I can remember the first time I heard the story of the Syrophonecian woman. I was in seminary–an adult in seminary by the time I heard it. for the first time. The story was so surprising, so shocking!, and unlike any other story I’d heard about Jesus that I had to make sure, for myself, that it was actually in the Bible. I went home and double-checked my Bible. How had I missed it, all those years growing up, going to church going to Sunday School? go ahead; look it up (Matthew 15:21-28).
I can understand, now, why pastors may not want to preach on the Syrophonecian woman. She’s an immigrant, or migrant (whatever it is we are calling them these days), she’s a woman, she’s poor, she’s probably a single mother. She talks back to Jesus. and she starts a revolution. Have you ever heard a sermon preached on the syrophonecian woman? If you’ve been to my church you have, a few years ago when I was mad about the lack of universal health care, she spoke so strongly the most amazing advocate from our holy texts for universal health care. and now, she also is a witness to the plight of her grandchildren in Syria. The un-nanmed Syrophonecian woman speaks so loudly on issues we can’t afford to ignore anymore.
This is what the Syrophonecian woman is saying to me today:
I don’t approve of you.
You don’t need anyone’s approval. You don’t need my approval. You don’t need their approval. You don’t need anyone’s approval.
Do you need anyone’s approval?
I don’t approve of you. and I’m not asking you to approve of me. at least I’m trying to live a life like the Syrophonecian woman. I want to live a life that is seeking the truth and not approval seeking.
I knew this. When I was a kid, I knew this. I was a weird little kid (surprise, surprise): solitary, bookish, sarcastic. I went for long walks spent my time alone. I went once to a football game, thought it was stupid to sit on a bench in the cold and I never went again. I did not care what I was supposed to do. I didn’t do what everyone else was doing–the thought never crossed my mind.
And, then, I wen to college, and miracle of miracles, I started making friends. I started being liked, and I liked being liked. I began to want to be liked. and things began to get confused. I began to worry and think about myself. I began to confuse being good, doing good, with being liked. Being liked is seductive.
And then it got worse from there. I started working in the Church and the boundaries got all messed up from there. A supervising pastor gave me 7 pairs of pantyhose for Christmas one year. What kind of a gift is 7 pairs of pantyhose? –a guiding gift.
not all guidance is a gift. not everything everyone gives you is a gift.
So many slow-witted, hard hearted disciples have offered such gifts over the years.
I don’t approve of you. You don’t need my approval. stop asking for it. stop seeking approval.
We do it to ourselves, and we find that people around us are all to eager to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do. for good reason, i might add. What would church look like if everyone approved of everyone else–if we all just got along? would my job be a lot easier? Yes. 100%. yes. i tell you, i would be sitting in my office drinking pina coladas and reading the Bible all day. That is what i would do if we all got along. Why can’t we all just get a long. for, like, a week?
We are not ever going to all get along. I tell you. we have got disciples over hear always giving helpful advice, and syrophonecian women all over the place screaming about healthcare and I don’t know what all, and Jesus. at the center. he’s the worst. saying things that just bug me.
No, I’m not asking you to all just get along. God is not asking you. I don’t even care if you are all best friends. I am asking you to be yourself. and to love one another. That is how we become the Body of Christ. We are not the Body of Christ because we’re happy all the dang time, and everything is fine and it’s all just so neat!
We are the Body of Christ because we will not kill each other or resort to violence when we get hurt or mad. We are the Body of Christ because we refuse to build or even fantasize about building “big, beautiful walls,” to keep out people we don’t like or don’t know–contrary, seemingly, to the rest of the world. We are the Body of Christ because we learned somewhere along the line that working together is preferable to working and ranting all by ourselves. We are the Body of Christ because we accept and embrace diversity–even if we don’t always like it.
We are the body of christ because you are here. So you. whoever you are today.
you don’t have to work so hard. you don’t have to smooth things over or make sure everyone is okay. you don’t have to like everything or everyone in this room. Be yourself.
keep active and engaged that part of you–seek out the core of you–that does not give a shit about what other people think of you. I don’t even know how to say that in adult.
Seek out that place in you that when you touch it, you touch rock. or that pure, pure light that’s within you (like we sing). Find that place in you that is inviolate. the place where you know. where you can say to the world, “this far and no further. this is me. I AM.”
seek truth and speak it.
It may not make any difference. good people all over right now are speaking truth, in righteous protest or in so many ways, putting their lives on the line in Charlotte and in South Dakota, and I have no idea what difference it will make. But i am in awe. what a brave, courageous step. to know and speak truth. your truth.
You could speak your truth and maybe nobody cares. it could be.
yet, when you gather your courage and say what you need to say, the heart of God is moved. In any case, the truth will set you free.