#BeyondSundayMorning: The Canaanite Woman and Who We Feed

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Numb.

Images of tear gas. Bodies covered in blood. Hands up in the air. Face off between blacks and whites, protestors and policemen in riot gear.

I shut down.

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I need church.

Sometimes church is the only place that gives me space to feel. To think. To reflect. To speak.

This isn’t to say that church is perfect. Or desirable. Or safe.

But, my heart sees and hears the Spirit of God in that place when I’m in a state of desperation.

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I did a doubleheader. I started out at United Presbyterian to touch base with the congregation about welcoming IU students. Sitting there in the sparsely filled pews listening to the scripture of the Canaanite woman begging for crumbs I realize I’m starved for any kind of grace and peace and I would even take week-old leftovers. Acknowledging that hollow and empty makes me open up, and it all comes flooding out.

When I went over to First Presbyterian I let the song of the congregation wash over me like an embrace melting away the rest of what I thought was necessary to hold it together.

I forget sometimes that God doesn’t need me to hold it together.

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Andy preached a kickass sermon on Sunday morning speaking truth to power about the power of our words. He didn’t mince words and delved right into the passage from Matthew 15:

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…

It’s not what we put in our mouths but what comes out.

This isn’t about a trendy diet or food movement. We often take rules and rituals to cover up the truth of our lives, our relationships and community. We often concern ourselves with maintaining the status quo thinking that we are about maintaining peace when we are maintaining passivity and complicity. We often default to voices in the center, the voices in the middle, the voices that are privileged with huge platforms rather than consider the possibility of truth that the Canaanite woman is speaking to us. But, she’s under the table, on her knees, hands open, undignified and embarrassing, and I mean, really, could she have anything of worth to say to anyone, anything to say to the Rabbi? 

How dare this woman? How could she think she could go head to head with the Rabbi? What was her education? Her leadership? Her perspective? Her experience? What could she possibly say to the Rabbi that even the religious leaders, even the disciples, even his own people, the ones that were around the table with him, what could she possibly to him that hadn’t already been said to him? 

She asked for crumbs.

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If Jesus can be persuaded – no, changed – by the words of this strange and foreign woman, surely, I can be changed to the core, too. If the Divine can be impacted in this way, then the structures and systems around us can also be brought low. I want this shift and transformation, I want this kind of devastation, I want this profound corrosion of my norms and fundamentals, I want this wrenching of my status quo from my hands, from the inside out. The kind that is only truly brought about by the stranger, the least of these around us, the Canaanite women, the ones kneeling at the table.

And I want to remember that I too am this stranger, the least, the Canaanite woman, and I have that voice, too. I can’t shut down. I can’t stay numb. I can’t stay quiet.

But I need to feed that voice. I need the crumbs, the leftovers, the bread and wine. I need to feed the voices that call out the church – I mean, seriously condemn the church -and the voices that gives us compassion and conviction. I need to feed the voice that speaks love and peace, grace and joy, and remember the one that’s in me, too.

ONE EVENING, AN ELDERLY

CHEROKEE BRAVE TOLD HIS
GRANDSON ABOUT A BATTLE THAT
GOES ON INSIDE PEOPLE.

HE SAID “MY SON, THE BATTLE IS
BETWEEN TWO ‘WOLVES’ INSIDE US ALL.

ONE IS EVIL. IT IS ANGER,
ENVY, JEALOUSY, SORROW,
REGRET, GREED, ARROGANCE,
SELF-PITY, GUILT, RESENTMENT,
INFERIORITY, LIES, FALSE PRIDE,
SUPERIORITY, AND EGO.

THE OTHER IS GOOD.
IT IS JOY, PEACE LOVE, HOPE SERENITY,
HUMILITY, KINDNESS, BENEVOLENCE,
EMPATHY, GENEROSITY,
TRUTH, COMPASSION AND FAITH.”

THE GRANDSON THOUGHT ABOUT
IT FOR A MINUTE AND THEN ASKED
HIS GRANDFATHER:

“WHICH WOLF WINS?…”

THE OLD CHEROKEE SIMPLY REPLIED,
“THE ONE THAT YOU FEED”[1]

[1] From http://www.nanticokeindians.org/tale_of_two_wolves.cfm retrieved online on August 15, 2014 (from Andy’s sermon).