Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Phoenician Woman From Syria


She was a Phoenician woman from Syria.

Allow me to repeat myself.

She was a Phoenician woman from Syria.

Far from home, and with a sick child, this Phoenician woman from Syria had heard rumors of a man who could help.

And, so she pressed her cool lips to her daughter’s forehead and abandoned her bedside vigil.

She asked in the streets if anyone had seen this man. And, rumors of his power swirled about and there were whispers and proclamations, and finally a crowd of the faithful, nay fanatical, to be found outside the home where he had sought respite from the mid-day heat and the urgency of need which surrounded him wherever he went.

And, remembering the touch of her lips on her dear ones forehead, she steeled herself to beg at the feet of this man of power.  

In the rumors lay all of her hope.

And so this Phoenician woman from Syria genuflected low. She could taste the dust and the shame. To beg so.

But, her need was greater than her need for honor.

And, at his refusal, as he called her a dog, as he bid her wait until others had achieved the liberation she so desperately longed for.

As she was bid once more, be patient, her anger welled up. And from her stooped position she met his eyes.

“Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”

And, he could not hide. He could not escape notice. And, the shame of inaction outweighed the social customs which would preserve honor. 

And, having been called out, I imagine his heart made tender. His words of hate turned into a claiming of dignity and, in this moment, begins Jesus’ mission amongst the Gentiles. 

He saw her and she saw him. And, he could no longer hide from his calling to heal. Mercy has triumphed over judgement.

This Phoenician woman from Syria has been seen and cannot be unseen. And the good news is broken open to the world beyond the walls of faith and country.  

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

A parent’s anguish and a still form lying in the surf.

And, the conflation of the Gospel with an image seared into the world’s collective consciousness. 

Even the dogs under the table.

And, the conflation of that small form with the Presiding Bishop’s and the President of the House of Deputies  call for Episcopal congregations to participate in “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” on September 6th.  

Asking only for the crumbs.

My heart hurts and we are grieved. 

And, those who would readily abandon dignity for the sake of survival,

The garbage pickers and scrap haulers and the beggars and the panhandlers and the orphans and the widows and the children and the poor...

Today is a day when we cannot avert our eyes.  

We have been seen.  

And, what has been seen cannot be unseen.  

Have we seen enough?

And, with this, today becomes a day of lamentation, because the status quo is not acceptable to God nor is it to us as God’s people.  And, in lamentation we lift our voices with the transformed and transfigured Chris and from his words on the cross we join an a litany published 20 years ago...that still speaks to the lament of the Syrophoenician woman. 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Our God, our God, why have you forsaken us?
My God, our God, my Father, our Father
When will we ever learn? When will they ever learn?
Oh when will we ever learn that you intended us for
Shalom, wholeness, for peace,
For fellowship, for togetherness, for brotherhood,
For sisterhood, for family?
When will we ever learn that you created us
As your children
As members of one family
Your family
The human family--
Created us for linking arms
To express our common humanity.

God, my Father
I am filled
With anguish and puzzlement.
Why, oh God, is there so much
Suffering, such needless suffering?
Everywhere we look there is pain
And suffering.
Why must your people in El Salvador,
In Nicaragua,
In Guatemala,
In ......... [Syria],
In ......... [Tunisia],
Why must there be so much killing,
So much death and destruction,
So much bloodshed,
So much suffering,
So much oppression, and injustice, and poverty and hunger?

I don’t understand, oh God, my God,
Our God, oh my Father, our Father,
Why, oh why, must there be so much
Pain and suffering in your creation so very good and beautiful?
In Sri Lanka, in Calcutta, in Burma, in Kampuchia
Why are there boat people bobbing
About so vulnerably between vile camps in Hong Kong and in the deep blue sea, and Vietnam

And what about Latvia, and Lithuania, and Chernobyl?
I am dumbfounded
I am bewildered
And in agony--
This is the world 
You loved so much that for it
You gave your only begotten 
Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to hang
From the cross, done to death
Love nearly overwhelmed by hate
Light nearly extinguished by darkness
Life nearly destroyed by death--
But not quite--
For love vanquished hate
For life overcame death, there--
Light overwhelmed
Darkness, there--
And we can live with hope.

excerpts from Desmond Tutu’s, An African Prayer Book, “Litany”

And, as I offer this lament, and as I see what cannot be unseen, and as I proclaim the Gospel and as we gather here, and as we weep, and as we turn from sorrow to anger to despair.

And as, I wonder, where grace lies in this story, in our story...

I wonder at this story in the Gospel of Mark, where the all too human Jesus must be confronted in order to do the right thing.

And, I wonder if that’s the grace? 

That it too took confrontation, it took seeing and being seen, it took an accusation and the naming of an uncomfortable truth, for the all too human and oh so divine Christ to hear this lamentation.

And, in hearing, respond.

And, in responding, heal.

Will we, the body of Christ, hear?

And, in hearing will we be transformed?

And, in transformation will we transform the world?


Faith and works

check out these websites to learn more and find ways to get involved

International Institute of Minnesota, Refugee Resettlement.  Find out more about refugee resettlement in Minnesota.

Episcopal Relief & Development has renewed its support of those impacted by the conflict in Syria through the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC). A donate button for ERD allows monies to be designated to the “most” urgent need. 

The United Nations Refugee Agency, learn about the concerns, crisis, and cares of the global refugee population. Donate now options.

A graphic approach to an explication of the how/what/why of the Syrian crisis.