September 08, 2012
Written by Daniel Hazard

Excerpt from Mark 7:24-37

"A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, 'Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.' But she answered him, 'Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' Then he said to her, 'For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter.' So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone."

Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell

There are plenty of places in the Gospels where Jesus calls people names to get their attention, to wake them up, to turn them around.  This is not one of them.  A desperate woman comes to him for help, and he not only refuses to help her, but calls her a dog just because she's a foreigner of a different religion.  This is not what I expect of a Messiah, Jesus.

It's also not what I expect of Americans.  But we do seem to keep burning - or threatening to burn - others' holy texts all over the place.  We do seem to keep showing up in others' temples and opening fire.  We do seem to keep working on the giant wall we put up to keep all those scary Mexicans from streaming over the border and doing - well, whatever it is we're so scared they'll do.  It's as if we've read only the first half of this story, and decided that if Jesus gets to call people different from him dogs and deny them the blessings of God, then so do we.

But, thank God, the story doesn't end with The Messiah's bad behavior. Jesus is won over by the Syrophoenician woman's gentle humor and steadfast insistence that she deserves the blessings of God.  He pulls himself together, gets educated, and remembers who God's grace is for.

That's what I expect in a Messiah. It's also, I assume, what my Messiah expects of me.


God, thank you for being corrected once in a while.  Thank you for pouring your grace out on everybody.  Grant that I and my nation might do the same.  Amen.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell, a United Church of Christ minister, is the co-author, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.

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