I don’t know. That’s it. I just don’t know. Each week I sit down and read the lessons and prayerfully consider them. I ask myself different challenging questions. I examine my faith and my innermost feelings about what I read. I wonder if I’m bringing any kind of bias or outside motivation into my understanding. During that time I try to be really honest with myself and I ask the Holy Spirit for help in keeping from reading me and my motivations into the story. We had two terms in seminary that sort of drew the boundaries for me early on. Hold on, they’re Greek words but they’re relatively painless. The words are eisegesis and exegesis. Eisegesis means to read into something and exegesis means to read out of something. Early on I was cautioned to be very careful in my sermon construction and lesson planning to avoid eisegesis. That is having a point that you want to make, and making the scripture fit it or going off and cherry picking verses here and there to prove your point. If you do these things you will inevitably pull in things out of context and you are not being faithful to what is written. Well sometimes you come upon very difficult texts and you get hung up. You have ideas. You have theories. You have wishes that you had an intern or a vacation or a hymn sing or something so that you could have someone else do it or sit on a beach and not worry about it or just avoid it and do something else, anything else, but you realize, ultimately that there is value in the struggle so you keep searching. What you are searching for is a path. Actually, what I should say is that you are searching for the faithful path. While I am writing this, I am keeping an eye on another screen. That screen shows a map, and on that map is a tiny little moving face, the face of my son driving back to Clemson, South Carolina from down here near Miami. If you think about it there is an unbelievable amount of different routes that he could travel to get there, but he is traveling the one that makes the most sense and is designed to get him there the easiest and quickest way. Designing and altering that path follows a plan, an algorithm to get you there. Nathan knew where he was leaving from and he knows the destination, but between here and there, who knows how many possibilities there are for twists and turns, detours and slowdowns. This week it didn’t take long to iron out the sermon destination. The good news seemed apparent, however, it became obvious that there was this obstacle in the faithful path that I was going to have to navigate through. I wish there was a Google Maps for sermon writing sometimes. The frustration comes from the initial words and actions of Jesus. First, he ignores this woman and then he insinuates she is a dog. I don’t know if you can truly faithfully navigate this path by offering excuses, explanations or theories because there just isn’t enough information. Over the centuries sermon writers have tried to soften the words oftentimes by eisegesis. Another path is to take the long way around like I was kidding about earlier, or avoiding talking about that part at all or by preaching another lesson. But in these times, right now, when current events have rightly focused our attention on the equitable, fair, just and kind treatment of others that have all too often been denied a rightful place at the table. As a hearer of a sermon today, I would want a preacher to address this. Over and over the words of the prophets of the Old Testament called the people to turn from the mistreatment of others, especially widows, orphans and outsiders, and were reminded of being immigrants in the land of Egypt, yet there were and still are scriptures that were insistent upon the genocide of the Canaanites in the Old testament. Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God (Deut. 20.16-18). Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys (1 Sam 15:2-3). So, what is Jesus about in the Gospel for today? Why, if he was just here for the Israelites did he send his disciples out to the Gentiles? Why then, is he wandering around in Tyre and Sidon which is pagan territory? What else was he expecting to find there? There are several possibilities, I guess like those many roads and paths on the map and unfortunately we are left with only speculation, but still yet , I think we do have a map algorithm that we can employ in our reading, interpretation, and understanding of scripture. I think the key is to stick to the paths that fit the algorithm, or in this case following the way of the cross, the way we have witnessed Jesus acting, speaking, being merciful, and loving throughout the Gospels and the thing is, some of the possible paths, some of the faithful possible paths can feel difficult for us to consider. I think we each have our own understanding of who Jesus is and what it means for us for him to be the Son of God. The path that might be the most difficult for us would be to consider the question, “Did Jesus learn something here?” We proclaim that Jesus was born truly human not sort of human. We know that Jesus asked the Father’s will. Was he initially speaking from the norms of his culture? Was God then sharing God’s will through this woman which Jesus was immediately receptive to and unfolded the blessings of God’s kingdom and seated her at the table? We say that Jesus came to show us the way. Why would he need to do that if we had the Old Testament? I have heard so many observe and question why God seems to have changed between the Old and New Testaments. I am prone to believe that God has always been loving and merciful and slow to anger. I believe God has always loved all of his children. Here is what I’m wondering. Could our human biases be responsible for the more wrathful parts and that Jesus came to actually show us how to live? More than once I have used sarcasm or mirroring behavior to teach a lesson. Could Jesus have been teaching this way? Because his response and reaction to her points out to the disciples that God is not about sending away and exclusivity but about justice, compassion, love and mercy. Jesus’ MO is consistently holding up the outcasts and the out crowd and acknowledging their rightful seat at the table. All the disciples following had tried to send people away and Jesus told them, “ You give them something to eat.” Jesus is not about rejection and exclusion but about diligently living and ultimately dying for the kingdom and will of God and he has been trying to get that across to these guys and along comes the Canaanite woman and she gets it. God’s love, God’s grace is so massive that the smallest crumb would send us away full. This story is literally bracketed on both sides by the feeding of the 5000 and 4000, both with seemingly insignificant amounts of loaves and fish. The thing is that this Canaanite woman, a person with three strikes of the culture against her, gets it. First, in that culture, she was a woman that was supposed to be as invisible as possible and was to never talk to approach strange men. Secondly, She was a Canaanite, a pagan and a long time enemy of the Israelites. And thirdly, her daughter is ill. We must remember that illness, possession, and infirmity were thought to be a result of one’s sin and stood as evidence that you were on the outs with God. She makes it known, “I want this Good News for me and my daughter and I am asking the Messiah the Son of God directly.” And Jesus does not hesitate as the girl is healed instantly. So the challenge, the call to action for us is to be propelled by thanksgiving for this grace, for we are outsiders and sinners oftentimes alone and hurting, scared and sick. We are called to not send people away. We are called to not see our differences as barriers and hindrances. We are called to cry out for justice and mercy for one another and to bring grace and healing to those in need, for these are the things that flow up from the heart of Christ and out through our mouths and hands.