the good of all. Bless all who strive for these things. We continue to pray for those suffering the effects of climate change such as excessive heat, drought, wild fires and flooding. Especially we pray for the people of Hawaii who have lost loved one and their homes and livelihoods in the recent terrible fires.  Father help us to change our ways so that we do not destroy our home.
We pray also for all who are caught up in migration due to troubles in their homelands and for those trying to deal with the distressing and complex situations that arise out of this. Father we pray that just and compassionate ways forward will be worked out, especially for those who are in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are ill and those who are nearing the end of their lives. May they receive the care, comfort and compassion they need. We pray also for those who accompany them on their journey who also need to be supported.
In a moment of quiet let us call to mind anyone known to us who is in special need of our prayers at this time and let us also pray for ourselves and our own concerns and needs.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We remember all who have died, some recently and some long ago. We pray that they are at peace and that those who love and miss them will be comforted and cared for in their grief.
Again in a short time of quiet let us remember those special to us who are no longer with us.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000