Monday, September 03, 2012

Eternal struggles

Readings for Sunday 9th September (Proper 23 Pentecost 15) might include Proverbs 22, Psalm 125, James 2:1-17*, Mark 7:24-37

It may help us at this time 
to realise that the woman we read about in these readings , (The "Syro Phoenician Woman" )
lived in that coastal region to the north of the modern state of Israel 
and west of modern Syria 
that has often been under the pall of the war.
Bearing in mind that many of those peoples who live there today 
trace their antecedents back well over the 2000 years of the common era (CE), 
it is conceivable that her living descendants are caught up in today's conflicts.
And the readings reminds us that 
tension between different ethnic groups was there at the time of Christ, as it is there today. 
It is a sadness but a truth.
They remind us, too, 
that we fickle humans are open to prejudice of all sorts, 
economic, gender-based, class oriented, 
religious and of course the stupidity of racial prejudice
Even Jesus is caught up in it. 
"It is not fair, " he says of this woman's daughter, 
"that I should take the food that is meant for the Jews and feed it to the dogs!"
None of us would take too kindly to our children being referred to as dogs. 
(let alone that some commentators suggest this word "dogs" is slang parlance for prostitutes)
he is no doubt using a common idiom. 
Speaking as he had been brought up to speak of his near neighbours.
We fall easily into that trap ourselves 
when we talk of Indonesians, Aborigines, even (perhaps in an earlier era) Poms!!

The common bondThere is, however, a resilience about this woman 
(which we see in the people of today)
that causes her to persist with Jesus, and her persistence is rewarded.
Coupled with this 
we read a story about another persistent man, who was deaf. 
And who, like many of the profoundly deaf, had a speech impediment.
Such people, too, have a resilience which is at times admirable 
and also a little intimidating
stemming, on their part, from years of prejudice against them 
and misunderstanding 
with which they have had to deal.
What we see in these two stories is the invitation to transcend our prejudice
and to put our trust in Jesus.
To take the next step of faith and move forward.
Sometimes this will take us quite out of our comfort zone.
Other times it will just be one more step along the road we go!

The woman has to wrestle with Jesus.

Is he trying to establish just how determined she is?

Is he forcing her to get to the root of what she really wants?

Spiritual Directors and the works of the saints will tell us 
this is a key understanding
in our journey of faith,
understanding what really makes us tick,
establishing what it is that we really want.
For this woman she really has to fight for her daughter,
for this man he has to be prepared to sit quietly with Jesus
and put aside his anxiety.

I ask myself...what is it that I really want?
Am I so clouded in my vision (prejudice)
that I fail to see what I really want.
Am I so frightened by life, by failure, 
by weakness, by depression, 
by name it, it's there...
that I find it impossible to trust
even God.

The stories remind us 
that this would seem the way to go.
Indeed the only way to go!
Not the way of putting your trust in human vanity
of being impressed by wealth or human achievement
as we so easily are,
but rather by taking the next step along the road with Christ.

For this woman 
it is quite a vigorous struggle with Jesus.
For this man 
it is being taken to one side.
What will it be for me or for you this week?

This weekAllow God the opportunity that we so often deny
to let us take the next small step.
What prejudices are guiding our thinking at this stage in our life I frightened of the future I dictated to by the past I fail to see the goodness in some people because of my bias or narrowness I closed to God because I like the easy life...

God does not demand that our life be turned upside down 
every moment of every day
some days will be rough
most days we are just to keep on moving on.
Not, mind you, standing still.
Maybe just the next small step.

For you prayers:
In the time of quiet, perhaps early in the day


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