Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 20, 2017, Proper 15, Year A

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Full lections can be read here.

Based on the Readings as Set

First Reading (Genesis 45:1-15)

Years after selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt, his brothers do not recognize him as the Egyptian government official in a position to save them in a time of famine. When he reveals himself to them they are filled with fear, but he reassures them, stating that it was God who sent him on ahead in order to preserve their whole family. They wept and talked together in a moving scene of reconciliation.

Psalm (133)

The Psalmist describes the blessing of family unity using two metaphors of excess: the anointing oil that had overflowed Aaron in connection with his consecration as high priest and the drenching dew on the mountains of Israel. In all of this benevolence can be glimpsed a picture of the rich blessing of Yahweh, life forever more.

Second Reading (Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32)

Paul reassures his readers that what he has been saying in no way implies God’s rejection of the Jewish people. It is true that their general negative response to the Gospel has opened the door for Gentiles but it must be remembered that both divisions of the human family have been disobedient but both have also been shown mercy.

Gospel (Matthew 15:[10-20], 21-28)

Concerning the distinctive Jewish food laws, Jesus emphasizes that true defilement originates in the sinful heart rather than from food taken into the mouth. Then he moves into Gentile territory where a local woman calls out to him to have mercy on her demon-possessed daughter. At first Jesus declines because, as he tells the disciples, he has been sent only to the Jewish people. But when he perceives her persistent faith he puts all that aside and heals her daughter.

CONNECTION SUGGESTIONS

• The blessing of family unity (including the human family)
• God’s providential care for his people
• The equality of Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God
• Mercy (Grace) trumps disobedience
• The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart

Based on the Alternative Set of Readings

First Reading (Isaiah 56:1, 6-8)

The prophet Isaiah envisions Yahweh’s coming salvation as clearly including Gentiles as well as Israelites. Foreigners will come to worship on Mount Zion and the Temple will be known as a house of prayer for all nations. All those now considered outcasts, both Jew and Gentile, will be gathered together by Yahweh.

Psalm (67)

The Psalmist suggests that the abundant blessings of God upon Israel will lead to him being known throughout the nations and praise erupting from every corner. All the peoples will honour his name when they see the amazing harvests in Israel.

Second Reading (Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32)

Paul reassures his readers that what he has been saying in no way implies God’s rejection of the Jewish people. It is true that their general negative response to the Gospel has opened the door for Gentiles but it must be remembered that both divisions of the human family have been disobedient but both have also been shown mercy.

Gospel (Matthew 15:[10-20], 21-28)

Concerning the distinctive Jewish food laws, Jesus emphasizes that true defilement originates in the sinful heart rather than from food taken into the mouth. Then he moves into Gentile territory where a local woman calls out to him to have mercy on her demon-possessed daughter. At first Jesus declines because, as he tells the disciples, he has been sent only to the Jewish people. But when he perceives her persistent faith he puts all that aside and heals her daughter.

CONNECTION SUGGESTIONS

• The inclusion of the Gentiles in the plan of God
• The equality of Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God
• Mercy (Grace) trumps disobedience
• The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart