Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Canaanite Women

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.Matthew 15:21-28

A Native American theologian, Robert Warrior, has suggested that Native people are the Canaanites of this continent. He suggests we are the people who were forcibly removed from the land so that the chosen people could live in a land "flowing with milk and honey." He makes the point that the first settlers took their direction from scripture, and saw themselves as the new generation of faithful, crossing the waters in to a new land promised by God. On the East Coast, many of the first towns were named with biblical references. I am always amazed when faithful folks read the totality of scripture and believe it is okay to displace and dislodge others.

Jesus encounters the Canaanite woman, and at first completely ignores her. He is a product of his own culture, where her people we the outcasts, the shunned, the least among them. His first response is what he has been taught - to turn away. She's insistent, a panicked and fearful mother and knows God would not want a child to suffer, Canaanite or not. Jesus hears her plea, is moved with compassion and reaches out in love and healing. He declares her faith marvelous to all gathered round. We are invited to see that even though we may at first react negatively to those who are strangers among us, God cares for everyone as a good mother for her child.

Today I ask God to help me open my eyes to the world around me. Help me to not turn away from difference but to embrace the stranger. May my faith be increased this day to know that we are all brothers and sisters, children of a living God who seeks to mend our broken hearts and bind us together as one.

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