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PC(USA) ORDINATION EXAM TIPS

Yung Suk Kim

Disclaimers:

The following resources are provided here to share my experience of taking PC(USA) ordination exams. I graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1999, and passed all exams before I graduated. Please use them at your discretion. Since then, the contents or forms of exams might have been changed. For more updates, please check with the official web site of PC-USA.


General Tips

The exams test your overall ability of whether you can articulate differing ministry contexts based on informed sources and resources. This means you need both knowledge (from your reading of books) and a sharp sense of what’s going on in ministry.
If I put what I am saying into a formula, it goes like this: "KUA"

What do you know (objective knowledge)? = K (know) from the resources (theology, book of order, confessions, etc)

How do you understand in your own terms = U (understand)

What is important in a context today and how do you apply (or adapt) what you know to a specific context? = A (Apply)

K: you need to cover both classic and contemporary literature to obtain necessary knowledge of a certain subject.

U: Make it your own. A mere quoting from books (persons) is not enough.

A: Application is important. How will you apply or change what you know in response to a ministry context?

Organize your thoughts coherently and clearly so that your readers might follow your point. As you might know, your readers are very diverse in terms of their age, ministry experiences, culture, and etc.

Write plainly with your thesis distinct.

Be familiar with the mood of the Reformed Tradition. If you want to know a bit of it, read my article on What is Reformed Tradition?

Plan ahead before taking an exam. Your course-taking plan, self-study plan including old exam reviews, seeking advice from former takers, is all-important.

Yung Suk Kim's books:

A Transformative Reading of the Bible: Explorations of Holistic Human Transformation (Cascade, 2013)
Biblical Interpretation: Theory, Process, and Criteria (Pickwick Publications, 2013)
A Theological Introduction to Paul's Letters: Exploring a Threefold Theology of Paul (Cascade Books, 2011)
Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor (Fortress Press, 2008)


Theology exam

This exam demands a lot in terms of covering materials and the amount of time as well, and profundity of its topics is awesome. I strongly recommend that you take a relevant course for this exam.

Be familiar with confessional documents found in the Book of Confessions. Make your own comparison table by topics.

One important tactic is to use index of the book of confession. If you want to know about redemption-related confessional documents, you will find a similar word in the index. This way you can save your time by finding multiple references in various documents at one look. This is an essential tool in your class exam. In fact, in my exam I did it well.

When you apply what you found to a contemporary ministry situation, the first task is to identify core issues. As the Reformed Tradition hints, you need to approach ministry issues with a balanced mind and heart. In other words, see things deep inside of people and go beyond a mere situation. I say this kind of approach is called a balance-heartfelt approach. Move with your heart. Maintain your sense of balance as always.

When you write answers on the questions of application, think about connection between you answered at previous questions and the application question. Clearly point out what issues are there and be specific about how you reply to that context with a REMINDER that you have a PASTORAL SENSITIVITY.

Again, a balanced approach is important, because, on the one hand, you need to give a clear connection between your knowledge and application and on the other hand you have to maintain a sense of pastoral attentiveness to those involved in that situation. In this sense, your answer needs not to be a black and white logic. Rather, thinking you are a pastor, you should approach people and issues with a balanced sense of mind and heart.

Reading many books is important but too ambitious sometimes. I rather recommend that you need to focus on one important book, reading word by word, with your head and heart wide open. Read one time with close attention to each sentence. Next time when you read again, move your hand with a pen and a notepad ready. Write down what you find delights from your rereading. In other words, make summary notes on a separate notebook. This summary is enormously helpful for your final wrapping up before the exam. As often as possible, you can take this note out, and you can further reflect on it. In this way, you not only prepare for the exam very well but also find pleasure of your spiritual growth.

Recommended Textbooks

Christian Doctrine, revised edition, by Shirley C. Guthrie
Presbyterian Creeds, by Jack Rogers
Faith Seeking Understanding, by Daniel Migliore
Basic Christian Doctrine, John Leith


Polity Exam

Generally, a passing rate for this exam is high compared to other exams. But this does not mean you do not study hard. The message that I want to give you is that you need to work hard. Do not expect any luck without studying enough.

Good news is that this exam is an open book test. You can put your own color tabs or make colors to highlight certain things in your book.

