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Words Of My Mouth

Matthew 15:10-28

The Rev. Jon Roberts

20 August


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[a] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Words Of My Mouth

Christ and the Samarian Woman by Annibale Carracci, 1593-94

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.[1]

My goodness, “Words” are so important, but it is not what goes into our mouths that defile us, but what comes out of our mouth, says Jesus.[2] Words can lift up and words can tear down; Words that purify and words that make dirty. Words can include and words can divide. They can make us love or they can make us hate.

There was one event when the words from the mouth of a person became very unsettling to a lot of people. It happened shortly after take-off on an outbound evening Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to New York, when the lead flight attendant nervously made the following painful announcement in her lovely Irish brogue: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m so very sorry, but it appears that there has been a terrible mix-up by our catering service. I don’t know how this has happened, but we have 103 passengers on board, and unfortunately, we received only 40 dinner meals. I truly apologize for this mistake and inconvenience.” When the muttering of the passengers had died down, she continued, “Anyone who is kind enough to give up their meal so that someone else can eat will receive free, unlimited drinks for the duration of our 5-hour flight.” Her next announcement came about 2 hours later: “If anyone is hungry, we still have 40 dinners available.”

What causes people to shift from one position to another really depends on the words that they use. Here, words effect a few select people giving them a sense of privilege while the others feel left out. Words. There are a lot of words going around today. No doubt about it. Words can lift up and words can tear down; Words that purify and words that make dirty. Words can include and words can divide. Jesus spoke about this in his day. He spoke to people in a very unique situation. It may not apply to the Church today, but it did apply to the Temple in his day. There was a very strict adherence to the law of purity as it was necessary to become a holy person. All good Jewish people were called to be Holy. “Be ye holy for I am holy,” says the Lord. So they had Guides along the way; rabbis, clergy who instructed people how to be holy. Come to temple on time; bring an acceptable sacrifice, a tithe; take off your shoes, cover your head; you cleanse yourself nine times in a bath; you say certain words over and over again; you make sure people know you are a person of prayer; you make a public confession; you do all these things and you will be pure. The words they were using for a select group of people would receive the provided “meal.” The rest of the people felt extremely alienated. They felt like they were outside the covenant with God. Jesus sees this and he is very, very wise. He knows when he is being set up once again.

St. Matthew the Evangelist is speaking primarily to an audience of Hebrew people in his gospel account. Hebrew people who are torn ethically ask, “What should we do; what words should we say to be holy and do our actions express the will of God?” Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul is somehow linked to loving our neighbors as ourselves. But loving our self, loving those only in the temple, is a self-indulgence. It makes us no different than the forty people who received the privilege of a meal while the others are left out. This existence is an enclave, it’s closed, sealed up, boarded and protected. Jesus knew there was a place and time for the sake of purity, to be holy, but he also knew many of the laws of purification were being abused.

There was a Syro-phoenecian woman, a Canaanite and she had a need. She had a daughter who was extremely ill and was away, at a distance. She came with faith, not as a Hebrew, but one on the outside. She had nowhere else to turn, she was desperate and she was willing as a foreigner to move away and apart from her culture, her religion if it meant her daughter could be healed. She was willing to risk putting her life and her daughter’s in the hands of Jesus. “Just say the words and my daughter will be healed.” All of those around him were watching and measuring his words. They are just waiting for him to make a mistake and defile tradition. If he says that Yahweh preserves only the nation of Israel, then he’s safe. If he opens up God’s favor and mercy beyond, he is accused. That was the survival code for Israel, that the Lord God and they are one. Jesus wants to move them beyond this limited view. God wants reconciliation with all people who He has created. For this woman’s daughter to be healed, Jesus has to get this point across. She wasn’t feeling very loved, when she saw all these folks going into the Temple, into Church, professing to be holy, but only for themselves. Jesus is so good with his words. He surmises the situation, turns to the woman and asks, “Who am I to take the children’s (Israel) food and throw it to the dogs (those outside the covenant)?” In another account it says, “Who am I to give the food to the dogs?”[3]

To give to those outside the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Who am I to violate the code of purity we have obeyed since the Exodus out of Egypt?” “Who am I to give to that person?” By her own admission, she says, “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She is way down here. She’s in the “coach section”, the cheaper seats, and this is what Jesus saw. He said, “I came for the lost sheep.” He came for everyone on this craft, called the world, to which He created. Words.
The words spoken by the Church today do not seem to be where they were in those days. The Church has made some mistakes, has been broken and divided, battered and bruised; what we see now is a humble church, one that is more than willing to receive, love and accept people who come through our doors. In our current day, words are being used to isolate, destroy and tear down, bruise, hurt and injure; far from healing. You can’t watch the news, read an article, go anywhere today without seeing the images or hearing the words of people who are led by the letter of a law. They are determined to hold onto their own self -righteousness at all costs. Words of anger; Words that cast people out; From both sides, this is happening. This is not what God created, but it is what he permits to take place for reasons that God only knows. The people in [this] church are of profound importance. You need to know that when you go out into this world, you have the choice on what to do when the words come into you.

Into your mouth, your mind and in your heart, you decide what comes out. Is it of God’s pure love and holiness or is it something that defiles. There are times when you feel the darkness is overwhelming, eclipsing the truth of our purpose, the Son of God from casting His light on the world.[4] Jesus said there are people out there who are blind; blinded by their own self and with that they will lead the blind. Do not worry about them. Just be concerned with what I am telling you, says the Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor, those who are foreign to you. We all want to arrive together. What are we, as God’s passengers, willing to let go and what would compel you to change your position? It cannot be the behaviors of debauchery, fornication, adultery, annihilationism or racism. It does not mean we are to board up and fortify our self, but rather to be vulnerable, allowing God’s words to speak through us.

This is our purpose.
So when you use words, use them wisely.
And may the words of your mouth,
And the meditation of your heart,
Be acceptable in God’s sight,
Your strength and your redeemer.

[1]Psalm 19:14, KJV.
[2] Matthew 15:10
[3] Matthew 7:6
[4] Reference to the predicted solar eclipse expected tomorrow, 8/21/2017.

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