Saturday, September 22, 2018

Make Me An Instrument...

First Street at T in Bloomingdale, DC

Monday, September 17, 2018

SERMON: "Imagine a World"

imagine a world
a sermon for september 16, 2018
dave grishaw-jones
luke 15:11-32
  
1.

When you walk out of here this morning, when we’ve sung that last thrilling verse of “Amazing Grace,” when you’ve recycled your program and you’re off to lunch, your challenge is this:  TO IMAGINE A WORLD like the one Jesus imagines in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Maybe you’ll take a walk this afternoon, or go for a run up in Rock Creek Park.  Maybe you’ll bless the fertility of the land and assemble a great green salad for good friends at dinnertime.  Maybe you’ll hunker down and read a book or a poem or the crazy colors of a Potomac sunset.  In all these things, dear Christian, your challenge, our challenge is the same: TO IMAGINE A WORLD like the one Jesus imagines in this parable.  To imagine ourselves as midwives to that world, choreographers in that world, disciples of that world.  Where grace abounds and forgiveness heals.  Where broken things come together again.

What God needs most urgently is our imagination this week.
  What Jesus cultivates most creatively in this parable is your courage.  Not your entrenched conviction around finer points of theology and philosophy.  Not your well-schooled cynicism around all the ways the world's going to hell.  What God needs--today, tomorrow, this week--is your imagination, your courage, and your capacity for hope.  Whatever else Jesus is after in this parable, it has something to do (maybe everything to do) with your imagination.  Where you live.  Where you work.  Where you study and play.

Will you see what I see? Jesus asks.
 

2.

So let's talk about that this morning.
  Let's talk about the importance of imagination in your life, in your spiritual life, in your walk with Jesus and God's grace.  Because it strikes me somehow that that's what Jesus' most famous parable comes down to--in the end.  When it's 110 in the shade and not a square meal to be found, the younger son imagines his own homecoming.  When his father sees the young boy stumbling down the road, staggering toward home, he imagines their reunion and wastes no time rushing to welcome him home.  
Rembrandt's "Return of the Prodigal Son"
You see, where there's no imagination, there's no grace, no hope, no possibility of healing and peace.  Where there's no imagination, there's nothing like the boy's long walk home or the courage needed to keep walking when his feet ache or the fabulous feast with the fatted calf or the beautiful robe and the precious ring.  Where there's no imagination, I guess you could say, there's no parable at all.

And isn't it possible that this whole story--this story that's as fresh and contemporary as any other in scripture--isn't it possible that this whole story comes down to the question of the older brother's imagination?
  That day when his brother comes home.  That night when the band's warmed up and the dancing's begun and the feast is spread on a dozen tables.

The father's weeping tears of joy.
  The candles are lit, the house is rocking with love.  The fatted calf's been killed.  And the whole story comes down to the older brother’s predicament.  Can he imagine laying aside his well-earned bitterness and cynicism?  Can he imagine lacing up his own dancing shoes?  Can he imagine forgiveness and reconciliation, a new life of friendship, collaboration and celebration?

The French theologian Claude Dequoc says: "Forgiveness is an invitation to imagination.
  It is not forgetfulness of the past, but rather the risk of a future other than the one imposed by memory of the past."  Let me dial that up again: "Forgiveness is an invitation to imagination.  It is not forgetfulness of the past, but rather the risk of a future other than the one imposed by memory of the past."  Can the older brother risk a future other than the one imposed by memory--other than the one in which his kid brother runs off free and unencumbered?  Other than the one in which he's left behind to work the fields and manage the money and take care of the aging parents?  Can he lay aside his well-earned bitterness and risk a future of grace, a future of reconciliation, a future of forgiveness?

Now, to be honest, Jesus doesn't say.
  And that's just the kind of teacher Jesus is.  That's his provocative style in every one of these parables.  It always comes down to you and me.  It always comes down to our faith, to our courage, to our imagination.  This whole business of mercy and forgiveness: it’s not easy and it’s surely not routine.  But…as Gandhi and Emma Gonzalez keep telling us…we get to be the change we wish to see in the world.  It always comes down to us.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

SERMON: "Stay Awake and Pray"

Stay Awake and Pray
A Sermon for September 9, 2018
Homecoming Sunday
Mark 14:32-42

1.