The first rule is a necessity that you almost memorize the first four chapters of the Book of Order, where you will find the spirit of that book; for example, the ends of the church, historic principles, and etc. You have to grasp the basic rules or spirit of the Book of Order. For example, our church is said to be connectional. Why is ‘connection’ important? Also, our church governing is performed with shared power. Why shared power is important? How and where is the mentioning or spirit of shared power represented in our book of order? Try to connect what you read with actual practice of your church ministry. Is there a similarity or discrepancy? If you do not understand or confused about the actual practice of your church or a larger church, struggle with that issues, going back to the book of order, and find a right person who you trust to talk about it.

The second rule is about your organization of the book. Have a big picture first. That is how exactly this exam asks for (of course, other exams are the same but this specific exam is more like so). As I said before, the first four chapters are fundamentally important in showing basic principles in relation to your ongoing struggles in the church, and the rest of the chapters are organized one way or another to show the connection between the first part (4 chapters) and the rest of the book. Now you can map it by relating the first part and the later part. Find an each relationship of it.

The third rule is about your approach. Again, treat the involved persons in ministry with a pastoral sensitivity. As you grasp later when you read our book of order, the ultimate purpose of our book is not to judge people but find a common ground with reconciliation in mind. So never treat so harshly with the cases or people. Again, a balance is a key.

The fourth rule is about your attention to your questions. Give enough time to think about the question. Read it three or four times. Scrutinize each word on its relationship to the other words and the sentences. For example, verbs such as explain, list, evaluate, and etc., are important ways that it gives you a direction to answering. Answer the questions directly, always with clarity. Don't hit around the bush. Don’t try to show your knowledge not related to answering the questions.

The fifth rule is about your familiarity with index of the Book of Order. What is really important is how quickly you search for a related topic from it and quickly go to the section you are looking for. Scan through this index as often as possible.

There is no specific book that I want to recommend to you, because the Book of Order itself is the best one. Read it carefully and summarize it on your own with a reminder of a big picture.

If I really recommend one little booklet though, “the great ends of the church” by PC-USA will be helpful for your understanding of a big picture of what is all about in our Presbyterian Church.


Worship and Sacrament Exam

This exam is, I think, part of the Polity plus theology exam. Principal things in the Form of Government (especially first four chapters) of the Book of Order have some overlapping intersections with the Directory for Worship. Worship is fundamental part of what the church is doing in the life of church. Also, this exam has a resonant with the theology exam in a sense that theological interpretation is involved in the discussion of worship and sacrament.

General rules for this exam is same as the theology and the polity exam.

This exam is a closed book test except a section on finding confessional heritage (using the book of confession). So, you are asked to remember a big chunk of discussions in the Directory for Worship. You have to summarize all contents so that any situational, contextual topics might be dealt without a serious problem. For example, when you are asked to lead a special funeral worship service in a situation where you feel so strange, can you respond with confidence? Suppose any unusual situations and try to give your own answers.


Biblical Exegesis Paper (take-home)

When exegetical books (bible) are declared for the exam, consult with your professor or a pastor or go to a library to gather information/materials (bibliography). You can begin with reading an introduction of each book. Have a big picture of that book. For instance, if the book of Matthew is picked out for your exegesis work, you can simply ask several questions like these:

1) Why was this book written? What is author like? For whom was it written?

2) Certainly, you will like to know theological issues or any community issues with which people of a community struggled.

3) What is this book’s position out of the whole bible? How is Matthew different from the other gospels? And in what sense is it similar to one another?

4) How did reformers interpret this book? Like Luther or Calvin. What is, if any, a general traditional interpretation of this book?

When verses of that book are given for your take-home exam, go home and find a quiet place to gather your mind and energy. Take a deep breath and breathe it out. Pray for a guidance and courage. PRAY FOR YOUR EXEGESIS. I can tell you the difference between praying-exegesis and hardhead-exegesis.

I failed first time in an exegesis exam. By the time when I finished taking the first three in-class exams, I felt good about what I have done. So I did not pray for the exegesis paper because I believed my capacity. I did well on the exegetical part but didn’t do well on the application part. I did not take an exam so seriously first time because I was not humble enough. The second time when I started working on the exegesis paper, I prayed and prayed. It made a real difference for me. So what do you say? Praying with all your heart does make a difference in your writing exegesis paper.


