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Monday, September 03, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Did he just call her a DOG?? Edition

Does this describe the life of faith?
Let us pray:
God who calls us to welcome all, regardless of creed, colour, or economic status;
so often we find that easier said than done.
God who reminds us that we will be known more by our works than our faith;
helps us to make those works show what we would wish they show.
God who challenges us to follow the path of Kingdom Wisdom;
open our eyes to see that narrow path amidst all the wisdom of the world.God who calls us into places where we lead worship, where we share the Good News;
open our hearts, minds, souls and lives to the message You would have us preach this week.

 This week will find many of our buildings fuller than they have been for a couple of months, as we move out of the summer "break" and back into the school and program year.  Does your community do anything to mark this transition time?  [other than the treasurer giving thanks for a fuller offering basket of course ;) ]

This week finds us at Proper 18B, the 15th after Pentecost.  Those RCL readings can be found here.  In some places it will also be the first (or second, it seems to vary) Sunday of Creation Time/Season of Creation.  Season of Creation readings and resources can be found here.  And of course next Tuesday is the 11th of September.  11 years later what (if any) remembrances of those events are going to happen in churches?

In the RCL we could be choosing to talk about Wisdom, a la Proverbs.  Or we could go with James and the need for our living faith to produce works (maybe explaining how "faith without works is dead" does NOT contradict the Reformation dictum sole fides).  Or we could follow James in chastising the church for showing favourtism based on economics {how would that go over?}.   Or we could wade into the dynamics of a Jesus who comes across as rather parochial and racist until converted by a woman who will not back down. 

wise like lambs?
Where is the Spirit leading you this Tuesday after a long weekend?


  1. I'm leaning in the direction of the voice of the outsider and it's role in helping us redefine our identity/mission but it's too soon to let go of James and the preferential option for the poor. Hard call this week.

  2. He didn't *just* call her a dog. He called her a bitch. This is going to be a rough one:
    Our introduction to the Jewish and Christian scriptures class is looking at a threefold paradigm for understanding the Scriptures: 1) What did it say? 2) What did it mean in its original context? And 3) What does it mean in our context?
    What did Jesus say to the Syro-Phoenician woman came and asked him for help? He said no and he called her a b---. I know this is Jesus and we’ve been trained to read him religiously. But where I come from you cannot call a woman a dog without calling her a b--.
    In my best Queen Latifah – I want to ask Jesus, “Who you calling a b----?” (I know some of you don’t know that song, it’s called U.N.I.T.Y., it’s from the 80s look it up on YouTube.) In our gospel lesson Jesus essentially calls a woman like me, a non-Jewish woman a b---. There is no honest way around it. Jesus was not talking about a pet dog. The Israelites did not keep pet dogs. Dogs were filthy animals to the Israelites, something like a cross between a hyena and a rat, often paired with pigs in the literature of the wider Ancient Near East, all of them scavengers. “Dog” was also the code word for man who sold sex. When Jesus talks about throwing food to dogs, he is not talking about feeding family pets. He’s talking about taking your good food that you have prepared for your family off the table walking it outside and throwing it in the street – note the ballistic verb in the text – so that the trafe, not-kosher, scavengers that are rooting through the garbage and maybe even eating the corpses of other dead animals can dine on what you prepared for your children.
    The woman’s response changes that context. She may be talking about households in which dogs are pets and in which they eat under the table. She is not Israelite. She has different cultural standards. My question is not with her but with Jesus. Who you calling a b----?
    And now I’m stuck because this is Jesus, Jesus, Mary’s baby. Did your mother teach you to talk to women like that? Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?
    Many will say that Jesus didn’t really call her the b-word. He just made an analogy where the healing she wanted was compared to food for those whom he intended to heal, who were children and she and her child were dogs. So she was only a b-word by analogy. And that’s not the same thing. Well, one day I was in the chapel of another seminary and a seminarian walked up to me and said to me “I grew up calling black folk n-words – and the seminarian actually said the word, to me in chapel, then asked – what word should I use to refer to black people now.” Did you get that? She used both the N-word and the word black about people like me while talking to me. When I discussed this with a variety of folk I was surprised that some of my colleagues said, “She didn’t really call you the n-word, she just used it in a sentence while talking to you.” They were of the belief that that was a distinction that mattered. To me, that was a distinction without a difference.
    And that’s how I feel about this text, that the difference between using the b-word in an analogy and calling the woman and her daughter that word is a distinction without a difference.
    To be continued...

  3. This was the pericope that caused a knock-down, drag-out (analogy alert) fight in a Mark seminar at Andover Newton. It's such a Christology measurement, isn't it? If we have that low view and get something meaningful out of Jesus' humanity, this story fits in, gives us something to engage. If we have a high view, and need his divinity to be primary, it's one you want to skip over. I love the story, and I love getting to say this woman taught Jesus something about his calling. We get these messages from surprising places. Yes? Maybe? We'll see.

