So I am not going to lie. This is a hard gospel to hear. We read about how Jesus is really not living up to what we expect of him, or even what he might expect from himself. Jesus the man who has done wonderful and amazing things, healing people, casting out demons and spreading a message of hope, liberation and equality seems to lose his temper and rejects without question a woman’s plea for help and healing with her daughter. Jesus takes one look at her and regards her as being no better than a dog. This is troubling and insulting to all of us who read this text through a twenty first century lens. As troubling as this text can be; have ideas really changed over the generations when we take note of Charlottesville this past week and rise of racism and terror in to the South of us? How have our ideas and values been shaped and influenced by these events in ourselves, neighbors and country?
As we look with concern and shock at some of the rhetoric emerging in society and if we are really honest with ourselves we may realize that attitudes we once thought were passed, are only just below the surface. It is hard to realize that despite our appearances of a just and fair society, we too can be guilty of rejecting others in the name of “Identity”.
It is hard to be rejected and to live with the experience of rejection. It is also hard to accept that we have, even in Canada, even in the Church, rejected others. The treatment of Aboriginal People in Canada has been described as “cultural genocide.” The Church’s role in with the legacy of the Residential Schools is an issue we still are wrestling with to make amends. There are still survivors who cannot darken the door step of a church. As demonstrations and voice of hate tries to make itself heard, we may wonder if we as a society have learned anything from our past as old ideologies of racism and segregation rears its ugly head once more.
As we reflect more on this text and examine our shock as we see Jesus and how he treats a woman who is different from him, it is sobering to realize that we too have not lived up to what God expects from us, or what we expect from ourselves. For most of us this is troubling because in our heart of hearts we do not want to reject people. We imagine and live into the notion that we live in a just society and country. We hold dear values and virtues of inclusion and acceptance. For the most part this true and right. However, as our own history has shown, we all, including Jesus, own a history that we are not proud of.
It is because of our history and because of what dominates our news more and more these days that makes our work as the Baptised People of God more urgent. In our baptism, we make promises and commitments that we will strive to pay attention and call to account those areas and moments where people are persecuted for what they believe or the color of their skin.
In our baptism we have a duty and obligation to stand alongside those who are marginalized and who find that their basic human rights are threatened. In the case of Jesus, it took the woman to remind him of this. Unfortunately, like in so many cases, it takes the victims of abuse and terror to remind the world of what is just and fair. Now, it is not easy for someone to stand up to Jesus. It is not easy to stand up to any one or a system that is oppressing another. There are ways in which this can be done effectively with the right support and systems in place. So many times, despite our best efforts, we fall short of the ideal. The saving grace in all this and what makes it possible to live into our baptismal promises is in the responses that we all make. “I will with God’s help.”
“I will with God’s help” acknowledges that we cannot do this thing called ‘life’ alone. We need help and support. We need God. We need God because we know that through God all things are possible. We know that with God’s help we are able to forgive ourselves and others when we make choices that cause harm or turn us away from the Love of God. We also need the support and care of community. That is why baptisms are done in the context of the Eucharist. This is where the community gathers. This is where our family of faith gathers. This is the one place where everyone can come, regardless of economic status, past and present failings, regardless of how many questions you may, the belief you have or do not have. This is where we all gather because it is the most important thing we do in the week because it is here, with all of us, that we get to see more clearly the face of God in community.
“I will with God’s help” reminds us of our humanity and our humility before the Divine. God knows and Jesus knows that we are human, made in the image and likeness of God. God did not make us to be perfect. Rather we are made to learn and grow from experience and one another. We are able to recognize the gift that others bring and hold them up so that they may become more fully alive in God. In the same way we are held up by others for the gifts that we offer so that we too may become more fully alive in God.
“I will with God’s help” reminds us, sometimes painfully, that no person, system or political power has all the answers and that on our own we all fall short, but in communion with one another, we become whole. While we may each as individuals be unable to effect great change, great change begins with each of us committing ourselves once again to our baptismal covenant and uniting as a community for the common good.