My exegesis paper is given for your reference.

(Sample paper) : careful, this is not the only sample.

Exegetical Method

A. The Purposes of this Exegesis

B. Who wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

C. When, where, and for Whom did Matthew write his gospel?

D. How is Matthew 15:21-28 related to the surrounding Chapter and Book?

E. Are there Textual Critical problems in Matthew 15:21-28?

F. How does Matthew 15:21-28 compare with Mark 7:24-30?

G. What are some significant literary features of Matthew 15:21-28?

H. How does John Calvin interpret Matthew 15:21-28?

I. Theological and Practical Implications

J. Personal Summary

K. Contemporary Use of the Text

i) Situation and Audience

ii) Sermon Outline

Exegetical Findings

A. The Purposes of this Exegesis

Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the Canaanite Woman (the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:24-30) and Jesus, has a parallel in Mark 7:24-30. But the content and features of Matthew are quite different from the ones of Mark. A close reading of Matthew 15:21-28 reveals that in addition to its similarities to Mark's account, it contains features that distinguish it from Mark, and has emphasis on the theme of faith. So, my purposes of this exegesis are: to find and discuss the nature of faith hidden in this passage of Matthew 15:21-28, as compared with Mark; to trace the theme's occurrence throughout Matthew's Gospel; to find relevancy of my interpretation with John Calvin's; and to apply my exegetical findings to a contemporary, Reformed congregational situation, in a sermon outline that focuses on the theme of faith.

B. Who wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

The ascription of this Gospel to the apostle Matthew traces back "at least from Irenaeus (A.D. 185) and possibly from Papias, though it is not clear whether the collection of Jesus' logia by Matthew that Papias refers to is to be identified with our gospel of Matthew" (Meier 1992: 622). But, there is no internal evidence that the apostle Matthew wrote this gospel. A majority of scholars views the author of Matthew as a redactor of Mark's gospel and as a writer, after receiving various oral and written traditions that were available to him in his community. Until the last few decades, scholars tended to favor the author of Matthew as a Jewish conservative Christian. More recently, scholars see Matthew "as a moderate Hellenistic-Jewish Christian who was liberated from an earlier stringent Jewish Christianity which opposed the gentile mission and upheld the Pharisaic view of the law" (Meier 1992: 625).

C. When, Where, and For Whom did Matthew write his Gospel?

A majority of scholars points to a date of Matthew between 80 and 90 A.D. (Duling 1989: 1857). Internal references within the gospel suggest this period; its author knew about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (see 21:41; 22:7; 24:15-16) (Duling, 1857). This was a time of pharisaic development and conflict between formal Judaism and the newly thriving Christian communities.

The Gospel was written in Antioch, according to the majority of scholars (Boring, 105). Internal evidence of the Gospel suggests some "Greek-speaking urban area where Jews and Christians were in intense interaction" (Boring, 105).

Matthew wrote this Gospel to his audience of the newly emerging community that had to live with or against Judaism and the gentiles. The main audience was Jewish Christians who had to struggle with the existence of the Gentiles, whether they had to accept them or not. Thus, Matthew's gospel has its main sitz im leben (life-setting) in "the crisis of a church in transition, seeking to preserve what is viable in its Jewish past as it moves into the uncharted waters of a predominantly gentile future in the Greco-Roman world" (Meier 1992: 625). Matthew's church had already broken with the synagogue by the time the gospel was written. Internal references to this are shown in "their" synagogue and "my" church (16:18) (Meier 1992: 625).

D. How is Matthew 15:21-28 related to the Surrounding Chapter and the Book?

The passage, 15:21-28, has "antithetical continuity" with the previous passage, 15:1-20 (Patte, 220). Verses 15:1-20 are about the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees (the theme was 'bread' and 'eating'), while in 15:21-28 Jesus and the Canaanite woman also have dialogues around bread and eating. Why is it antithetical? It is because both passages deal with the aspect of faith. That is to say, a Canaanite woman, a pagan, has "great" faith (15:28) and the Pharisees, the Jewish religious authorities, make void the word of God and are hypocrites (15:6-7). The Pharisees are an example of "unbelief" (13:58) and the Canaanite woman as an example of great faith (Patte, 220).

