Link to Lectionary Texts for this week: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Pentecost/BProp18_RCL.html
I have to warn you, this story from Mark is a dark one –
it is about Jesus’ shadow.
It is about Jesus bumping into his shadow
and encountering his own bigotry.
It is a fantastic story
because it totally disarms us
of our idealizations and rampant projections.
But that is just a warning
in case you don’t want to wander that far
into the Gospel.
Bono, of U2 fame,
wrote lyrics to a song he dedicated
to the Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi decades imprisoned under house arrest
by the military dictatorship in Burma,
a stunningly gentle presence of peaceful revolution
amid brutal violence – much like Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
I won’t read you all of the lyrics
but the song goes like this:
And love is not the easy thing
the only baggage you can bring…
And love is not the easy thing…
the only baggage you can bring
is all that you can’t leave behind.
Jesus brought some baggage
into his encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman.
That is what we all do.
To love –
whether it is loving our neighbor as ourself
or our Self as our neighbor,
or our partner, sister, children, dog –
is never done without a lot of baggage.
Take for example, our buddy Jesus who is usually presumed to be one of the best lovers ever.
Jesus encounters the said woman, where?
Alone in a house.
Even today, in our free and open society,
a well-known public figure –
a religious figure no less,
who presumes to preach to others
about public and private morality
cannot be found alone
in a home with an unrelated woman.
In Jesus’ day
the taboo was more powerful
and dangerous than you and I can possibly understand.
It violated an untold number of religious purity laws
as well as the rigid moral caste
of a tightly stratified society.
It was bad all the way around.
Never mind that he went there to escape strangers;
that he went there to be alone.
Never mind that he went there to get away
from people like her;
people like you and me – needy people.
Secondly, she wasn’t Judean.
She was foreign.
She was a Gentile…you know, like you a me;
dirty in other words.
She was the source of impurity:
“Dirty, filthy, Gentile pig-eater
interrupting my quite time,
endangering my reputation,
and begging for special treatment…”
is what he might have been thinking.
You know, like you and I do stuck in traffic?
When we get grumpy at the way the person
in front of us is driving
“And now we are stuck
because the idiot who can’t drive…”
Yeah, Jesus has baggage alright.
It is not just that he is grumpy from being put out.
He’s put out by some woman! Woman;
low-life Gentile woman.
Yeah, he’s got baggage.
“Get in line, lady.”
And here are the lyrics of Bono again:
And if the darkness is to keep us apart
and if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
and if your glass heart should crack
and for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong.
Walk on, walk on.
What you got they can’t steal it
no they can’t even feel it.
Walk on, walk on…
stay safe tonight.
So the darkness in Jesus,
the ethnic bigotry that is part of his baggage,
endangers the love between him and her.
So the darkness in Jesus,
his own neediness for space
that is part of his own baggage,
endangers the love between him and her.
But she won’t budge, that Lebanese Woman.
Her love for her daughter is steel in her spine
and she has more dignity
and more guts
than Jesus has bigotry.
She challenges him –
rubs his own baggage in his face
where he can smell it up close and gag.
Is he going to remain seated
in his own squalid waste:
the ethnic bigotry he had inherited,
the misogyny he didn’t even recognize,
the temper born of unmet needs driving his judgments?
will he Walk on…Walk on to a new place?
Is he going to pack a suitcase and Walk on
to a place within himself he has never been,
walk publicly with her
to a place of social cohesion and peace
that has to be seen to be believed?
He can’t leave his baggage behind
any more than we can –
it comes with us wherever we go.
Geographical relocation is never a cure
for what ails us.
But he can walk on;
take it with him,
all that bigotry and soul-tiredness,
so that it can be transformed by the love
that he will encounter
if he just…Walks on to that new place.
That is what people like Suu Kyi and Mandela do.
They feel the burn of hate
like anyone in their situation would.
They have all those corrosive emotions inside,
like acid in glass,
just waiting to break free
and burn through flesh and run rampant.
They have all that hate
we see exploding in fireballs
with our name on them –
because people hate us.
They hate United States citizens
for what they perceive, both rightly and wrongly,
we do to harm
those they love.
are not unknown to people like
They are not different than you or me.
But they Walk on…
They walk on even with their baggage
and get to a new place within themselves
and among those who still hate with a vengeance.
How do they do that?
There is no quick fix.
If you are a “How To” junkie looking for the “How To”
of spirituality, you won’t get it from me.
There are such stores of religion or spirituality shops
that promise fixes, tricks and cures but I wouldn’t recommend a single one of them.
Rather, walk on carrying our baggage
and allowing it to be transformed,
a little at a time
with each love we have
with each love we meet
with each love we make is cumulative.
Little by little,
piece by piece,
encountering the healing power of God
as we put one foot in front of the other
and do the right thing
with the little things.
It adds up and is transformative:
each time we do the small things,
eek out the small loves
when we don’t want to be bothered;
they are like yeast rising up within us
and transforming the baggage and containing the acid.
Big “Born Again” moments when we think we have done something great
and are now converted to a new course of action,
are feel-good moments but usually not transformative.
The intensity of retreats
and the rush of religious experiences are wonderful – ice cream for the soul.
comes one step at a time,
doing the right thing even when it is tiny;
even when it is unnoticed;
even when it is bland, ordinary and mundane.
One small love after another over time
transforms the baggage we bring
and allows us to love
Going to church for worship is not what this is all about.
It is about walking on
and doing it where we live.
Worship is ice cream – and by God we all need ice cream!
But it is how we practice our spirituality
every day where we live
By all means, come and get the ice cream.
But it is the walking on, the practicing of our spirituality
every day in the little things
that transform us over time.
One small love after another,
accumulating over time
will help us to become
like Suu Kyi
and even Jesus –
able to love beyond our baggage;
able to love well beyond ourselves;
able to love