  4. Thank you Wil. I was just engaged in a minor discussion with my colleague, who is preaching this text this week, and he said he's just read three commentaries that say it wasn't an insult, it was a term of endearment more akin to "puppy." That sounds to me like a nice way to make an excuse in order to get around the fact that Jesus said something horrifying and the woman was uppity enough to call him out on his BS. It's just like smoothing over and covering up any number of other things we don't want to deal with. But there it is, whether we like it or not: Jesus spoke in a bigoted manner, and a woman was forward enough to take him on and win.

  5. I am going with James. And just (like as in 5 minutes ago) decided to pair James 2 with Matthew's Jesus saying "by their fruits you will know them".

    For liturgy I am reusing bits I wrote 3 years ago focusing on inclusivity. Because that is part of the fruits/works I will talk about--especially asking the "what works/fruits do people expect to see?"

    My opening thoughts are here

  6. Teri, I'm spending too much time on FB: I just tried to "like" your post.

    1. LOL--I find myself wishing for a "like" button on blogger all the time. heehee!

  7. I always separate the two pericopes from Mark, because I love both sections and we tend to all preach on the Gospel going to the dogs. Interesting said b**** in explaining this passage and only got one comment about swearing. I am using the second half about the deaf mute. I fell in love with this passage in seminary and it became my often used breath prayer. I love that after Jesus he argues with the pharisees about what makes you clean, learns from the unclean b**** to expand the gospel, we have Jesus inviting us to be opened. Its this gritty spitting on the hands and poking the ears and a groan from the soul. This is the point in the gospel where it starts to get dicey. After this passage the disciples fail miserably. They have been the rocky ground and now move to denial, and rejection. So before Jesus enters Jerusalem and challenges the center of power he asks us to be opened. To hear what came before, the good news of the kingdom breaking open in Galilee. This man brought by friends for the first time is opened and able to speak clearly. Can we speak clearly. Can we be open to the rest of the story. We we flee or follow, will we understand the inbreaking of the kingdom or cling to our traditions and rules. so Breathe - Be Opened. Here is my prayer on the passage from BE5 Be Opened

    1. As I've been sitting with this passage, it strikes me that Jesus and the Syro-phonecian woman exchange roles. He opens the ears of the deaf man after she opens his ears deaf to the cry of human need.

  8. This week is week 2 of Season of Creation here. Not sure what happened at Monday Night Bible study group, but they are waiting to see what tack I take this week.

    the Mark reading is one I preached on in my field ed placement, [oops, just noticed it is Matthew's version] which was taped for Preaching class assignment. interestingly, two women spoke to me after worship that morning and told me how angry they get with that reading, and they thought they were not allowed to be angry at Jesus.

    it is here if you are interested

  9. i wonder if she slapped him - she is the one with proper breeding and wealth in her territory. hmmmm

  10. Oh, RevAlli, that bit about Jesus' ears being opened by the outsider and then him opening the ears of another outsider...sort of a reverse "telephone game," you know? Love it, love it, love it...

  11. Reading the texts for the week at our pastor's text study yesterday, a verse in the Psalm jumped out at me and I couldn't help rephrasing it:

    Do not put your trust in Republicans, in Democrats, in whom there is no help. When their term ends, and they return to their homes, on that very day their policies and plans are out-voted and become nothing. (based on Psalm 146:3-4)

    We had a good laugh and talked about how if one was brave enough, this just might be the Sunday to proclaim that God is on the side of the poor and oppressed, and that as Christians who have faith and works which attest to that faith, we need to be serious about how we treat the poor, how we live out the 'royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

    I said I was not brave enough, but I would really like to get in the pulpit this Sunday and say, "There is one thing really clear - God is on the side of the poor and oppressed, Jesus cared deeply for the poor and oppressed and if we are really followers of Jesus, we too need to care deeply for the poor and oppressed - and that trumps political affiliation."

    Can I get up the nerve to be prophetic? Perhaps the bigger question is, what is God saying in this text at this time to my congregation?

  12. Jumping in late - I've been thinking for a while that the Mark text lends itself to a narrative-type retelling. Partly because it lets you leave some questions open that don't lend themselved to neat answers.

    I used this text with a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds a couple of years back. They IMMEDIATELY focused on Jesus' apparent racism and we had a really great discussion. We didn't come up with any answers but we had a good time sharing our questions. One thing that bugs me about this text - in many Bibles, a subheading is inserted saying something like "Jesus heals a foreign woman". But here Jesus is the foreigner not the woman. As someone who lives in a country that is not my own, and lives my life in a language that is not my native language, that intregues me and draws me back to this text. Which I will surely preach one day... (but not Sunday, because its not my turn.)


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