Though Matthew's language has a Jewish tone, ultimately the theme of Matthew is faith in which Jews and gentiles together become the people of God. But the setting of the Canaanite woman's story is still a pre-Easter moment. So, this passage, 15:21-28 is a pre-sign of full inclusion of the gentile in Christ after the Post-Easter event (for example, 28:16-20, where all nations are the target of mission). So, this event carried a symbolic impact on the readers who listened to this gospel, because even before the Easter, non-Jewish people could be part of God's blessing, on condition that they come with faith.

This episode of the Canaanite woman contrasts with several other places where the disciples do not show faith. Jesus pointed out Peter’s “little faith” because Peter had doubt while walking on the sea (14:31) (Scott, 41). Jesus' disciples, who were terrified by the windstorm, also heard from Jesus, "Why are you afraid, you of little faith?" (8:23-27). In another place, Jesus was rejected by his hometown people at Nazareth (13:54-58), and he did not do many things because of their "unbelief". In sum, the main problem of the disciples in Matthew is that they have "little faith". In contrast, a Canaanite woman shows great faith, even if she is a pagan, a woman, and the mother of a demonic daughter. This event stands out in terms of the dramatic aspect of faith. After this event, Peter's confession comes in chapter 16.

Finally, this episode has a parallel in 8:5-13, where a centurion asks for his servant's cure. This episode is also about a gentile's faith (Schweizer, 329).

E. Are there Textual critical problems in Matthew 15:21-28?

In fact, there is no critical textual problem in this passage. But one thing should be marked here. In verse 26, "estin kalon" -"is good"- is close to the original, though some think that "exestin" -"is lawful"- is closer to the original because of the influence of the parallel account in Mark 7:27. The reason for favoring "estin kalon" is that "exestin was introduced into some of the Western witnesses in order to strengthen Jesus' reply (a heightening from what is appropriate or fitting to what is lawful)" (Metzger, 39-40).

Even though there are no critical textual problems in this passage, one translation issue emerges here because of 'dogs' 'kunarioij'. The issue is related with the meaning of 'dogs'. Greek word, 'kunarion' is a diminutive form (Hare, 176). So, some think this dog is a housedog (pet). But this is not the case, for Jewish people did not raise dogs in the house as Greeks did (Dufton, 417). By the way, the NIV translates verse 26 as 'to their dogs' but the NRSV has 'to the dogs.' I think that the NRSV is more appealing. As for Jewish people, dogs were not raised in houses but wandered in the fields and mountain. Dogs were a symbol of the dirty, unpleasant and savage animals. In this way, the dogs became a Jewish word of abuse for gentiles (Dufton, 417). Dogs are used to show the bitterness of gentiles' situation. Gentiles are like dogs. They are outside of God's mercy. Matthew dramatizes even more by these dogs the impossibility of this woman's destiny. One interesting point is that this woman responds in such a way that she seems to refer to these dogs as housedogs. No matter what Jesus says, for her, the urgent things are her daughter's cure.

F. How does Matthew 15:21-28 compare with Mark 7:24-30?

Matthew's text is different from Mark 7:24-30 to a surprising degree. Matthew's text is "more Jewish than its parallel" (note 24b: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel") (Davies, 542). Jesus confines his mission to Israel only. Further, Matthew's text is missing Mark's clause "let the children be fed first". In Mark's text, it seems that Jews are first saved and gentiles next. But in Matthew's text, gentiles have no possibility at all. In sum, Matthew's text is "more potentially offensive to non-Jews" (Davies, 542). But on the other hand, Matthew (the author) intensifies the desperateness of a pagan woman. In other words, here the author manifests the hopelessness of a Canaanite woman by emphasizing Jesus' mission to Israel only. This is why Matthew's text differs from Mark's version. The taste of strong Jewishness has been made in Matthew 15:21-28 by the author who wants to show the greatness of faith of this woman (Senior, 132).

Matthew, furthermore, turned Mark's Syrophoenician woman into a Canaanite. Most modern exegetes have thought that "the change to 'Canaanite' was made because of its Old Testament associations: one automatically thinks of Israel's enemies" (Davies, 547). Through this term, 'Canaanite,' readers evoke "deeply-engrained fear of and revulsion towards Gentile ways" (Davies, 547). In this regard, Chrysostom commented well: "the evangelist speaks against the woman, that he may show forth her marvelous act, and celebrate her praise the more. For when thou hearest of a Canaanitish woman, thou shouldest call to mind those wicked nations, who overset from their foundations the very laws of nature" (Davies, 547).

