Keep The Change

CALL TO WORSHIP: God says, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.’ Come then, let us worship our God, who welcomes everyone.

Gracious God, we live in a world of signs which tell us where we can and cannot go. We thank you Lord that there are no such signs on Your door. You welcome everyone, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, from every race.

Just as Your door is always open to us, so may our hearts and minds be open to You, so that we may be ready to learn from You today. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen 

HYMN 51: GREAT IS THY FAITHFULLNESS, O GOD MY FATHER-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION: 
Let all the people praise You, Lord. Let all the people praise You.

Lord, You provide for us; You give us everything that we need. Even when we have not been aware of it, Your hand has been upon us, a hand of blessing.

Let all the people praise You, Lord. Let all the people praise You.

You are just in all Your dealings. You help us to deal justly with those around us. Your guiding hand is there to help all who put their trust in You.

Let all the people praise You, Lord. Let all the people praise You.

You never reject Your people. Your love for us will never end. You give us gifts, so that we might live in a way that pleases You. You show us mercy, sending Jesus to live among us and to die for us.

Let all the people praise You, Lord. Let all the people praise You.

Because You never change, we know that You will bless us tomorrow as well as today. Yesterday, today and forever You are the same; our gracious, unchanging God.

Let all the people praise You, Lord. Let all the people praise You. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: OUT OF THE HEART
Did you know that your heart is really a muscle? It pumps blood to every part of your body to keep you healthy so you can run, jump, climb, and play. If you press your first two fingers of your right hand on your left wrist, just below your thumb, you can feel your heart beating.
Many people think the heart is on the left side of the chest, but it actually lies almost in the center. (Demonstrate.) Your heart is about as big as your fist and in your lifetime will beat approximately two and one-half billion times! What important, hard work it does!
Because the heart is so important, we often talk of the heart as being the source of our feelings such as anger, sadness, love, joy, or fear. You may have noticed that when you are frightened or angry you can feel your heart beating a bit faster.
Jesus says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…” This verse teaches us that the words we say come from our feelings. We have a choice to use good words that bring love, joy, and encouragement to others or use angry words that are hurtful.
In school you may place your hand over your heart when you say the Pledge of Allegiance or when your country’s flag passes by in a parade. It is a sign of respect.
Choosing good words is a sign of respect for others. Let the words you use come from the love you feel in your heart.

HYMN 544: AS THE DEER PANTS FOR WATER – StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:  Almighty God, today, we will hear about how You are welcoming to all. We have come to say that we are sorry because we do not always show that welcome in the way that we treat others.

Almighty God, today, we will hear about how You are welcoming to all. We have come to say that we are sorry because we do not always show that welcome in the way that we treat others.

Lord, we know that Your love shown in Jesus is for everyone, but this idea does not always make us very comfortable. There are some people we do not like; there are those we do not find it easy to talk to; so we put up our own barriers,

And make others feel unwelcome in our company, our home, school or work, and even in our church. Forgive us Lord, for when we reject others, we know that we reject You. Give us courage to take down the barriers, so that we may welcome everyone in Your name.

Jesus died for all. To those who are truly sorry he says ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Thank you, Lord. Amen

