Matthew 15:21-28 21
21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” 24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” 26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” 28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Matthew 15:21-21, Common English Bible).
John 13:31-35 31
31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One[a] has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One[b] in himself and will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’ 34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:31-35, Common English Bible).
Many things about us from our mannerisms to our looks and other physical traits are ours because of who our birth parents happen to be. When we see a child, we might say the child has her mother’s eyes or his father’s hair. In Cindy’s family they talk about the “Oquinn Little Finger.” You can see the bend in pictures. It is slightly bent.
What we inherit often goes beyond physical appearance. There are also hereditary medical conditions many people have. This is one of the primary reasons some who are adopted what or even need to locate their birth parents.
Our oldest son Wayne has the misfortune of inheriting both his mom’s and his dad’s vision issues. Christopher was fortunate enough that he didn’t get much of either. He wears glasses now but that is mostly to help him reading.
Cindy is VERY near-sighted. I have a disorder called hyperphoria. It is a five-dollar medical term that simply means one eye looks up and one eye looks down. For me it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many people, but it is there and it does present me with problems. Until I was in seminary and developed what my ophthalmologist called “grad school syndrome,” meaning I spent way too much time reading, I didn’t really need my glasses.
I was often frustrated if I tried to do extensive reading and didn’t have my glasses. I would start reading on one line and when I got to the end I was reading the next line. The reading didn’t make much sense. It would also make me very sleepy. I would usually fall asleep after reading only a few pages.
While a student at University of Houston I went to their optometry clinic. After several days of testing they found the problem. I had the condition all my life and it is 100 percent correctable with the right lenses. It made reading easier.
About the time Wayne hit junior high, he started complaining about symptoms much like I had. He had already been wearing glasses for nearsightedness., but he was still had problems.
As we listened to him, we knew he had hyperphoria. We made an appointment at University of Houston. They ran all the tests and found he had the same problem as me. He got the right lenses and we went on about our business.
A year passes. Wayne’s eyes need to be examined again. Now we’re living in east Texas. Still we went to Houston to take advantage of U of H optometry clinic. They knew his eyes and we thought they would have his best interest in mind.
The student examining Wayne said he outgrew his hyperphoria and no longer needed the correction. We questioned the student extensively and later his professor, both insisted the correction was no longer needed.
Having little choice, we left. It was shortly before Thanksgiving. As we walked to the car Cindy said, “By Valentine’s day we will be back with Wayne showing the same symptoms.”
Sure enough, February first, Wayne started complaining again about his eye issues. Cindy went off. If you have never seen a red- head ready to battle, if you do, get out of the way.
She went on a campaign, determined her son wasn’t going to suffer with a correctable eye problem. She started calling people at the U of H. When she didn’t get satisfaction from one person she went to the next. By the time it was all said and done, Cindy talked with the dean of the optometry school. There were casualties in her wake. Cindy doesn’t go redhead often, but when she does, it’s not pretty. You don’t want to be in her line of fire. When we went to U of H again.
Wayne the examining wing, a space that could house 10 patients and the examining student optometrists, all to himself. The supervising professor would watch five students or more. Wayne was his only patient. Beyond that, this professor was the head of the binocular vision clinic, where I was diagnosed. After the exam, the original student and professor came in to learn from their mistake. At the end of the day Wayne left with new glasses, correcting his hyperphoria.
Through this, Cindy became M.O.M., she coined an acronym, “Mother on a Mission.”
During my years in ministry I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission, several times and more moms than my wife. I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission in hospitals, schools, and even twice in a courtroom.
I feel certain if I could walk among you this morning and handed out a variety of difficult or threatening situations to you moms no doubt I would see MOM, mother on a mission. Most mothers tend to be that way. They protect their children. They will fight any fight to protect their child and the child’s needs. It makes them who they are. It’s makes our mothers special.
Society, churches, and families we celebrate what mothers mean to us. We celebrate the love they bring to our lives. Most celebrations are also times for special memories. Most of us, remember times when our moms show us love in a special way. We remember times when our mothers turned into MOM, mother on a mission. I’m sure the moms watching this morning remember those occasions too. And, likely they would do it again. It is your child and mom’s love for her child sets you’re actions into motion.