In fact, the change to Canaanite woman is "consistent with Matthew's addition of 'and Sidon' in verse 21." Now we have a phrase, 'Tyre and Sidon' which has "negative connotations in the biblical tradition" (Davies, 547). Thus, 'Canaanite' and 'Tyre and Sidon' work together to intensify "traditional prejudices" (Davies, 547).

The other important difference is found in the structure of Matthew and Mark. Matthew's text is basically constructed with dialogues and Mark's text with narrative. In Matthew's text, 'apokrinomai' (he answers) appears four times (v.23, 24, 26, 28). Each time Jesus responds to what has just been said (Davies, 549). During these dialogues, this woman's language is also quite different from Mark: 'have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David' (v.22), 'came and knelt before him' (v.25), 'Lord, help me' (v.25). This language demonstrates this woman's desperation and her faith in Jesus. In other words, Matthew's text focuses on faith. Jesus finally praised her faith at the last saying "O woman, great is your faith" (v.28). In contrast, Mark's text is simply narrative, it does not have such explicit faith language as Matthew. Mark's text focuses more on the miracle of Jesus (Harrisville, 276). In fact, Jesus did not praise her faith in Mark. He just said, "for this saying you may go your way" (Mk 7:29). Mark's version focuses on healing itself.

G. What are some literary features of Matthew 15:21-28?

As mentioned earlier, this passage is constructed in dialogues between Jesus and a Canaanite woman, though the disciples intervene one time. This passage is composed of "four dyadic units": a) The woman's request (v.22) and Jesus' response (v.23a); the disciples' request (v.23b) and Jesus' response (24); the woman's request (25) and Jesus' response (26); the woman's request (27) and Jesus' response (28) (Davies 1997: 541). It is more interesting to see the Greek word de (but) in Jesus' first three responses, and finally he says tote (then). During this dialogue, "dramatic tension is heightened and Jesus' eventual acquiescence, introduced by 'tote,' made all the more surprising" (Davies, 541).

Based on the above structure (four dyadic units), let us look each at in detail. When a Canaanite woman came out of Tyre and Sidon to urgently ask for help, Jesus did not say anything. His first response was silence. In fact, even before she came to Jesus, she had already three strikes against her because she was a woman, the mother of a demoniac and a pagan Canaanite (Meier 1986: 398). With great expectation of curing her daughter this Canaanite woman came. But she got no immediate answer. Virtually, she could get nothing from Jesus. But she kept on asking for help. The second step of dialogue is the intervening between Jesus and this woman by the disciples. The disciples ask Jesus to send her away, because she gets in the way and bothers them. Jesus also adds on this, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel". Again, this woman does not withdraw, but instead comes to him and worships him. She repeats her urgent petition with "heart-rending simplicity: Lord, help me." (Meier 1986: 398). She is holding the last chance, the last thread of hope. Since this is the third time, readers expect to see a climax now. But it never happened. The audience is very disappointed by this fact of the third refusal: it is not fair to throw children's bread to the dogs. This is an extreme case of insult to this woman. This story seems to end in disaster. His third rebuff is sheer insult. But surprisingly, this woman still sticks to Jesus, and responds to Jesus with her persistent faith and humor and wit as well. "Yes, Lord," she says, "replying to him with politeness as well as faith and humility" (Meier 1986: 399). Here is an example of great faith, coming through three hills (three hills will be explained later). At the fourth time, Jesus then says to her: "O Woman, great is your faith!" This woman broke the traditional rule of three. The third time is usually the last. Number three is the last and complete. But in this episode this woman goes through it and gets the final answer from Jesus at the fourth time.

H. How does John Calvin interpret 15:21-28?

Calvin interprets this passage, 15:21-28, as an example of great faith (Calvin, 264). He understands Jesus as a tester and giver, while the Canaanite woman as one who has a test. Calvin's interesting observation is that silence is also a form of speaking. That is to say, when Jesus said nothing in response to the woman's request, Jesus "spoke within to the mind of the woman, and so this secret inspiration was a substitute for the outward preaching" (Calvin, 264). Jesus' silence was not to "extinguish the woman's faith, but rather to whet her zeal and inflame her ardour" (Calvin, 264).

