11th Sunday after Pentecost
God Has Not Rejected His People
Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved
Maintain justice, and do what is right. Isaiah 56:1
It is what comes out of the mouth that defiles. Matthew 15:11
The Invitatory and Psalter
V. O Lord, open thou our lips,
R. And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
V. Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Alleluia
Jubilate Psalm 100
1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.
2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us; we are his *.
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.
67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
67:2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
67:3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
67:5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
67:6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
67:7 May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.
The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.
The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
56:1 Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
56:6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant–
56:7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
56:8 Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Tell out my soul Timothy Dudley – Smith Hymnal 1982 #438
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure, from age the same;
his holy Name—the Lord, the Mighty One.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.
Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and for evermore!
The New Testament Lesson: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
11:2a God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
11:30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
11:31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.
11:32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Hymn: In your mercy Josiah Conder; alt. Hymnal1982 # 706
In your mercy, Lord, you called me,
taught my sin-filled heart and mind,
else this world had still enthralled me,
and to glory kept me blind.
Lord, I did not freely choose you
till by grace you set me free;
for my heart would still refuse you
had your love not chosen me.
Now my heart sets none above you,
for your grace alone I thirst,
knowing well, that if I love you,
you, O Lord, have loved me first.
The Gospel Lesson: Matthew 15:10-28
15:10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:
15:11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
15:12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”
15:13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.
15:14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”
15:15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”
15:16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding?
15:17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?
15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.
15:19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.
15:20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
15:21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
15:22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
15:23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
15:24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
15:25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
15:26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
15:27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
15:28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Christ.
Sermon: Nevertheless, She Persisted
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Yes, she did. Yes, she should’ve. Yes, she will, this woman from Canaan, this mother, this human being endowed by her creator – as are we all – with certain inalienable rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You bet she did. Jesus, likely chuckling at her having chastened and corrected him, approved.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
No matter where we are on the political spectrum, we must admit that this phrase has become a Thing, a meme, a #hashtag, a saying on mugs and banners and T-shirts. Whether or not we remember who said this or about whom, or why, we have seen how this judgment sets its own context and commands its own rhetorical space like few others – and against the will and intent of the one who uttered it.
It’s worth reminding ourselves of the whole thing. To quote, “[She] was giving a lengthy speech. She seemed to violate the rules. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” The speaker there is Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Majority Leader of the US Senate. The “she” in question is Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who had risen to object to the Senate’s confirming in 2017 then-senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General. When she was silenced, she had been reading from a letter Coretta Scott King had written in 1986, objecting to Mr. Sessions’ appointment as a federal judge. As US Attorney, Mrs. King wrote, Sessions had “has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.” Don’t, she pleaded, vote for a man who worked so hard to stop people voting. She, the Rev. Dr. King, and so many others, had worked too hard and suffered too much so that people of color could vote freely to allow someone to retain or hold power who worked so hard to restrict it.
After some kerfluffle over what Sen. Warren was saying, the Senate voted on party lines to prevent her from speaking for the rest of Sen. Sessions’ confirmation hearings. They did this, they said, because in reading Mrs. King’s letter she had “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama” – Sen. McConnell’s words, again. Doing so, it turns out, violates Senate rules, whether or not one speaks the truth. One senator apparently is not to say out loud that another has done bad things or even intended to, even if – and, one imagines, especially if – he or she actually has.
It is intriguing that the rule is not “No senator shall tell lies, especially about another Senator” but “a Senator shall not impute to another Senator ‘by any form of words’ any conduct or motive that is unworthy or unbecoming of a Senator” (XIX.2). That is, if one dared to say out loud that Senator X was a shill for the fossil fuel industry, or Senator Y is a lackey for Big Pharma or the tool of some wolf of Wall Street, one would by that rule (Senate Rule XIX) be properly silenced, even if had the proof on one’s lips and in one’s hands.
Isn’t there a gospel line somewhere about how “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free?”
