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Order of Service - 16 August 2020

Sunday Eucharist prayers, readings and reflections are available below.



Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.



Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, Matthew 15:10-28.



We pray for the Church and for the world.

For priests and ministers that they may have grace to help those who come in need, and to feed them with the bread of life.

Heal the wounds of suspicion that divide nations and races and bless those in authority.

We pray for the sick and for all who work for their care and healing and especially we pray for Paul Evans and Gerald Lewis.

We give thanks and pray for the departed.




            “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.”[1] Similar words are heard elsewhere in S. Matthew’s Gospel, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David,”[2] was the supplication of the blind whom Jesus met on the road and their supplication did not go unheeded nor unanswered. Jesus touched their eyes and their sight was restored.

            Yet, this morning a similar cry does not elicit immediately a similar compassionate response. The woman met with silence. She was ignored. The disciples urged Him to send her away. Jesus himself, perhaps shockingly, tried to brush her off. Why this different response? The blind men were Jews. The woman was a Canaanite, and those from the region of Tyre and Sidon were “pagans” to the Jews; unbelievers, worshippers of other gods. There was an exclusivity among Jews as the chosen people of God. Samaritans, you may remember, were not much better than the Canaanites. Yet when compassion overtook the Good Samaritan, where others, including the priest, had passed by on the other side, and despite their differences, helped the traveller fell among thieves, here the faith of the woman overcame the denominational divisions and anathemas.

            History and the present day are littered with religious divisions; nor merely between religions but within religions. Protestant, Catholics, Orthodox may no longer hurl anathemas at one another but they do not share Communion, the Sacrament of unity in Christ, one with another. They have their own exclusivity. Orthodox Jewry and Liberal Jews, Shia and Shi-ite Muslims … are other examples … and so it goes on. Christians cannot occupy the moral high-ground.”See how these Christians love one another,”[3] has more than a hint of irony.

            This has always been a problematic encounter in the Gospel narrative. What are we to make of Jesus’ initial reaction? He ignored the woman’s plea. That is not characteristic. She continued shouting. He said that he had been sent to minister to the Jews, not to the Gentiles. He dismissed her. She resisted and pleaded with him. He responded by, practically, calling her a dog. Surely there is something amiss, something wrong here, something disturbing. She pleads with him. And then, eventually, he acknowledges her faith, “Let it be done.”[4]

            What epithets might we apply to that exchange? Arbitrary? Harsh? Lacking compassion? Was Jesus testing her faith? Was he testing the faith of the disciples? Is the story about listening? Is it about recognising Jesus as Messiah? Is it an intimation that Jesus’ mission is not only for the Jews but that he has a mission beyond them, a universal, omni-enfolding, enveloping salvation?

            Preachers are supposed to have all the answers. Well, not this morning. This remains a knotty passage of Scripture. The best I can do is conjecture.

            If we see this transformation in Jesus himself from rejection to beneficence; a transformation from a Judean sect to a universal means of salvation; as an inner struggle of our humanity in our encounter with God, we can learn to listen and to respond, to move from self-absorption to engagement, from passive sympathy to active charity, caritas, love.

            This pandemic has seen us turn inward, “cabined, cribbed, confined”[5] in isolation, restriction, in our homes, but we are made for relationship, we are made for community. Our faith requires it, demands it of us. We exist wholly, fully, completely in communion, communion with one another, communion with and in Christ.


Christ Church, Hampstead 2020


[1] S.Matthew 15: 21

[2] S. Matthew 9:27

[3] Tertullian: Roman theologian and Church Father from Carthage. 'Look,' they say, 'how they [Christians] love one another' (for they themselves hate one another); 'and how they are ready to die for each other' (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).

[4] S. Matthew 15: 28

[5] William Shakespeare, Macbeth 3 iv

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