A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.


PRELUDE                                                 “Nocturne in Eb”                                            Frederic Chopin


GATHERING SONG                       “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”                  red book # 886


KYRIE                                                                                                                     red book page 98 (set 1)

CANTICLE of PRAISE                                                                                  red book page 101 (set 1)



ISAIAH 35:4–7a


JAMES 2:1–17

MARK 7:24–37

SERMON                                                                                                              Pastor Chris Halverson

God’s love shines through.

We were walking through the field that separated  Saint Mark’s—the youth retreat center in England I was serving—from Saffron Walden—the nearest town—

Walking along with a couple dozen grade school kids from London—many of them had never been outside of the City before—some had never been outside their neighborhood.

One of the kids said, “Bruvver Chris.” Yes, he called me brother—I never figured out why, but it was much nicer than the things he called the rest of the staff, “Bruvver Chris, what are those?”

He pointed at the sky.

“Those what?” I asked not seeing anything out of the ordinary.

“Those things.”

Stars—they’re stars.

London, because of the sheer amount of lights in the city, the fact that the city is lit up like the morning both morning and night—has made it nearly impossible to see the stars.

This light pollution, has blurred folk’s ability to see the stars. Those amazing, inspirational, bodies in the heavens, can’t be seen because the lights of London are just too bright—the light pollution is just too much.

That was the first time he’d seen the stars! And the rest of that walk, I strained my neck looking up, seeing the stars anew myself. Seeing them again—seeing them shine through, and being amazed.

And just as those stars shone through that clear sky on that rural English night—this day I want to assure you all that God’s love shines through… God’s love shines through.


Now, there are two things preachers often tell you about Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. And I think they’re both wrong. The first is that Jesus is being playful when he calls this woman a dog, and second that Jesus is just testing her.

First, preachers often point out the word for dog Jesus uses is diminutive—that is Jesus is saying doggie or puppy—so it’s alright—Jesus get’s a pass because he said something cute—because he made this woman out to be something that is small and non-human.

Now, I don’t know much about women—but I do know, if, as a kid, my mom went up to a surgeon and asked him to operate on my heart and they said:

“Oh, doggies like you have to wait for the human children to be fed first,” /that surgeon would be the one in need of healing.

As you might imagine very few women preachers make this argument.

As for the second argument, that Jesus is testing her faith—preachers are simply reading their own discomfort with what they see as a jerk Jesus. They are so conserned with burying this possible interpretation that they end up covering over what Jesus actually says, “That it isn’t time yet—Jesus is coming first for the Jews.” We find this paradigm—Jews then gentiles, throughout the gospels and writ very clearly in Paul’s letters.

So let’s entertain, at least for a moment—at least for the sake of shedding light on this Syrophoenician woman’s experience—that she, at bare minimum, couldn’t see that Jesus was testing her, or that being called a small dog is a delight.

This woman, in the darkness of despairing for her daughter. This woman saw a man confronted by religions authorities who declared that food doesn’t defile a person—this is what we read last week—and in this message she saw this inspiring light she’d never experience before—and said, “Bruvvar Chris, what are those?” And she was told, “Jesus.”

And she went to him, went to this shining beacon of hope… and he cast her back into the night.

Think what a dark night of the soul it has to be when Jesus casts you out for clinging to him as your last hope!

Yet, it was the first time she’d seen the stars—and it was such a stark contrast there, in the darkness looking in.

So like a moth to the flame she persisted.

She pointed Jesus to the stars, because if the light had cast away the shadows of food defilement/ it had also cast away the devilish idea that a person can defile you… that dogs and children don’t mix.

And so she pressed on—calling the light to task, recognizing that the problem was light pollution—that the star was too bright to see it’s implications for those living in the shadows.

Embarrassing Jesus into embracing what’s right—embracing the very light that is him.

She looked and saw that this Jesus had multiplied loaves and fishes to the point that the table could no longer contain it’s bounty—that very truly, his cup did overflow. The light of that star splayed out and reflected on everything it touched and even the little dog deserved the crumbs from the table.

And sisters and brothers we as the church—we as the body of Christ—can become filled with light pollution.

We orbit so close to the star that we stop noticing it’s pull on us–we live in the shining city on the hill that Matthew speaks of and because it shines like London—day and night—we lose sight of the stars.

And that’s why I thank God for Syrophonesian women—people who have been struck by God’s love and remind us of the same.

For those who say, “what are those?”

so that we can say, “stars,”

and in proclaiming that we can see them anew ourselves.

I thank God that God’s love shines through.

And church—I want to ask you today, “What are those?” Do you see it? Do you feel it’s warmth? Are you inspired by it’s beauty and its grace? Are you struck by God’s love?

Because, when we do—when that old old story of Jesus and his love is told to us again—when we are pushed by the prophetic words of Syrophonesian women amazing things can happen—this overflowing table of our can be shared—we no longer hide our light under a bushel—covering it like windows during an air raid—no! instead we can say, “stars—they’re stars.”

You see—after this woman pushes Jesus to go farther than he was ready to go sooner than he was ready to do it,

he goes farther still, sooner still.

He goes on to travel the Decapolis—that is the 10 cities in Judea formed and filled with gentiles. And there he takes that woman’s advice—

that just as food stuff does not cause defilement, neither can a person defile you.

That dogs and children not only mix, but that both need to see that light in the night sky.

So he goes there—

amongst these people who he’d called dogs—

Jesus gets up and close with these people,

get’s defiled by these people

he takes his fingers and sticks them in these people’s mouths and in these people’s ears. And heals them.

And they are so stuck by him—by seeing this light in the sky they’ve never seen before-

After all:

In darkness, the light is more illuminating

In times of trouble, peace is more pleasant

When hungry, food is more filling

When homeless, shelter is all the more satisfying

And they are so struck by Jesus that he can’t shut them up. He “ordered them to tell no one—but the more he ordered them the more zealously they proclaimed it.”

Because God’s love shone through to them.

God’s love shines through.

And we as the church are called to point to that light and say, “Stars—they’re stars.”

          Called to call on Christ—praying, “Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness. Christ, be our light. Shine in your church, gathered today.” 

HYMN of the DAY                                      “Christ, Be Our Light”                                  red book # 715








OFFERTORY ANTHEM                     “How Will They Know?”




     Also, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, red book # 614, red book #708



SENDING SONG                  “The Church of Christ, in Every Age”                red book # 729