Even after hearing the second refusal, this woman did not stop. She "admitted nothing that was opposed to her hope. This is the sure test of faith" (Calvin, 266). Again, Jesus gives a more difficult thing - harsh words of comparing this woman with a dog, "thus implying that she is unworthy of being a partaker of his grace" (Calvin, 266). This woman again does not withdraw. She accepts her status as a pagan. But she shows her faith with humility. She just looks at Jesus, who gives her hope and assurance. Calvin understood this episode as "the early manifestation of the common mercy which was at length offered indiscriminately to Jews and Gentiles after his resurrection" (Calvin, 262).

I. Theological and Practical Implications

This story clearly shows us the nature of faith. Faith points to hope and love. This woman does not see hopelessness. She keeps on asking Jesus for what she wants. What she wants is her daughter's liberation from a demon. Her faith remains until her daughter lives again as a normal person.

Especially when we live with multiple choices and alternatives in our modern lives, we believe everything should become available in a minute. Faith is understood as an easy way to get out of trouble or to get rich without paying attention to the process. As this episode tells, this woman crosses three hills: the first hill is silence; the second hill is prejudice or theology; the third hill is annihilation (totally weeding out a person's faith). This episode clearly shows a process. As time goes by, the problem might be more serious. But one who has great faith never fails. It looks like failure in the beginning, in the middle, and even in the end. But that traditional concept of the final is not an end. Faith points to Jesus, not to conditions or us. One who has great faith does not see possibility in his/her status but in Jesus our Lord.

This episode has good contrast with Peter's "little faith" incident (14:31). When Peter has faith, he could walk on the sea. But when he noticed the wind, which means when he had doubt about Jesus, he fell into the sea. The Canaanite woman does not see her own hopeless condition alone. She sees Jesus as Lord and calls upon him. She never leaves Jesus until she gets an answer. In this sense, faith is struggling hope through action.

J. Personal Summary

This passage, 15:21-28 is a very moving story and will be my story with which I should live with others in my future ministry. This story gives me a clear picture of faith. Faith is not just a mental acquiesce or an easy word to say to the troubled person. It is more than that. It is a struggling and a process. When we do not see our hopelessness alone, we see Jesus as our Lord. Faith should be persisted at until it gets an answer. The worse things get, the more this woman sticks to Jesus. Hopelessness can never win faith. There is no hopelessness if we have faith in Christ. In the darkness of the valley, faith radiates more. The Canaanite woman's story should be our story today.

K. Contemporary Use of the Text

i) Situation and audience

I will preach this Matthew 15:21-28 for a small, Presbyterian congregation that was founded few years ago. There has been much fluctuation in the size of memberships. This congregation strives to live with faith. But when things are going well, it is easy to come to church. Some members do not have strong faith in Christ. Overall, the congregation is not very patient and somehow wavers in faith. And recently, this congregation experienced several illnesses. One member suffers from a very severe disease. This person is almost desperate now because that disease recurred. Several others also suffer from their physical weaknesses. This congregation, though small, has a lot of suffering incidents. In this situation, every believer has a question about faith. I need to address the nature of faith: a process and hope in Jesus our Lord.

ii) Sermon outline

1. Prayer

God of our father and mother, we praise your holy name. Through Jesus Christ you give us life and hope. No matter how hard our lives turn to be, give us faith with which we struggle to win finally. Fill us with your spirit of empowerment and courage. Amen.

2. Sermon outline

1) Introduction: I will begin with some common experiences of a human being. Anyone can meet with difficult situations. I ask what faith is. Today's story tells us of one woman's faith struggle. Jesus praised her: O woman, great is your faith! What can we say to this woman? Or what does this woman say to us?

