Wednesday, December 14, 2016


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."  Mark 7:26-29

This is one of those passages folks, especially preachers, wish could be clipped out of the gospels.  It simply doesn't present Jesus in a very favorable light.  Which is probably why folks, especially preachers, come up with all sorts of rationalizations for this story.  Jesus was having a bad day; Jesus hadn't slept well; Jesus was focused on something else; it is the writer's way of saying Jesus saw his primary role to be to his Jewish friends and neighbors, not the outsiders.  Any, and all, might be valid.

But I think the reason it makes folks, especially preachers, wish the story wasn't in the gospels is because it doesn't present us in a very good light.  Because we live in a time and culture which says that not only are the 'children' entitled to the whole loaf in life, the outsiders don't even deserve the crumbs.  And far too many folks, particularly preachers, go along with this view. 

A family shows up in distress and we give them a $20 gift card to send them on their way, rather than take the time to listen to their story.  We walk past an addict sleeping in a doorway and shake our heads, instead of seeing what we could do to help rid her of her demons.  Churches collect food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but figure the same recipients can fend for themselves the other 11 months of the year.  We collect supplies for the kids at the start of the school year, and then vote down the levies that will support their education.

Because we have the whole loaf, because our pantries and refrigerators are stocked, because we throw away perfectly good food simply because it might be a little funky, we don't realize how important crumbs can be in the lives of our sisters and brothers. 

With enough crumbs, a family can be fed; with enough crumbs, a home can be built; with enough crumbs, lives can be rebuilt; with enough crumbs, we might be able to see those around us not as outsiders who are less deserving than us, but family members who should be offered a seat at the table and passed the first plateful of grace, of goodness, of hope from the Feast.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

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