The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she 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.
Jesus Cures a Deaf Man
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer. Amen
I felt a bit torn this morning.
The gospel we’ve just read is one of my favourites.
(You’ll have gathered I have lots of favourite gospel passages)
I love this bolshy Syrophoenician woman who argues with Jesus.
A woman who doesn’t, as would have been expected, just slink quietly away when dismissed by a Jewish rabbi but who comes back at him, giving as good as she gets, demolishing Jesus’ totally expected responses. Countering his traditional argument.
I think you know me well enough by now to know that that kind of bolshiness appeals to me.
And, of course I’d want to dwell on how it was a woman who forced Jesus to expand his horizons, to embrace the inclusiveness and infinite nature of the unconditional love of God.
It was a woman who, by standing her ground, challenged the limiting expectations of the prevalent culture and opened up new possibilities and new ways of imagining and encountering God.
But, today, we are also entering the Creation season in our church calendar.
A season to focus on our relationship with all that God created and our place in caring for all of creation.
And it’s important to honour that too.
So, I was torn.
Syrophoenician woman or Creation?
Until it dawned on me that the Syrophoenician woman fits perfectly into Creation season.
That snapshot of someone stepping up to make a difference.
Someone who says what they see.
Someone who is not intimidated by authority.
Someone who speaks truth to power.
That’s exactly the kind of action that we need to change attitudes today, the kind of alternative thinking that challenges how we live and what we might do to honour the whole of creation as God has entrusted us to do.
And make no mistake - God trusts us with the work of God’s hands - even now, even though we’ve shown time and again how to get it so wrong.
Even though history has shown that we have, constantly, played out our misunderstanding of God’s gift of creation - by seeing creation as something we might dominate and exploit rather than something we might carefully nurture and work alongside.
Still, God trusts us to turn things around, to get it right, to work in harmony with God the Creator.
And to do that, we need more bolshy women - and folk of all genders and none - to challenge the traditional nonsense that is trotted out by those who don’t want to change their life styles.
Challenging those who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.
Those who profit through injustice.
Those who get rich by exploiting the Earth’s resources.
Those whose wealth depends on maintaining the status quo.
If we are to challenge the effects of climate change, if we are to look out for the environment and work with the Creator in attending wisely to all that has been entrusted to our care, we need to listen to the unlikely voices - the voices of children, the voices of bolshy woman and men, the voices of people of all ages who inspire others and effect change by their relentless persistence and their refusal to be silenced or fobbed off with token gestures.
We need to listen to those unlikely voices - and we need to be those voices,
The Syrophoenician woman was passionate about seeing healing for her sick child, she refused to settle for a standard response.
It’s that kind of passion that is called forth from us.
It’s no coincidence that the other story in the gospel passage today was about a speech impaired deaf man having his ears opened and his tongue released.
As we look around at all the signs in our world.
Signs of lives blighted and limited.
Oppressive governments crushing people because of race or class or gender.
People being silenced.
Those in power tone deaf to the voices calling out for change.
As we witness the ravages of climate change.
Countries destroyed by natural disaster and by the cost of war - of human engineered conflict.
Our eyes and our ears have been opened.
And our voices and our hands must be released to act justly now - to speak up and to act up to change direction, to challenge leadership, to be passionate about finding a way to make a difference.
For the sake of all creation.
Even when it looks like a course has been set.
Even when it seems as though we have no power or agency.
God invites us, encourages us, implores us to challenge power, to keep the faith and to be the difference that the world needs - for us and for our children.
Let’s take inspiration today from those two stories of healing in the gospel - a woman who fought for the healing of her daughter and a man who was enabled to hear and to speak.
And let’s get bolshy about the things that matter, the things that we want to see changed today - for the sake of the healing of creation and for the love of God.