2) Now I will retell the Canaanite woman story briefly.

i) The first step is to highlight her triple conditions as a woman, a pagan, and the mother of a daughter who has a demon. Who is this woman? She is a sample of the margin of marginality. In addition, I will mention the name "Canaanite" woman. A Canaanite is an enemy of Israel. She was a powerless woman, the hopeless mother of a daughter, and an enemy of Israel. What else can we put in her to make things worse?

ii) The second step is to focus on the dialogue between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, including the dialogue between Jesus and disciples. The first time Jesus does not respond to her request at all. The second time Jesus says: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." It is very dark now and the situation is hopeless for this woman. But still she sticks to Jesus and worships him. She persists and says to Jesus: "Lord, help me." But Jesus again refuses strongly to accept her request by saying, "it is not right to give children's food to the dogs". This woman is referred to as a dog. This is so far the strongest refusal, putting direct emotional damage on her. She should have given up at this point. What did she do? She responds to Jesus with politeness and humility, saying, "Yes, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." She kept asking for help for her daughter. Then finally Jesus declares that she has great faith.

3) I will summarize briefly what we learn from this story. The power of this story comes from dramatically accumulated tension as the dialogues go by. I will mention here three hills that she crossed over. The first hill is no response from Jesus. I remind the congregation that sometimes we also meet with this situation. The second hill is theology or prejudices. She was a pagan, who lives outside Israel. She was rejected because of her being a pagan. Sometimes we are also rejected by this kind of theology or prejudices. But she crossed over this second hill. She thought that now she could get an answer. But again, Jesus refused harshly. This time her emotions seemed to get hurt a lot. It was absolute hopelessness. She should have given up now. But she crossed over this third time. She accepted her being pagan but she never accepted hopelessness because she believed in Jesus as Lord.

4) I will contrast this woman' s story with Peter's incident on the sea when he walked on it and then fell into it. Peter heard from Jesus: you of little faith. Why is Peter said to have little faith? Peter could walk on the sea while he kept looking at Jesus. But he fell into the sea when he looked at the strong wind. In contrast, in this Canaanite woman's story, even though she has triple bad conditions, even when she heard all kinds of impossibility, she just saw Jesus. She did not look at her environments or any conditions. She had faith in Jesus. Persistent faith radiates well in darkness. That is why Jesus praises her faith.

5) Now I will mention here: "Let us put ourselves in this woman's position". When we think there is no more hope in our situations, or when you prayed a lot but you do not get any answer, or when in the beginning things are going well and at last things are turning bad, what would you do? Will you give up? I challenge the congregation to have this woman's faith. This faith points to endless time until we win. In this sense, there is no time limit.

6) Another challenge is that we need to endure to get an answer. As this woman's story shows, faith needs a process and perseverance. Faith sometimes requires us to cross over three hills or four hills. Sometimes faith is not an easy word to say. It is sometimes painful waiting, relentless hope in the midst of hopelessness. I ask the congregation to place their absolute faith in Jesus, no matter how difficult their situation might be. Let us remember this Canaanite woman whenever we meet with serious life questions.

7) Conclusion: I will reaffirm Jesus' grace and power. Jesus is always ready for us. Sometimes we are not ready to reach Jesus' grace. Jesus wants us to persist. Let us have the faith of this Canaanite woman. Now let us ask ourselves: What will this woman say to us now?

8) Ending with prayer

 

Works Cited

Boring, M. Eugene. 1995. "The Gospel of Matthew" in the New Interpreter's Bible". Vol.8. Edited by Leander E. Keck. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Calvin, John. 1949. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Translated by William Pringle. Michigan: WM Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Davies, W.D and D. Allison. 1997. The Gospel According to Matthew. 2 vol. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

Dufton, Francis. 1989. "The Syrophoenician Woman and her Dogs" in The Expository Times. No.100.

Dulling, Dennis C. 1989. Introduction in the Harper Collins Study Bible. New York: Harper Collins Publishing.

Hare, Douglas R. A. 1993. Matthew: Interpretation. A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press.

Harrisville, Roy A. 1966. "The Woman of Canaan" in Interpretation 20.

Meier, John P. 1986. "Matthew 15:21-28" in Interpretation 40. No 4.

--------------. 1992. "Gospel of Matthew" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday.

Metzger, Bruce M. 1971. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Third Ed. by United Bible Societies.

Patte, Daniel. 1987. The Gospel According to Matthew: A Structural Commentary on Matthew's faith. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Schweizer, Eduard. 1975. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press.

Scott, J. Martin C. 1996. "Matthew 15:21-28: A Test-Case for Jesus' Manners" in Journal of Studies for the New Testament. no. 63.

Senior, Donald. 1997. The Gospel of Matthew. Nashville: Abingdon Press

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