The central story this week in the lectionary is Christ meeting up with a Canaanite woman outside of his own turf of Israel. On first glance his dealings with her do not appear characteristic of him. Not answering someone talking to him ? Not wanting to deal with someone outside of the Jews ? Then the worse – calling her a “dog” after the manner of the Jews, who considered the Gentiles “dogs” on account of their idolatry. Was Jesus having an "excedrin headache no. 9?"
This story can be looked at in a variety of ways. First Christ and others dealing with women. Another is relating to people outside of our culture. These are all relevant but maybe the clincher is how do the "ins" deal with the "outs"? OK, certainly compared to the Pharisees, Jesus may not have been "in" but compared to this woman a pagan, and outsider he was definitely "in."
This classic struggle of "ins" and "outs" can be applied in so many ways – religion, economics and socially. Fairness and justice are all part of it. We see people not as they are – in this case simply trying to get a cure for a child. We tend to classify and put labels on people which isn’t fair. We will see some of this in the look at the movie "Legally Blonde." We salute those that are trying to bridge barriers. Such as the case in "Freedom Summer", 50 years ago in trying to sign up Blacks to vote in Mississippi. Be sure to check out the video at the end of the email – how one person can exact change.
Back to the story. She is at first loud and probably obnoxious. But she learns perseverance- she has to wait on him . She gets it right – kneeling in front of Jesus as Messiah and acting humble. It’s all part of God’s time. To his disciples, he teaches inclusion since they wanted to send her away. Jesus is showing how to build community. The contrast is obvious with the pharisees who appear earlier in the reading.
The last item is calling her a dog. We hear the word as "dog" but they say in Greek there is an affectionate term for household pets. Jesus is not calling the Canaanite woman a dog to insult her but, rather, to test her faith. The comment is a carefully aimed assault on the woman’s pride. The intention of the statement is to penetrate and expose a humble posture that is ready to receive the blessing He has reserved for her.