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God Wants to Burst Your Bubble

Matthew 15:21–28

I don’t want to burst your bubble, but God wants to burst your bubble. I’ve been watching the NBA games from inside the DisneyWorld “bubble.”

Let’s pause a moment to consider how strange that sounds.

But, the bubble seems to be working. The games are good, unless the Pelicans are playing. The NBA’s catch-phrase this season is, “It’s a whole new game.” It’s certainly a whole new arena.

They have their virtual fans in the virtual stands projected on the walls. It’s a LITTLE creepy. Some fans are abnormally big heads. The season’s HUGE on social justice. Black Lives Matter is painted on the floor. All the players have messages on their jerseys.

Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom.

The league is doing its best to create change from INSIDE the bubble. That got me thinking. It’s not normal to have change come from INSIDE the bubble. Bubbles are meant to keep change out. To protect from what’s “out there.”

But you don’t have to be a zillionaire basketball player to live and work in a bubble. We ALL have bubbles.

You’ve got bubbles. I’ve got bubbles. I live in a Presbyterian bubble. It’s a little stuffy. I’m a Bubble Head.

We ALL have our bubbles. Filled with air we share. The nice thing is that things don’t have to be FILTERED inside our bubbles. We breathe the same air. We inhale — and then exhale — the same ideas. We share. It’s all very cozy.

Bubblicious. Until some careless nitwit POPS the bubble. Boom. (Mind blown.)

The scripture today is about JESUS having his bubble burst. And what that means — to people centuries later — folks like you. And me.

“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all.”

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, pastor at Middle Church in the East Village of NYC, wrote about this very weird and troubling passage.

She said:

“If I were Jesus’ public relations expert, I would not have included today’s text in scripture.

Jesus does not look good here.

I mean no disrespect to Jesus, he’s my guy.”

She said:

“I know many of you will be offended by this — perfect Jesus needing to be corrected, schooled, taught that Canaanite lives matter.”

But the Bible tells us so.

She goes on to say there was more than one healing in this story.

She says:

“I think this encounter healed Jesus as well.

The Canaanite woman uses her words to speak to Jesus in a way that shakes up his understanding of his [OWN] call to ministry.

She wakes him UP to his own bias.”

“After this encounter with an “OTHER,” [she says], Jesus is WOKE.”

Jesus has an “awakening.”

The woman not only changed Jesus’s MIND.

She changed Jesus’s whole MINISTRY.

Before her, the WORD of God from the SON of God was for [the lost CHILDREN of God,] the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But after her, the Word of God from the Son of God was proclaimed to ALL nations, to ALL the children of God, both inside the bubble, and beyond the bubble.

It’s never the ones you expect.

Because expectations are the building blocks of bubbles.

We live in a Big Orange Bubble.

With Neyland Stadium in the center.

God help this city, the states of this Conference, if we can’t play football this fall.

God help Jeremy Pruitt if we do.

Have you seen the proposed tentative hypothetical schedule?

10 weeks of back-to-back-to-back SEC games.

Not a happy bubble.

We live in a Tennessee bubble.

A Southern bubble.

An American bubble.

And right now — in 2020 — all our bubbles kind of bursting at once.

Who are these bubble-bursters?

Where did they come from?

And why won’t they leave us alone?

Today, we’re asking the same things about this Biblical, bubble-bursting buttinsky.

Because even though this is a small, uncomfortable story in a backwater section of the Gospels, it’s big.

This little story is a HUGE turning point in the life of Jesus, and in the whole Bible.

Let’s take a closer look.

We know a little about the Canaanite woman.

She’s Canaanite. And she’s a woman.

There you go.

But wait, there’s more.

Jesus — on yet another walking tour — ventures over the border to the land of Tyre and Sidon.

I can’t speak for Sidon, but Tyre sounds like a nice place to me.

And then, this Canaanite woman shows up and won’t shut up.

Won’t just go away.

Who WERE these Canaanites?

And this lady Canaanite, in particular?

In Mark, the woman is identified as Syro-Phoenecian.

Syro — DASH — Phoenician.

And you know what a DASH means in racial terms.

That’s the kind of people Canaanites would have been. Mixed race.

So, the Canaanite woman was a person of MIXED race, which back then would have officially qualified her as a “nobody.”

Not quite one of Jesus’s people. Not quite one of “those” people.

She was across a few borders.

Plus, she was loud.

And despite repeated corrections by men of authority, this nasty woman would not be silenced.

She just kept on begging, loudly and without distancing.

For what? For medical care.

