The Lessons today have a remarkably similar theme, as the Lessons did last Sunday. And that theme is this. Membership in the Lord’s salvation is open to all who believe in the Lord and who keep his commandments, regardless of family or social position.

We hear that theme in the Prophecy of Isaiah written concerning the return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. The prophet declares: “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…I will bring to my holy mountain…their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”[1] When the people of Israel return to Jerusalem from Babylon, the foreigners who have joined with them and with the Lord will be allowed full participation in the sacrifices of the Temple.

A very similar theme is sounded in the Second Lesson. A Canaanite woman, not a Jew, requests Jesus to cure her daughter. Jesus first says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”[2] Her reply is priceless: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”[3] Jesus answers: “Woman, great is your faith!”[4] And the woman’s daughter was healed instantly.

The theme of the inclusion of everyone everywhere we have heard over and over again. The Episcopal Church may even signal this virtue. But we should not think that it was commonly heard during the rebuilding of the Temple or in Jesus’ time. At both times and in both settings the full participation of people who had joined themselves to the Lord was arrestingly unusual. Think of what the Pharisees or the Sadducees might say about this.

But for a contemporary illustration, I look closer to home, to this very service of Morning Prayer. When I learned that our services, for a time, would be Morning Prayer rather than the Eucharist, I told the Vestry and the Layreaders that I wanted to make a point. Everything that we do here this morning can be done by anyone who believes in the Lord. Ordination is not necessary. Baptism is not necessary. There is no religious glass ceiling when the subject is prayer. All you need are time, a place, a Prayer Book, and a Bible. We are doing nothing that is exclusive, but I hope and I pray that we are doing something that is instructive, that will encourage you to do for yourself what you can do for yourself. And certainly that includes daily prayers. In a way I appeal to your sense of independence. For, no priest, no bishop can work out your salvation for you. That is yours and yours alone.

[1] Isaiah 56:6-7.

[2] St Matthew 15:26.

[3] St Matthew 15:27.

[4] St Matthew 15:28.