In the end, “Nevertheless, she persisted” has outlived the tenure of the one against whom she persisted – who, in his own right, stood up to a would-be tyrant and learned how little he mattered to that individual, in the end. “Nevertheless, she persisted” has become something of a rallying cry – as well it should be. As the gospel story for today indicates, persistence is good. This is especially true when you persist on behalf of someone else, and when people like you are often silenced by those who lead your culture, religion, or country. Persistence is good no matter what they throw at you – insults, laws, bricks, stones, crowns of thorns, tear gas, rubber bullets, spears in the side, nails in the hand, and whatever else wicked rulers throw at those who want them gone and want justice, truth, and righteousness to reign, and so on. Persistence is good even when an authority you respect and before whom you persistently plead is trying to gaslight you, shut you up, or shut you down, as by all indicators Jesus is doing in this gospel passage. Irony of ironies – in the end, on the cross, he persisted as well; but that’s a different part of the tale.
Here, however, and it pains me to say it but there’s no way around it – here, in this passage, Jesus looks terrible.
The woman in question wanted her daughter freed from a demon. Wouldn’t you? We would experience that demon, most likely, as mental illness, or having fallen into the evil intentions Jesus mentions – and who would not do anything to free their child from that? Jesus could work his Jesus-magic and do it, and he and the girl’s mother both knew it. But, since she and her daughters were Canaanites, he said he couldn’t do it for her; “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” he said. Nevertheless, she persisted: “Yes, you can,” she said, and, “Yes, you should.” He even made her beg like a dog, at which point she turned the dogs back on him: “Do not even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table?” At that he relented, drove the demon (or whatever it was) out, and the girl was free of it.
It’s fun to watch commentators try to pretty this up. My favorite is that somehow the gospel writers got the story wrong; Jesus would never be such a jerk. Others, taking the story as it comes, wonder whether maybe “He was just testing her,” as though that would’ve been okay. Still others say, “He knew her faith was strong; he just wanted her to see it, too – and maybe the disciples, show them how their weak faith stacked up by comparison,” or some such version of “He didn’t mean it.” But there’s no way this woman from Tyre or Sidon could’ve known that. To make someone beg and humiliate herself to get life-saving medicine for her child is difficult to square with “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you’d have done unto you.” No, and let’s say it out loud: “I’m just here for the children of Israel” rings in the ear like what too many people have heard in this country and around the world when they are in need – “We don’t serve your kind,” “Come back tomorrow,” “Do you have insurance?” or “You’ll have to go somewhere else; this hospital is for whites only.”
One doesn’t hear that last one said out loud so much anymore, though the racial and economic disparities in who gets good health care and who doesn’t are impossible, as well as immoral, to ignore. This is particularly true in the pandemic, of which few hearing this sermon will need a reminder.
Nevertheless, she persisted. What choice did she have, other than to give up – which is no choice at all. Her daughter was ill and could not get well; what ailed her knew how to persist as well. So her mom kept on, kept trying, kept her wits about her, figured out how to get under this powerful and usually good man’s skin, make him listen, make him take her seriously, make him care. For all she knew, and for all we know, he didn’t. But in the end, because she persisted, he did.
Frederick Douglass famously said that power never gives up anything without a demand. It never has and it never will. Internalizing that demand – making power want to give something up – is an important skill to cultivate. After all, the art of protest, as well as the art of leadership, is convincing people to do what you want because they want to (too). Speaking truth to power can do that, as can resisting unjust laws and practices nonviolently but persistently – using one’s body and time, as it were, to speak the words one’s mouth cannot. Pace those currently holding too much of it, power often listens to truth, even if it doesn’t admit it. Big tobacco and big oil have both been found to have known the truth about the ill effects of their products and productions and then to have lied about it on purpose – as was big health care, according to a former spokesman who is now trying to restore his integrity and sense of self-worth after a career in corporate spin, and whose confession I read this week. As another wag once said, it is hard to convince people of something if their livelihood depends on their not believing it. But the truth will out, just as it did from the lips of the woman from Canaan, telling Jesus to his face that his mission, his ministry, his job was to save and heal people, and he damn well better do it or she’d stand there calling him out, persisting, until he did.