Healing for her demon-possessed, unclean, who-knows-what-affliction-she-had daughter.

But, even with so much going against her, this woman (and wouldn’t it have been nice if we knew her name?)

this loud, abrasive woman had one BIG thing going FOR her:


She recognized Jesus for who he WAS.

And she — SHE — turns him into who he was SUPPOSED to be.

Made him into who he was CREATED to be.

Shamed him into his God-given place as the light to ALL the nations,

the good news to ALL the people,

the Savior of ALL the world,

not just the Lost Sheep of Israel.

Boom. (Mind blown.)

She burst the Jesus bubble, for us all.

She EXPANDED his ministry.

And changed his mind.

When was the last time you had YOUR mind changed?

When was the last time you had YOUR mind changed on a BIG issue?

WHO changed it? I would guess that if it was a BIG change –

that it was changed by someone you DID not expect.

Because naturally, you expect the people you normally hang out with, inside your bubble, you expect them to already agree with you.

OPINIONS are a pre-existing condition.

You know what they say: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

But where did you get the things you stand for?

Was it an inheritance?

From your family?

Your friends?

Your teachers?

Did it come from INSIDE your “bubble?”

Most things do.

Come from INSIDE our social bubbles.

We’re bubble-builders.

Bubble Boys.

And Bubble Girls.

Here’s the thing: You don’t KNOW what needs to change in YOUR mind.

You don’t know what needs to change in YOUR mind — until it does.

We are fallen, sinful creatures.

How we think, how we behave, how we speak — is less than what God intended.

We are so much like Jesus.

But not because we’re perfect.

But because, like even Jesus, every once in a while, we ALL need our minds changed.

We all need to be taught,

we all need to be schooled,

and re-schooled, brought up, awakened –

into who we are CREATED to be.

Canaanites had an interesting place in the Bible.

Basically, Canaanite became the catch-all name for the indigenous people of the Promised Land.

Canaanites were the unwashed natives who had to be driven out so God’s people could enjoy the riches of the land of milk and honey.

Remember the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

You know who lived in the twin cities?


The main thing we hear about Canaanites early in the Bible, in Genesis, is how disgusting their women were.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to marry Canaanite women.”

We hear this and variations all throughout Genesis.

And what did the boys do?

They grew up and married Canaanite women.

Dangerously seductive Canaanite women.

Good Breeders.

Canaanites weren’t all bad, though.

According to the Bible they also made very good slaves.

Even God hated Canaanites.

Ordered Joshua to blow his horns and make the walls come a-tumblin down so they can go in, take their gold, and put their swords through every man, woman, child, ox, and donkey.

All this is to say that the Israelites’ relationship to the Canaanites was…


Kind of like Thomas Jefferson and Black people.

And Native Americans, too, whom Jefferson either exterminated or relocated to the West, away from real Americans, because, as he wrote,

“They would have mixed their blood with ours, and been amalgamated and identified with us within no distant period of time.”

The way we feel about people and peoples outside our bubbles

can go way back, generation after generation after generation.

We see it in our own nation.

We see it in the Bibles’ nations.

Again, I don’t want to burst your bubble about the Israelites, or Thomas Jefferson, or Jesus.

I don’t want to burst your bubble.

It’s not me.

GOD wants to burst ALL our bubbles.

I think there can be a feeling that changing your mind makes you look wimpy.

But maybe we should flip-flop a little more.

Maybe we should have the blessed inconsistency of enlightenment.

The holy epiphanies of embarrassment over what we used to believe, and what we now know to be untrue, unchristian, inhuman.

A mind that isn’t changing is a mind that’s given up.

The Canaanite woman did not give up on Jesus.

Jesus did not give up.

Did not give up on his ministry.

Did not give up on what he stood for.

In fact, with her help, Jesus EXPANDED what he stood for.

Jesus will not give up on you, either.

WE should not give up.

We should not give up on OURSELVES.

We shouldn’t give up on our COUNTRY.

We shouldn’t give up fighting against the sins and sickness that threaten our lives and the lives of people we THINK are outside of our circles, but really are just a gate, or a wall, or a neighborhood away.

And whose lives do matter, just as much as ours.

Jesus expands his ministry to us.

No matter how small and afraid our minds may be, Jesus believes we are worthy to be his disciples.

We shouldn’t give up on JESUS.

We shouldn’t give up on his wonderfully Canaanite faith in us.

Let the bubble-bursting begin.

And let it begin with me.

With us.

For God.

For us all.

Written by

Husband, dad, dog-owned. Presbyterian (USA) pastor. I write sermons and articles on faith and life.

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