Sermon for BBC Radio 4

In the name of God, Creator, Saviour and Spirit.

The context for the conversation between Jesus and this Gentile woman whose name goes unrecorded, was a place quite different to our own. The two of them met in a place called Tyre – the same city in southern Lebanon which has featured so often in newspaper articles and news bulletins recently.

The place in which they talked will be hard to ignore for the many preachers who will preach on this text around the world today. In the city of Tyre, a Gentile woman, whom Jesus should not really have been talking to at all, challenged his apparent assumptions about the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles. She asked him, very clearly and directly whether there was not enough of God’s love to go around everyone. On Racial Justice Sunday in 2006 that question rings down through the ages.

That Gentile woman made her way to the private setting of a house and somehow managed to get to him. And there, in the house, she began to implore him – won’t you do something for my daughter. Won’t you say something to me?

There is little doubt that she was being a nuisance. And in being a nuisance to him, she was challenging him. She certainly should not have been annoying him with her demands. She was being cheeky and rude. Rude enough to be noticed.

Most of the time, it was Jesus who had the last word in the gospels. Most of the time, he had the words which made people take notice.

But this time it is different. Something about this cheeky, foreign woman was different. He should not have anything to do with her. She was a Gentile, she was a woman and she was a pest.

And yet, when he tried to brush her off, she gave him an answer which seemed to make him think again. And she is one of very few people who ever did that. She made him think again.

She was not going to be fobbed off by being told that he had come for his own people alone. She knew that God’s love knows no boundaries.

Jesus is confronted here by someone who has good news about God’s love to add to the Good News that Jesus himself had so far represented. It is quite encouraging in a way. Maybe we all have a little revelation of the extra wideness of God’s love.

Jesus should not have spoken to the woman, because she was different to him according to the rule and assumptions and norms of life that he tried to live by. But, God speaks to us through those who are different from us. God always has and God always will.

Racial Justice Sunday is a reminder to people today to summon up all their cheek and make demands on God. Today we stand before God ready to make a nuisance of ourselves until peace breaks out, ready to challenge presumption and prejudice, ready to be challenged by the presence of God within the communities around us.

Racial Justice Sunday is a reminded too to summon up all our cheek and go out and find people of wherever we can, who will speak to us of truth and wisdom. We need to find those who will help us to uncover and share God’s universal gifts of common sense and holy love which are buried deep within us.

Reading this story, we have a reminder that none of us need settle for the status quo when we meet injustice and feel the creeping coldness of prejudice gnaw away at human hearts. This Gentile woman stood up to Jesus with good humour and goodwill. Here in this place, let us address God in the same spirit – demanding a day when the communities of this world celebrate together and share together the insights of peace, justice and love which the great faiths try so hard to live by.

Reading this story today, we are reminded that the search for peace between the peoples of the Middle East is nothing new. The demand that Jew and Gentile be treated as equals is at the heart of our Gospel reading today. At this service, let us keep the dream alive that people be treated with equal dignity whoever they are. Let peace, peace founded on justice, be our prayer.

We meet this morning in Glasgow, a city that knows that prejudice is not always based on the colour of one’s skin. The communities that we come from can be presumed from football colours as well as skin colours. Nationalities are assumed from people’s accents and voices.

But here in this place today, we celebrate the common humanity of all, prompted, poked and cajoled as Jesus himself was by the questioning of a woman who knew that behind presumption and beyond prejudice we are all equally beloved of God.

Here in Glasgow, here in this place, we prepare now to share food and drink around a table, longing, as people of goodwill always long, for better times. Together we long for a world where people are treated with equal dignity, where wrongs will be righted and where slaves are set free. When we eat the bread and drink the wine at this table let us be nourished by them so that refreshed by God’s goodness we may take up the challenge to build a better world.



  1. Hi Kelvin
    An inner alarm clock woke me this morning just in time to hear your sermon on Radio 4 despite a late night/early morning finish on Glasgow Green for Proms. I thought that what you had to say was very appropriate and as far as delivery goes….John Humphreys eat your heart out!

  2. Hi Kelvin,

    I was listening to the service whilst shunting trains on the Welsh Highland Railway near Caernarfon. The music as always was excellent. So many highlights – Frikki’s anthem, your sermon….. I found myself joining in with the congregational items.

    However, the introductory continuity annoucer did bring a smile to my face when she introduced Idris as the “Preemus”.

    A PS to LP, my wife was also at the Glasgow Green Proms in the Park as a First Aider and she did not get home until nearly 2am.

  3. Got home this evening and listened to the whole service on broadband this evening. No whistling engines wanting to move spoiling my listening. I must have been dreaming during the original continuity announcer link and it sounds totally different to my recollection.

  4. Mysterious stranger says

    Having been reminded on Saturday at morning prayers I switched on in plenty of time ,complete with blank tape to record the service.After morning prayers on Saturday the lady beside me drew all of our attentions to the stained glass window.You picked out David with the harp and it was fitting to think on that during the music.Paul’s (?)choice of the dove commanded the whole service and I could picture it through out the broadcast.

    I will listen to the service again on a winter’s night with candle light and remember a warm September Sunday morning in Auld Reekie listening to A n uplifting service from the dear green place.

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