READINGS: MATTHEW 15: 21-28

HYMN 426: HARK, MY SOUL! IT IS THE LORD – StF

SERMON: KEEP THE CHANGE (MATTHEW 15: 21-28) 
Most people have probably used the phrase which I have chosen for the title of this sermon, “Keep the change.” Growing up in Sierra Leone and running errands for my parents, older brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties etc, I always like this phrase after each task. “Keep the change”.
But today I want to tie the title phrase with the whole idea of change. Life should not be static, but dynamic. Change should be a value in all our lives. We need to be constantly changing for the good. And when we do, we should, “Keep the change.”
Christianity has been a religion of change and adaptation. A Christian in Japan will look, act, worship, sing and pray differently from a Christian in Africa or a Christian in Latin America. Christianity has succeeded worldwide because of its inherent ability to change and adapt in the face of new cultures and traditions.
From our reading, “Jesus went out from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon.  Behold, a Canaanite woman came out from those borders …”
After a busy schedule of preaching and healing, Jesus goes to a place named as “a region of Tyre and Sidon.” This was in Phoenicia, or a part of modern day Lebanon. The important point is that it was outside of the territory of Israel. It was pagan land.
Then Matthew further defines the situation by explaining that he was accosted by a “Canaanite woman.” Do you remember the Canaanites from the Old Testament? They were the folks who occupied the Promised Land before the Israelites arrived. They were the ones that God wanted exterminated from the land in order for the Israelites to possess it.
The Canaanites were the descendants of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah. Once, when Noah was drunk, he fell asleep on his bed naked. Ham went in and saw him naked. Scripture says that Ham and all his descendants were cursed and destined to be slaves because it was wrong for a son to see his father naked.
Not only was this person a Canaanite, but she was also a woman. We can recall from the story of the woman at the well that Jewish tradition forbade women from having casual conversation with a strange man, particularly a religious man. But here is a brazen woman approaching Jesus and his disciples, which makes her a doubly questionable individual.
Our passage continues, “… and cried, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely demonized!'”
Not only is this stranger an unescorted Canaanite woman, she has a daughter who is possessed by a demon. But if her presence is thoroughly disreputable, the woman’s words are theologically correct. Her first address to Jesus is “Lord,” the title given Jesus by all true believers in Matthew’s Gospel. The woman further defines Jesus as the “Son of David.”
Verse 23 offers our first of many surprises in this text, “But he answered her not a word.” The silent treatment is one of the worst insults a modern person can give. We find it very difficult to even imagine Jesus being silent on such an occasion. What is going on here?
Let me suggest several options for interpretation. Perhaps Jesus is just so surprised by the woman’s boldness, that he is momentarily silent. Or perhaps he is ignoring her in hopes that she will go away. Some suggest that his silence was a way of encouraging her to explain more.
But I have another suggestion—I think Jesus was simply thinking, trying to decide how to handle this difficult situation. Here he was in the land of notorious pagans, and he is presented with a troubling request. I think Jesus responded here, just as we often do, with puzzlement.
While he contemplates, the disciples chime in, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” If it had been up to the disciples, the woman would never had been given the opportunity to get close enough to Jesus to be able to ask for the healing of her daughter.
The disciples want Jesus to get rid of her quickly to put an end to her embarrassing presence. The disciples are not motivated by love or concern or compassion for this woman and her child. They are solely interested in convenience and expedience.
It was at this point that Jesus said something very uncharacteristic, something some may consider to be downright rude, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Pious interpretations of our text read into the Scripture that Jesus was perhaps testing this woman. They suggest that Jesus could foresee the whole path of Christian history, and he was well aware that his message must first be proclaimed among the Jews and then, much later with Paul especially, the message would go to the Gentiles. Jesus knew that the time for expansion to the Gentiles had not yet come.
Verse 25 says, “But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me.” For the woman it would have been easy to give up and go away disappointed. But she had unusual faith. She would not take “No” for an answer.
Perhaps the woman was encouraged that Jesus at least acknowledged her presence. She continued to show her faithfulness when she came and knelt before Jesus. Once more she properly addresses Jesus as “Lord,” this time adding her plea “help me.”
Again she is rebuffed by Jesus in what appear to be the harshest terms yet. Jesus responds, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Jesus’ characterization of the Gentiles as “dogs” sounds like an unnecessary slur. In our time, a man will not get far by equating a woman with a female dog (bitch)! Some scholars have tried to soften this characterization by noting that the term Jesus uses here describes a pet or domesticated dog, not a wild untamed dog of the desert.
The woman replies, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” In the face of Jesus’ cutting remark the woman becomes her most articulate.
Jesus’ rationalization gives the woman something tangible to debate and bargain over. By using her wit and a sense of humour, coupled with her sincere humility and faithfulness, the woman refutes Jesus’ excuse and finds for him a reason to grant her the healing she requests.
She does not dispute her status as second-in-line behind Israel. Instead, she humbly acknowledges her position. But her clever use of Jesus’ own image demonstrates to him that there is still a way that she might receive a portion of God’s bread. The woman does not deny the children of Israel the primacy of the table. Yet, she asserts that there remains a place for her as well.
Our passage ends with these words, “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed from that hour.
Jesus is clearly impressed and inspired by this Gentile woman’s tenacity and vision. He is now able to see how the table of God set before Israel may be stretched to accommodate a far more inclusive group of diners.
I believe that Jesus learned a little something from the Canaanite woman. She expanded his awareness of what even the dogs under the table needed to eat. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, learned a life-changing lesson from a common Canaanite woman. She challenged him and stretched him and pushed him to see a new possibility for ministry to the Gentiles. The power of this Gentile woman’s faith pushed the perimeters of Jesus’ vision and moved him further along the road toward God’s plan for human salvation.
Jesus changed his mind, and he kept the change! Later Paul would more fully kick open the door of inclusiveness so that within a very short time the early church would be filled primarily with Gentile Christians.
But note that it is not the woman’s cleverness Jesus praises or gives as the reason he will now give her the healing she desires. With his declaration, “Great is your faith,” Jesus defines the new qualification for admission to the table—faithfulness.
Following Jesus means we must constantly struggle to test what we have been taught, and what we always have believed. What Jesus offers us is not always a clear set of instructions about where to go and what to do. The Christian life is not static, but dynamic. We should always be challenging the traditions which we harbour. We must examine our most cherished beliefs. And when the Spirit leads, we must be willing to change, and keep the change.

HYMN 440: AMAZING GRACE- HOW SWEET THE SWEET THE SOUND- StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Jesus said ‘What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart.’ Let us pray today for all those whose work involves public speaking.

Lord, fill people’s hearts with love for You; And guide them as they speak.

We pray for world leaders; for our Queen and Prime Minister, and for all those who make speeches that influence others. Help them to speak of peace and justice for all. May their words be matched by their deeds. 

Lord, fill people’s hearts with love for You; And guide them as they speak.

We pray for those who give us the news in television or on the radio or through the newspapers. Help them to be honest in the way that they find their stories, and be truthful in the way that they report them.

Lord, fill people’s hearts with love for You; And guide them as they speak.

We pray for entertainers and sports people, especially those who are listened to by children and young people. Help them to show a high standard of behaviour, setting a good example in what they say and do.

Lord, fill people’s hearts with love for You; And guide them as they speak.

We pray for teachers and lecturers, especially any in this congregation today. We pray for those who teach in our local schools or colleges.  Give them wisdom and understanding.

Lord, fill people’s hearts with love for You; And guide them as they speak.

We pray for our own minister, and for others who come to preach in our churches and circuit. We pray too for other ministers in this city. Guide them by Your Holy Spirit, so that they may say what is pleasing to You, and guide Your people in Your name.

Lord, fill people’s hearts with love for You; And guide them as they speak.

We pray now for ourselves. Every day, we have opportunities to speak. Show us how to use these opportunities well, so that everything that we say may give You glory.

Lord, fill Your people’s hearts with love for You; And guide us as we speak.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

HYMN 548: BLESSED ASSURANCE, JESUS IS MINE-HP

BLESSINGS: The writer of the Psalms says, ‘May all the nations praise You.’ Lord, as we start another week, may we play our part in praising You wherever we go. The blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen