Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Jesus and Dogs: Matthew 15.21-28

Mt. 15.21-28  Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.

[Image by Sebastiano Ricci]
Try mentioning dogs in the Parish Hall when you sit with people you don't know well.  Suddenly, everyone's telling a story -- funny, heartbreaking, or both.  I tell about my dog, neglected by his previous owner.  Going home with me, he laid a paw on my shoulder and licked my ear as if to say, "I trust you.  Thank you."  Then there was the stray who gracefully sashayed through my back door and settled down as if she owned the place.  Twelve happy years later I watched her step with painful delicacy into the vet's examination room, the last time I saw her.

The Canaanite woman in today's Gospel plays the dog card for leverage with Jesus.  She begs him to heal her child, but the apostles disdain her, and even Jesus dismisses her.  But her retort about dogs seems to take Jesus aback.   Maybe he had always planned to minister not just to Jewish men but to us Gentile dogs; maybe he pretended rudeness to make a point; but that's not the way it sounds in Matthew's telling of the story.

This Canaanite woman evidently grates on the nerves, but she makes an impression that sets the early church off in an unexpected direction.  Likewise, dogs are often pains in the neck, but the most difficult ones often become the greatest blessings in our lives.

As members of the Church, we have a mission to be Jesus to people who may be difficult, who may challenge our beliefs, or who may be tiresome -- like that one in the Parish Hall always talking about his dogs.  All of them have the potential to move us in unexpected directions.

This summer, while we may take a vacation from work, let's not forget our mission.  Let's deepen our connections to St. James'.  The more we bless each other with our time and gifts, the more we may be blessed. 
- for reading June 7, 2010, "A Summer Pilgrimage," devotional booklet published by The Pilgrimage at St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta GA.  Find links to many more of my reflections on the Episcopal church, scripture, and on others' perspectives of the same topics at my page Those Crazy Episcopalians

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