Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sermon: Faith Overcomes Resentment

Faith Overcomes Resentment
A Sermon for Sunday, August 17th, 2014
By Father John R. Smith

Lesson: Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm: Psalm 133
Epistle: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
The Holy Gospel: Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Last Sunday I shared with you the need to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” This flowed from the somewhat humorous Gospel story of Peter walking on the stormy sea toward Jesus. Peter sets out looking at Jesus, but when he realizes his situation and feels the strong winds and the turbulent waves at his feet, he takes his eyes off of Jesus and flounders and begins to sink and cries “Save me, Lord!”

This Sunday we again see the importance of trusting God and God’s Son Jesus as we consider the topic of resentments. (Here I shared a list of resentments around divorce, race, other religions, forms of suffered abuse, against power, the poor, immigrants, refugees, sexual orientation, etc.)  Have you had any deep-seated resentments in your life?  I have.  Has that resentment ever caused you to hold back forgiveness from the person or persons involved?  I’ve dealt with that.  Have you?

The scriptures this Sunday teach us the only way we can truly be healed from resentment.

We continue with the Joseph story.  Joseph, favorite son of Jacob who receive the multi-colored coat, was hated by his jealous brothers, who threw Joseph down a pit to die.  When the brothers thought better of it, they hauled Joseph out and sold him as a slave to some traders on their way to Egypt.  Joseph was a bright, good-looking fellow and he gets his first job in Egypt working for Potiphar, a regent of the Pharaoh.  Potiphar’s wife wants to seduce Joseph to lay with her and when he refuses, she runs out and yells rape.  On her word, Joseph is thrown into jail, even though completely innocent.  Can you see how resentment could grow in Joseph’s life?

Later, Joseph gets a chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and he is so successful Pharaoh lets him out of jail and Joseph is made Master over all of Egypt.  He virtually has the same power as the Pharaoh.  All this happens just in God’s time, you could say, so when his brothers, sent to buy grain in Egypt because of a severe famine in Israel, Joseph has power meet their need and sell them grain.  Now Joseph was no saint, but he did have a strong faith in God’s providence.  His resentment was such that he could have sent his brothers off hungry, with nothing to bring home, but because he believed God had a plan for him to be in power and to be in a position to help his family, and the resentment and hurt he had was let go and he was able to reconcile with his brothers and even see his father Jacob again.  And the proof of his healing was that he forgave his brothers from the heart!

Faith in God overcame deep resentment and hurt.

In today’s Gospel we see the same dynamic in play.  A few verses earlier, the Pharisees have caught Jesus’ disciples eating without washing their hands.  They complain to Jesus that his disciples are not following the traditions of the elders.  Jesus then tells them that it isn’t what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth.  This is offensive to the Pharisees and Jesus’ disciples tell him how much Jesus has just offended the Pharisees. The Pharisees resentment against Jesus builds up even more.  They think they teach the Law of God, but they refuse to recognize the fulfillment of that Law standing in front of them.  Their resentment festers and grows.  They want Jesus to die.

Juan de Flandes - The Canaanite Woman asks for healing for her daughter, c. 1500Then, continuing on his travels, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus to ask for healing for her daughter.  Jesus ignores her.  She asks again.  The disciples want her sent away.  Jesus adds that his mission is to the lost sheep of Israel, not her ilk.  But the pagan woman persists.  Jesus basically calls her and her people “dogs.”  But then she comes back and says “even the dogs eat the scraps from the Master’s table.”  Jesus is conquered.  Jesus acknowledges her faith in him and heals her daughter “instantly.”

Just think of the resentments this women had:  being put down as a complete pagan and called a dog.  Yet clinging to her faith in this Jesus, those resentments lost their power.  She and her daughter were healed.  She could have walked off in a huff, flipped Jesus off, but instead hung in there with faith in the person of Jesus.  She didn’t take her eyes off Jesus- she believed in him.

I think most of the problems of the world, divisions between people, and wars, are the result of deep-seated hurts and resentments.  Only faith in a loving God, or those who incarnate the presence of a God of love in the world (us!), can heal those resentments and open the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.

So if we have any lingering resentments that we are holding on to, today is an opportunity to be healed and forgiven.  Perhaps have that intention when you come to Holy Communion and express your faith in Jesus.  Even if you think Jesus or one of his representatives (maybe a priest or other Christian person) has let you down and called you a dog, hang in there with faith, don’t blow God off, like so many have, stay right here and be healed.