She knew, as Paul knew, that God has not rejected his people – and that all people are God’s people, made in God’s image, saved by God’s grace, empowered by God’s power, and inspired by God’s love – and endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which is a flourishing, free life. We may disobey God from time to time, but that gives God the chance to show us mercy and for others to see God do it. We may sometimes have to cause a little good trouble to get God’s ear, like the woman from Canaan did, or maybe the whole point of it is to set our hearts like flint, like stone, firm in our convictions about what is right and needful, and unconcerned who knows or has to hear it out loud. As Isaiah said out loud – persisted in saying out loud – it is the Lord who tells us to maintain justice and do right, for the Lord’s salvation comes, and the Lord’s deliverance is near. People from all over will know it, hear it, hearken to it, flock to it, cling to it, and make sure to minister to the Lord who brought it, and love that Lord’s name. Salvation, like healing, like justice, like freedom, and like deliverance all require that we persist in them, persist after them, persist because of them – but also that we do so in love. Always in love. The woman from Tyre or Sidon or wherever – I mean, it really doesn’t matter where she’s from; mothers watch their children suffer in every corner of the globe – the mother from Canaan persisted in love, always in love. Her love for her daughter made her call the Lord out, persist before his disciples, persist before his denials, persist before his insults, even, until love won, and her faith in that love, as well as her insistence, her persistence, that Jesus himself honor it and pay it forward. He had the power – but she had the love, and because of that love, by means of that love, and in honor of that love she persisted.
Because she persisted, her daughter was healed.
Because she persisted, Jesus listened, and then did what was right.
Because she persisted, people have told her story for two thousand years.
Because she persisted, we still tell her story today.
Because she persisted, we can, we should, we must – and we shall persist in our own day, and keep telling her story.
A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love (1 John 4:7-11)
Beloved, let us love one another, *
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, *
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us, *
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us *
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, *
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us, *
and God’s love will be perfected in us.
A Collect for 11th Pentecost (Proper 15)
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A Collect for Peace
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Collect for the Burdened
Lord God, friend of those in need, your Son Jesus has untied our burdens and healed our spirits. We lift up the prayers of our hearts for those still burdened, those seeking healing, those in need within the church and the world. Hear our prayers that we may love you with our whole being and willingly share the concerns of our neighbors. Amen.
A Prayer after St. Alphonsus
O Jesus, you are present to us in the blessed sacrament. We love you above all things, and desire to receive you into our souls. Since we cannot at this time share your sacrament, let your spirit dwell within our hearts. Let us welcome you as one already with us, making us one body and one spirit, never to be parted from you. Amen.
Closing Hymn: Jesus shall reign Isaac Watts Hymnal 1982 # 690
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
doth his successive journeys run;
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.
To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head;
his Name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.
People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song;
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his Name.
Blessings abound where’er he reigns:
the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.
Let every creature rise and bring
peculiar honors to our King;
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Hymn: Spirit of the Living God Daniel Iverson, alt.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
About Episcopal Worship and this Service
Christian worship is designed to have the congregation gather for prayer, lessons, the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion), and song. In times of contagion and quarantine, the community may not gather or share the Eucharist. Thus, we gather online and in our homes for services of prayer and song. Our Morning Prayer services, held in the Presence of the Reserved Sacrament, follow the lectionary readings that the church sets for each Sunday Eucharist. This means that we follow the same lessons and hear the same teachings as we typically would in in-person worship, and are able even in challenging times to honor God with our daily office prayers, thanksgivings, lessons, canticles, and hymns. Where two or three are gathered, the Lord is in their (our) midst.
We give thanks this morning for our reader, Jess Rowland, for our organist and music director, Beresford Coker; and for our video compiler and editor, Gabriel Wilkins.
Resources (available for free online)
Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org
Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf
Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf
These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.
The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/
This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.
Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982
Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993
Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org
Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org
St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org
A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 Or Venite, Psalm 95