“Two boys were playing football in an empty lot and there happened to be a dog that appeared to have rabies. He was foaming at the mouth and heavily limping and he attacked one of the boys. The other boy had his wits about him and he noticed a piece of wood standing nearby, so he grabbed it and stuck it between the collar and the dog and started turning it and he did that until the dog died of a broken neck. Now there happened to be a reporter nearby who witnessed the whole thing and he wanted to interview our young hero, so he had written down a headline. He said, ‘Young Kansas City Chief fan while playing football saved his friend from a rabid dog attack.’ Well the young boy said, ‘That’s not exactly right. I’m not a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.’ And the reporter was surprised and he said, ‘Oh, I thought that everybody who lived in Kansas City was a Chiefs fan. What football team do you follow and that you really like?’ And the boy proudly says, ‘I’m a fan of the Denver Broncos!’ So the reporter scratched out his headline and he put down, ‘Ruthless young man kills beloved family pet.’ I guess we all size up people according to our own prejudices and stereotypes and that was certainly the way between the Jews of the time and the Gentiles, especially the Canaanites. The Canaanites were the indigenous people of Israel who were there when Moses brought his people to the Promised Land and they settled there among the Canaanite women and men and over decades and years, many of the Israelites turned away from Yahweh and they started worshiping the Canaanite Gods and Goddesses of Baal, the fertility God and so the religious leaders of the Jews began a campaign of smearing the Gentiles, especially the Canaanites and it was common to call a Gentile a ‘dog’ and that was sort of the attitude here I think of even the disciples of Jesus who demand that Jesus send her away because she is bothering them and Jesus himself seems to be somewhat insensitive to this lady who’s daughter is very ill, but I think what is happening here is that, first of all Jesus is breaking taboos. It was not acceptable for a man, a Jewish man, to speak publicly to any woman, even your own wife. In fact if she were going with her husband to market, the wife had to walk 10 steps behind her husband and for Jesus to speak to a Canaanite woman, wow! That was a real taboo that he was breaking, but his words still seem harsh to us, don’t they? He says, ‘The food of the children should not be thrown to the dogs.’ Well, I think here that Jesus is probably testing the faith of the woman, maybe even pushing her to a stronger faith and using her as an example of faith for his own disciples and the woman responds, ‘Yes Lord and Master, but even the dogs take the scraps from the table of the master.’ And so Jesus sees her great faith, her strength and her humility and her sense of humor and so he heals the woman’s daughter and praises the woman for her faith.
I think that there are a couple of lessons here for us in our scriptures for today. One is that we should never be closed to other people that all prejudice is wrong, is morally wrong, is morally sinful as it goes directly against the teaching of Jesus. If we are prejudiced, we are not following Jesus completely and secondly I think the lesson is to be open to different cultures, to be open to different peoples and races and creeds and to all people because God loves all people. We are all his children and that means that we are brothers and sisters to each other and that we should be open and loving to one another no matter what the differences are in our backgrounds that this is part of being in the family of God and so that’s the teaching I think and it’s our faith that can help us without love. It’s our faith that can expand our hearts and minds and help us to see beyond race and color and creed and see beyond the backgrounds of people to see that they are truly our brothers and sisters and that we need to love them as such.
Zamboni was a great aerialist and one of his great feats that he performed early in his career was, he had strung across Niagara Falls a wire and he walked across Niagara Falls on that wire and there was a wind that day that made it more dangerous and the mist from the falls made the wire slippery. Zamboni was really very nervous about his walk and very relieved when he made it safely across. There had been a crowd assembled and cheered him wildly as he made his way and one workman who was there with his wheel barrow on some project was very enthusiastic and he went over to Zamboni and he said, ‘You are the greatest aerialist that ever lived. I bet my friends that you can wheel my wheelbarrow back across this wire.’ And Zamboni said, ‘No I’m gonna decline that. I don’t think I’m gonna do that today.’ But the man persisted and he said, ‘I have great faith in you. I know you can do this.’ And Zamboni looked at him and he says, ‘Ok, I’ll wheel your wheelbarrow across the Falls on that slippery wire on one condition: You get in the wheelbarrow!’ The man went back to work. Where is your faith? Are you ready to get into that wheelbarrow that Jesus pushes through life?
I have a little prayer I entitled, ‘Universal Love’.
Jesus you revealed
That we are infinitely loved by God
Men and women, children too
No matter how we’re flawed
All are precious in your sight
All are called to be with you
None is inferior
You reach out to all of us
Especially the weak and small
The born and unborn little ones
Lord, you love them all
Change our hearts and minds Oh Lord
We love to dominate
We look down with arrogance
We kill and discriminate
Help us to love all on Earth
As they are loved by you
May we reflect your divine plan
By what we say and do”