In the Name of our One, Holy, and Living God, drawing us into community, calling us to be one, and sharing love with us all.
I want to share this story with you, and I know you can help me, to show me the way, Jesus way, out of this quagmire.
Last week I was taking out my trash, and my neighbor was dragging two trash bags across the ground. Given her advanced age I suspected these were too heavy for her, so I offered to assist. She told me they were too heavy to pick up, but she had it well in hand. In order to be neighborly she immediately began to speak of the effects of the virus on everything. Then she went on to speak of the protests in the streets, and how we have never had violence like we do now. I did not realize where this conversation was going at this point. So I suggested that at our age we certainly remember the violence of the 1960’s brought on by the very same frustration. The pain & abuse has changed little.
It was then I realized that a sheltered white person could claim to abhor the violence and equate all violence with all protests. Stop the protests – stop the violence. In a white simplified world, some are oblivious to the pain and suffering wreaking havoc particularly upon the impoverished communities of color. This is the argument presently used by many against all protesting. For those who live in the privilege of white superiority without the sensitivity for people of color, ignoring the problems of discrimation in health care, housing, jobs, or voting to name a few, is to seek absolution by turning a blind eye from the reality of abuse. Stop the violence – stop the protests. If there are no protests, there is no discrimination. That way we can ignore the people of color dying in our streets. We can ignore the police violence, and we can ignore the years of violence, bigotry and intolerance, by wrapping ourselves in our white privilege, and the white American dream.
Today at first glance, Jesus appears to be ignoring the suffering of this woman with a daughter in crisis in much the same way. In a patriarchal world of the 1st century, in the midst of a Jewish culture of his day, men need not concern themselves with women. That was the assumption by society in Jesus day. She was not Jewish, she was a Cannanite, worshipping other gods with very different traditions and prayers. Jews do not interact with such outsiders, shamed as blasphemers, and seen as those who spit in the face of their God of Abraham with their strange ways. Jesus it would seem played into this societal norm, ignoring the woman’s shouting for attention, ““Have mercy on me … my daughter is tormented”. And his disciples urged him, … “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
Finally as the woman persisted Jesus says, “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” sent among Jews, the people who are called to share the love revealed by God. But we are aware, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” does not state only the religious Jew, but the lost, those outside that religious community. Jesus can hear in the woman’s cry her care for her daughter as a loving mother. So as he continues with an insult so harsh, yet still – still engaging. It is perplexing unless, perhaps now we see Jesus is dramatizing to all, a lesson, “It is not fair to take the children’s food [the healing Word of the religious house of Israel] and throw it to the dogs [the abhorrent Cannanites].” Next we have a woman who reaches across the divide. She stretches across the insults, she stretches over the past hatred shown to her community, she stretches around the arrogance of culture and holds on to faith, trusting that God through Jesus will act to help her in this crisis. She protests, yes she protests with loud words, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She remains ever so humble before her request, to ask for the smallest gift of mercy knowing that mercy is so great, knowing that loving mercy is enough.
Jesus before delivering the final line that strikes awe in all those around him, certainly he was inspired to this calling perhaps by words from Jesus Scripture, from the prophet Isaiah: “the foreigners who join themselves to … love … and to be … servants, … these I will bring to my holy mountain, … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel ….” Isaiah, tells the people, foreigners, like the Cannanites are foreigners to the Jews, those foreigners who join in love like this loving mother, servants – humble, like this woman, who continues in the face of the spite she feels, and the disdain she hears, these I will bring. For this is the One who gathers the outcasts of Israel. So Jesus is led to say, “Woman, great is your faith! ”
If Jesus is in our hearts would he not call us to follow him to protest the discrimination in health care, housing, jobs, and voting that continues in our day? Would not Jesus call us beyond our white superiority to care for the people of color dying in our streets month after month? Our Presiding Bishop calls us to be the Jesus people. Can we not follow our call to be like Jesus, and lead all to resolve police violence, can we be open to resolve the years of violence, bigotry, and intolerance, brought on by our white privilege, and open all to a dream of love?
Our Presiding Bishop calls us now to start by joining Episcopalians for a Poor People’s Campaign with a new vision of love, justice, and truth that says poverty can be abolished, and change can come — thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, inspired in us this day. Take my hand now, and together we will be the light of Jesus’ love in the midst of our darkness.
May Love rain down upon us, and may it be so.