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Proper 15, Yr A, Tr
1(Trinity 9, 21.08.2011)
Ps 133: Let all the peoples praise you, O God
Rom 11.1-2a, 28-32: God is reversing the situations: Gentiles will cause Jews to come in.
Matt 15.(10-20), 21-28: (It’s not what goes in but what comes out defiles) ; Canaanite woman: children’s bread to dogs (1145)
Gracious Father, revive your Church in our day,
and make her holy, strong and faithful,
for your glory’s sake in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(We need the Old Testament to know Jesus in the round.)
Have you ever
wondered why we have OT readings in the Eucharist when we are remembering Jesus?
If I understand today’s gospel rightly, I think it can help us answer
Why do we have
an ordained ministry, and what is its function?
When I preached
three weeks ago I told you about a bit of the materials that Mark added to his
second edition that was used by Matthew but not by Luke, who was working from
Mark’s first edition which lacked the whole of 6.45-8.26.
The main point
that I was making was that the additional materials are mainly concerned with
conditions of the mission to the Gentiles, including table fellowship, as I
showed you in the shifts from the Feeding of the 5,000, a purely Jewish feeding,
to the Feeding of the 4,000, which includes the Gentiles.
Our NT readings
have continued to be from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Three weeks ago we were reading from Romans 9, and Paul was agonising
over his fellow Jews. He is on the
same theme today, and today’s reading from Matthew is also following the
second edition of Mark.
reading from Matthew includes the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite
woman who wants healing for her daughter. As
I did three weeks ago, let’s start with Mark’s earlier version of the same
story before we look at Matthew’s re-telling of it.
version (7.24-30) Jesus enters the region of
I believe that
what Mark is arguing for in this story is the maintenance of Jewish-Christian
teaching leadership in the community. This
is certainly how Matthew modifies the story, for in Matthew’s version she now
speaks of crumbs that fall from the table of their masters, a much stronger
stronger emphasis than Mark, therefore probably means that the stability of the
leadership is more threatened, as would appear to be indicated as well by the
more frequent use of direct OT quotes and a stronger emphasis on Jewish
What was the
problem being faced? I believe the
answer lies in the highly syncretistic nature of Hellenistic society.
I would liken it to the New Age phenomena in our day when one takes a
soupçon of this and a bit of that and mixes them together.
We get more than just a hint of this in Luke’s account in the Book of
Acts of life in Athens when he says, ‘Now all the Athenians and the foreigners
living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something
new’ (Acts 17.22).
presentation of Jesus in the NT claims that he fulfils the basic calling of
to the Galatians which was a predominantly Gentile community, says, ‘Peace ...
be upon the Israel of God’ (Gal 6.16). That
is, for him the Church itself is the Israel of God.
There is no discontinuity.
writes to the Romans he says, ‘What advantage has the Jew? ... Much in every
way. First, the Jews were entrusted
with the oracles of God.’ (Rom 3.1-2). It
is striking that he never goes on to make a second point, So the Greek word proton
translated as ‘first’ has the force of ‘Above all’.
That is, the witness of the scriptures has been entrusted to the Jews.
When we turn to
the letter to the Ephesians written in Paul’s name perhaps by the very person
who collected together Paul’s letters, we have a letter clearly written by a
Jewish Christian to a predominantly Gentile audience, and he tells them in no
uncertain terms that they are to stay true to teaching of the founding
generation who are named as ‘the holy apostles and prophets’,
who were, of course, all Jewish believers.
apostles and prophets’,
who were, of course, all Jewish believers.
Let me read you
a fairly long passage by Fr J. L. McKenzie, S.J. ("The Significance of the
Old Testament for Christian Faith in Roman Catholicism", in The Old
Testament and Christian Faith, ed. by B. W. Anderson (SCM Press, London,
1963), pp. 108 f. )
dispute, if one wished to be precise to the extreme, whether Jesus was the
Messiah of Israel. All the evidence indicates that he himself was at least
extremely reserved in his own use of the term; and the Messianism of the Old
Testament is so transformed in the New Testament that Jesus can hardly be said
to correspond exactly to any messianic conception of the Old Testament.
But the evidence is also convincing that Jesus and the primitive Church believed
So, in short,
if we are to continue to know Jesus as witnessed to by the writers of the NT, we
shall only be able to do so as we hear that witness as pointed to and
illuminated by the overall witness of the OT.
Only with both can we know Jesus in the round.