Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our Current Canaanite Women

When we read last Sunday's Gospel, how did we respond to Jesus' reaction to the Canaanite woman?

Our pastor did a bit of foreign language interpretation for us.  He reminded us (or told some of us for the first time) that Jesus calls the woman a bitch.  Not a warm fuzzy puppy, but a bitch.

What a slur, and from the mouth of Christ, no less.  Our pastor reminded us that a good Jewish boy of Jesus' time period would have been expected to respond this way.  The Canaanites were the lowest of the low, so on the bottom of the totem pole that it's amazing Jesus responded to her at all.

We may think we're better than that as a society, but we're fairly stratified too.  If you don't believe me, take a look around your church on a Sunday morning.  Do all your fellow parishioners look like you?

I live in a very multiracial place, so I worship with a diverse group.  On any given Sunday, only 2/3 to 1/2 the congregation is white.  Amongst the younger worshipers, we have even less white people.  We have a good mix of old and young, a good mix of people from all classes.

We don't have any homosexual worshippers whom I know about--in other words, no openly gay or lesbian couples, even though we're a fairly open, welcoming church.  I find that fact odd.  We have had some churches in our county which have been aggressive in their courting of this population, so maybe that explains it.

We've had one transgendered person who once attended quite regularly until her work schedule changed.  The way that most of our church welcomed her pleased me very much. 

You may ask how I knew she was transgendered.  Well, she was still undergoing the process, and she was very open about it.  I must admit that my Southern upbringing and all my etiquette training left me unprepared for these conversations.  I tried to be brave and not inappropriately curious.

I remember the morning she showed me her driver's license which showed her changed name and gender.  She also showed me the letter from her psychiatrist that had enabled her to get the document changed.

I remember the first time she used the lady's room, and she asked me to make sure no one was in there and to warn women at the door before they came in.  Eventually, we dropped this practice as people grew more comfortable with her.

Yes, we still have Canaanite women among us.  I remember once at an inner city church, I suggested that we advertise that we had free breakfast.  My fellow church council members worried that the local homeless people would come for breakfast and might stay for church.  I thought that was the whole idea.

Much of the ministry of Jesus revolved around expanding the borders and erasing the boundaries that divide us.  As Christians, that's our mission too, whether we're in church or out in the world.  How can we be ever more inclusive?

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