Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Texts for the Day

  • Semi-continuous: Genesis 45:1-15 and Psalm 133
  • Thematic: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 and Psalm 67
  • Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
  • Matthew 15:10-28

Bible reading plan: Matthew, Mark, Luke.

Commentary and Reflection

Another Joseph – As we read the second of the lectionary’s two-part series on Joseph, remember that there is another Joseph in the Bible.  Read Matthew’s story of Jesus’s earthly father in Matthew 1:18-2:23. Matthew is clearly aware of parallels with the Joseph in Genesis and weaves them into his narrative.  Both stories prominently feature dreams, for instance.  Questions for reflection:

  • What other similarities do you notice? What differences do you notice?
  • What might have been Matthew’s purpose in telling the infancy narrative from Joseph’s point of view in this way?

The Inclusive Community – The selection from Isaiah skips a few verses.  Read Isaiah 56:1-8 as it appears in the Bible.  Why do you think this is an important message for returning exiles?  What do think it has to say about how the contemporary church conducts itself?  Do you find this passage comforting, threatening, or something else?

The Canaanite Woman – The words of Jesus in the second part of today’s Gospel reading are challenging and strange.  His actions in this story could be variously interpreted as racist, sexist, elitist, or just plain obnoxious and rude.  What are we to make of this?  Rather than tackle this weighty question head on, take a look at one curious detail that gives insight into what Matthew himself thought about Jesus’s behavior.

Matthew refers to the unnamed woman who asks for Jesus to cure her daughter as a “Canaanite.”  This is odd, as the people of this time and place had not been referred to as Canaanites for centuries.  Mark refers to the same person as a “Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.”  (Mark 7:26)

To give you an idea of what Matthew might have been up to, recall that the Canaanites were bitter enemies of Israel and are denounced frequently in the Old Testament.  For examples, read Deuteronomy 7:1-11 and Deuteronomy 20:10-18.  With this background, why do you think Matthew told the story the way he did?  What does it say about his interpretation of Jesus’s actions?  What do you agree with?  What do you disagree with?

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