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Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is a very good thing, but then why is Jesus in Tyre and Sidon, far outside of Jewish territory? If he wants to find sheep of the house of Israel, what is he doing in Phoenicia? Should he not be heading south to Judah? No, Jesus did not lose his compass. He went north, out of his way, because a girl there was possessed by a demon and Jesus wanted to help her determined mother. When Jesus arrives he first gives mom the silent treatment and then insults her by referring to her as a dog? Why didn’t Jesus just tell her: “Oh I was looking for you. I am very busy these days trying to find the lost sheep of my Father’s house, but I needed to come to help you.” Why did Jesus introduce himself with a more amicable approach? Inside of the mother is hidden greatness. She is committed, determined, dedicated, faithful and she never quits on God. Jesus drew all of this goodness out of her and exposed it so that we could all see it.

The same thing happened with Abraham. Abraham said to God, “You know I am faithful. Why did you tell me to sacrifice my only son, then make me walk for three days up this high mountain with a load of wood? Then at the very last second, you stay my hand. Why did you do that?” Abraham had all that goodness hidden inside him. He was faithful, dedicated, and committed. He will never give up on God. And God wanted to draw out all of that hidden goodness and expose it so that we would see it. That is why we all call him the father of faith.

The same thing happened to Job. Job said to God, “You knew that I am faithful. Why did you take my house and family away from me? As if that was not enough, my friends came to turn me away from you. Why did you allow bad things to happen to me?” God wanted to draw out and expose Job’s hidden goodness. That is what God does with us. God will draw out the goodness that is hidden inside of us.

After my fly fishing friend died, his closest friends discovered that he had a bamboo rod. They gave the rod to me because they knew I would appreciate it. They knew that I would appreciate the rod because the bamboo bends deeply and snaps back straight when you cast it. You can find bamboo all over the world, but the makers of bamboo fly rods get their bamboo only from one field in southeast China. Why would they go so far out of their way to get bamboo, when it is so readily available at other locations? Because the bamboo in this particular field is the strongest in the world, and for good reason. It is a place with some of the worst weather around, right in “monsoon alley.” The bamboo bends in the wind and then snaps back straight. The harsh wind makes the fibers the strongest in the world. My bamboo rod is fifty years old, it will last another fifty, and it will outlast your cellphone or laptop.

Take a look at the tracker organ in the back of the church choir loft. It is made up of thousands of thin strips of movable wood. It is one hundred years old and it will last another hundred years with only an occasional tuning. It will outlast the engine in your car. How is it possible that little strips of movable wood can outlast your car? Because the builders of the pipe organ built it to last. The builders of your cell phone built is so it would be replaced in a year or two. So let’s go back to the Gospel passage and ask why was Jesus so mean to the Syro-Phoenician woman? God builds us to last.

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