“It can’t just be a moment, it needs to be a movement.”
My English major sensibilities need you to know that this is not a direct quote. I can’t even remember where it came from in the virtual pile of articles about the violence and confrontations in Ferguson, MO this week. The spirit of these words continue to haunt me as I remember Mike Brown, unarmed and shot to death by local police last weekend. Everything feels like it is cracking around us. Look at the United States. Don’t stop there, look around the world. Violence, disease, civil unrest, power, corruption, privilege, hunger, yearning, longing.
And then there she is, the Canaanite woman in this week’s lectionary reading from Matthew 15: 21-28, who peeks her head out from the biblical narrative to shake us back to the core of humanity. She’s a mother who will not let the discomfort of others bring her to silence. She’s a loud nuisance as she pleas for help for her demon-possessed daughter. She’s distraught and no one, not even Jesus’ entourage of twelve, could stop her. She’s an outsider of Jesus’ religious tradition but she could care less; she’s heard about his power and wants a taste of it for her daughter.
It’s not one of Jesus’ finer moments because he calls her a “small dog.” The Messiah slaps a label on her before going back to what he believes is the important business of caring for his people. But that’s not enough for her. She reminds him that even the dogs come to the Table and are fed from its crumbs. In her boldness, she demands that Jesus see the expansion of his flock beyond his own community.
We need to open our ears to hear people like the Canaanite woman. People who take whatever we put on them and still come to the Table to say, “No, this is not okay. Can’t you see what you’ve done? Don’t you know that your labels have no power here? You are not going to continue to do business as usual. People are important. I’m important. We all are important.”
We need to be like the Canaanite woman.
Let’s make this moment the last moment that we sit complacently, focusing on the needs right before our eyes and ignoring the cries around us.
Let’s make this moment the last moment that we allow otherness to drive our actions and fear to rule the day.
Let’s make this the last moment that we let one death or two or three or hundreds pass in silence, as if it didn’t matter because surely there isn’t anything that we could do about it.
Let’s make this moment that united people together from across the country into joining the movement that has been going on for centuries here, shaping our history as colonizers to those that uphold basic human rights within a system that we hope is capable of valuing justice and peace for all.
Or maybe we need to go even more basic than that. Maybe the basic human right is just this simple…life. May we all strive for a world that values life and living. Period.