Sermons 2008
Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 15A 2008 Matthew 15:10-28

Dogs. Many of us have dogs as part of our household establishments. We are greatly attached to them and they to us. We forget that essentially they are wolves who came into the light of our campfires many thousands of years ago. An apparently domesticated dog was found in a cave in Iraq and was dated from 10,000 years ago – around 8,000 BC. The skeleton of a puppy was found buried with that of a human in northern Israel and placed in time in a period that ranged from 12,000 BC to 4500 BC. (1)

In Egypt dogs were greatly esteemed and even worshipped – one of the Egyptian gods named Anubis was a man figure with the head of a dog. Anubis was associated with mummification and the afterlife, leading the dead person through a series of rituals until the presentation of the dead person to one of the chief gods, Osiris. Interestingly, it is the dog god Anubis who weighs the heart of the dead person in a balance to determine whether the person is annihilated or continued on into the presence of Osiris. (2)

Throughout the Ancient Near East dogs were popular as hunting companions. Assyrian bas-relief panels from the Seventh Century BC have depictions of dogs in the hunt. As always, dogs were useful as watch dogs and because they cleared away edible garbage, vermin, and carcasses, the road kill of ancient times.

The Hebrew people, on the other hand, viewed dogs with disgust. In the Bible dogs are mentioned 41 times and are usually described as scavengers and were said to eat human flesh and lick human blood. Second Kings tells the gruesome story of Jezebel, who was thrown over the town wall and eaten by dogs. When applied to a person, the appellation “dog” becomes a term of disregard and humiliation. (3)

And so we come to this interesting encounter – exchange – confrontation between Jesus and the Canaanite woman. The tradition of hostility between Israelites and Canaanites begins in the mists and mythos of the Exodus and the long, difficult, and brutal conquest of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites. For background on this you can red the book of Joshua and the first three chapters of Judges in the Old Testament. The ancient Israelites loathed much of Canaanite religion and considered Canaanite life abominable. In fact the book of Deuteronomy urges the utter destruction of the Canaanite people and eradication of Canaanite religion. (4)

In addition to the aspect of ethnic clash, the Ancient Near East, like the modern Near East, did not give women a high status. Such an encounter of a Canaanite woman with a Jewish male was scandalous and extremely rare. In many places in the modern Near East confronting a male this way would place the woman in grave physical danger.
And so Jesus and the Canaanite woman meet in this cultural and historical context. She is persistent and annoying to the disciples as she continually shouts for Jesus help. But her cry recognizes that Jesus is Lord. Jesus responds harshly and excludes her at first from his mercy.

When the woman first begged for his help, Jesus response to her used the word for the annoying and despised eastern dog of the streets, considered the most despicable, insolent and miserable of creatures. Any comparison with a dog was insulting and dishonoring. (5)

But the Canaanite woman accepted Jesus harsh words with humility as she knelt before him, continuing to address him as Lord, and beg him for mercy and help for her daughter. Then Jesus responded by addressing her not as a dog but with the word for woman, the same word he used in addressing his mother Mary from the Cross and Mary Magdalene in the garden on the first Easter morning.

Her persistence is rewarded. Jesus accepts this reviled Canaanite woman and grants her plea; his mercy is extended beyond Israel to the Gentiles. He breaks with Jewish law and custom– and not for the only or first time.

The earliest Early Church took this lesson to heart. Women were given equal status. But something happened along the way. Not until the 20th Century did women regain their rightful status in this Church and serve on vestries and as clergy. What a waste over the centuries.

We all have people who seem alien to us, who are not of our class or social group perhaps. We tend to avoid them.. But Jesus taught us that we must surely help them in their need.


1. HBD - Harper’s Bible Dictionary, p. 224
2. Atlas of Ancient Egypt, pp. 214, 217-219
3. HBD, 224
4. HBD, pp. 151-153; Deuteronomy 20:16-18
5. Libronix electronic TDNT, G2965