Today’s lesson shows MOM, Mother on a Mission. Please note, I do not fully understand this story. It has made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with Jesus, in essence, calling the woman a dog.
There are scholars who argue that Canaanite has the same root word as canine, so Canaanites would be “dog people.” First, that doesn’t really help. Second, Jesus likely spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. It was translated into Greek and then English. Not all words translate from language to language. There are two Greek words in the Bible for dog. One is a large cur dog. The other a small dog, a pet or puppy. Matthew had Jesus using the second word. It was more of a pet name. I still don’t understand or like it so I am not going to try to elaborate on what I don’t know.
Some might ask, “Why would you preach a story you are uncomfortable with and don’t understand? That is a good question. This is a great story of M.O.M., mother on a mission. As the lesson begins, Jesus is in Canaanite country. The Jews didn’t like Gentiles in general and saw them as dogs. Canaanites were particularly loathed. This woman was in a hotbed of Canaanite activity when Jesus came by, she comes to him she asks healing for her daughter. At first Jesus ignores her. She was undeterred. Jesus’ non-answer wouldn’t be her answer.
The disciples begged Jesus to send her away. She was determined to pressure Jesus, she was a total nuisance.
Jesus gave an answer, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” So, Jesus said, “No, I won’t help you.”
This isn’t what the Canaanite woman expected or wanted to hear. Jesus told her “no.” No less determined, she comes and kneels in front of him and begs him to help her daughter. Jesus tells her, “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
I don’t think Jesus was being critical. He explained his mission and tested her faith to see how far she was willing to go. Still, people thought as a cut down MOM, mother on a mission, she wasn’t going quietly. “No” wasn’t her answer. She was determined to find healing for her child regardless of insult or cost. Her reply to Jesus was direct if nothing else. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
What a woman. A silent “no” on Jesus’ part be her answer. She wasn’t going to take a response of “it’s not my job,” and she wasn’t going to take a put down, if that is what Jesus was doing. This is a story of not only great determination; it is also a story of great faith. It is an example saying, “whether we know it or not, most all of us follow. We pray for those who are close to us, our children, our parents, our spouses, when they are faced with great problems, physical or otherwise.
The woman’s faith was well founded. Jesus even told her, her faith healed her daughter and sent them on their way. It was a wonderful story of MOM, mother on a mission.
When I read this story, I have no trouble seeing MOM, Mother on a Mission. Just as importantly, however, it isn’t just in these words of Scripture where I can see MOM. I have seen it in my own home. I have seen it in my mother. I see it on many of your faces and in your love. The love is great. The love is what makes you determined. It is wonderful to see that love in our mothers. We all need to have that kind of love in our lives. That kind of love makes us feel good. It makes us feel special. But, most importantly, that kind of love is a good example for us of the kind of love God asks us to share with others.
In John’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance of that too. The love of a mother for a child, while a good example, does not in show us either mother or child as a Christian. Mothers of other faiths love their children. Mothers of no faith at all love their children. But Jesus also says this, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As people of faith loving our family is not our calling. That is the easy part even though it can be difficult and challenging at the various times. Our call is higher and for more difficult. Our call is to love one another, which includes but is not limited to our families.
The truth of the matter is, while most of us have a special love in our mothers, it isn’t true for everyone. Some children have no mother in their life. Some children have a mother but might be better off without. For whatever reason, the mother is incapable of loving her child. Yet they need to feel love too. They need to feel they are important to someone and that they are important to God.
It is because of these people all of us can join the MOM, mother on a mission brigade, even if we are not a MOM. This is where the new commandment comes into play. And, it is where we are people of faith entering the picture. People out in the world need to know our faith. They learn of our faith by seeing our love.
As people of faith we are called to love, not just when and where it is easy, but to love everyone sharing our world, even the unlovable. No, it isn’t always the easy thing to do. People of faith struggle with that every day, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. God’s love needs to be seen at work in the world.
M.O.M., mother on a mission is a great acronym. It is an even better example for us. Not everyone, however, has a mom or can be a mom. But we do all need to know about and experience and even give that special kind of love. So maybe a new acronym is called for, one that speaks to our need to be faithful in the mission God has given us, to be faithful in love. I think maybe F.O.A.M. fits the bill because it fits all of us as people of faith. May we all be, Faithful on a mission.