A reflection for Sunday 20th August 2023 by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

But she came and knelt before Jesus, saying “Lord, help me” (Luke 15:25)

How many times have we been in a situation when someone – perhaps a stranger or a person who appears to be “different” comes towards us.  Our automatic response is to think “please do not come any further” or “please do not speak to me”. We may even turn our back on them or pretend that they are not there.

Occasionally if I am waiting for a bus on Lothian Road early evening a stranger will come towards me. I have seen them before. I know that they will be asking for money. I know that they will go from person to person to see how they will respond. I know that they will not have much success.  Sometimes I will say “I am sorry. I don’t have any money on me”. At other times, having encountered them previously, I will say “No, go away”. That could be seen as being unkind or uncharitable. On the other hand, their actions could be seen as being a nuisance or disingenuous.

In the second part of our gospel we have a strange and awkward encounter. Jesus has just gone north through Galilee until he came to the land of Tyre and Sidon where the Phoenicians dwelt. There for a while he could hopefully be safe from the hostility of the scribes and Pharisees. But even in this place he was not to be free from the demands of human need which cried out to him.

The encounter which we have is the only occasion in which Jesus was ever outside Jewish territory. The significance of the passage is that it foreshadows the transmission of the gospel to the whole world. It shows us the beginning of the end of all barriers.

The woman had a daughter who was seriously ill. She must have heard somehow of the wonderful things which Jesus could do; and she followed him. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her. The disciples were embarrassed.

But there was a problem. Not only was the woman a Gentile but she belonged to the old Canaanite stock who were ancestral enemies of the Jews. Jesus began his ministry with a mission to his own people; but here was a Gentile crying for help.

But let us turn to the woman herself.

She had love. It was love which made her approach this stranger; it was love which made her accept his silence and yet still persisted; it was love which made her suffer the apparent rebuffs; it was love which made her able to see the compassion beyond and behind the words of Jesus.

She had faith. It was a faith which grew from contact with Jesus. She began by calling Jesus, “Son of David”. She ended the encounter by calling Jesus, “Lord” and her daughter healed.

She had great tenacity. This woman came because Jesus was not just a possible helper; he was her only hope. She came with a passionate hope; a burning sense of need and a refusal to be discouraged.

May we hear afresh those compassionate words of Jesus, “Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish”.

As we take this bread, we remember that you are the bread of life. You feed our souls. You nourish our hearts and give us sustenance. As we break the bread, we feel the softness of Your love for us and smell the fragrance of the grace You release afresh each day.