"Jesus and His Disciples" (Rembrandt)
The Gospel of Mark is a story of prophetic courage, clearly, and human suffering, clearly, and the devastating and then transforming way courage meets suffering at the cross.  But, at its core, in its essence, the Gospel of Mark is a story about friendship, spiritual friendship, friendship in the midst of a movement.  The radical energy of the gospel is generated by Jesus’ urgent call to friendship, and then by the tragic unraveling of those same relationships, and then again by the almost unimaginable promise of new life and new community and renewed friendship on the other side of the cross.

I want to suggest this morning that we can’t seriously grasp Mark’s project—or Jesus’ movement, for that matter—without grappling with friendship, without exploring friendship in light of the gospel, without joining the beloved community at this elemental point.  What kind of friends are we?  What kind of friends are we prepared to be?  These questions strike at the political edge of Christian witness, but also at the spiritual, relational, even liturgical heart of it.  What kind of friends are we prepared to be?  Brothers and sisters, maybe I’m hitting the conclusion too early in the sermon.  But here’s what I get out of the story this morning, the Gethsemane text: the gospel invites us to create a dynamic and resilient company of friends.  And that kind of friendship is watchful and alert.  And that kind of friendship is spiritually responsive and physically present.  And that kind of friendship is very, very hard to sustain. 

2.

You know the story.  I know you know the story.

You know that Jesus gathered them—just a short while ago—that he gathered them in a hideout, a safehouse, a neighborhood he could trust.  And you know that he pulled them close, in the shadows, and remembered with them the story of Israel’s captivity in Egypt and God’s passion for liberation and their daring dash to freedom in a promised land.  And you know that he prayed with them there, in that safehouse, that they prayed together for the courage to manifest that same passion in their own city, in their own context, and to join arms and hearts and bodies in a new journey to freedom.  Which would be just as revolutionary, and just as disorienting, as the first one.

And then, you know this too, and then Jesus offered them his own body.  Maybe it’s more meaningful, more radical, to say that he entrusted them with his own body.  Taking the blessed bread.  Feeling it break in his hands.  Reaching out to each one his friends.  “This is my body.  This is my brokenness.  This is the way of prophets and lovers and friends of God.”  Oh, the vulnerability, the raw vulnerability and courage and intimacy of that moment.  Jesus and his friends.  He’s not interested in doctrinal disputes and ecclesiastical councils.  He’s surely not weighing in on who gets to eat, and who gets to serve, and whether the whole thing is a stairway to heaven.  This is about faith, and fear.  This is about a practice shared by friends.  A practice that means something.  “This is my body.  Take it.  Care for it.  I entrust it to you.”

And again, all of this is happening in a dangerous environment, a menacing empire of unchecked violence, a culture of greed that will not accommodate the ancient prophetic vision of economic justice and neighborliness.  Jesus knows that his faith, his God, his vision necessitates sacrifice, vulnerability, the very real possibility of pain and even execution.  But he also knows he needs his friends: that his faithfulness has everything to do with the company of friends he’s created along the way.  “This is my body,” he says to them, a friend among friends.  “Take it.  Care for it.  I entrust it to you.”

3.

And that was just a short while ago.  A few verses back in Mark’s story.  And now, in the garden, in the darkness, Jesus asks them, he begs them really, to follow through on their promise: to stay awake as he prays, to keep watch as he agonizes, even as he looks for some kind of a way out.  I know you’ve had moments like this.  When so much is at stake and loyalty’s a lifeline.  When a friend asks you to stay close as a doctor comes in with a rough diagnosis.  When a colleague begs you for companionship because it’s time to stand up and speak truth to power.  Jesus has spent several years weaving a network, investing in relationships.  And now he begs them to keep watch. 

And there are a couple of dimensions to this watchfulness, I think.  He simply and urgently needs his friends to be present with him, right there, to be alert to his pain, to recognize the agony and know it with him.  Like your friend in the doctor’s office.  But there’s a more practical dimension, right?  Jesus needs them to look out for the militia, for the police, undoubtedly sent to intimidate him, probably on their way to arrest him.  He fears for his life.  He’s not ready to let it all go.  “I’m very sad,” he says to his friends, “It’s as if I’m dying.  Stay here and keep alert.” 

And he goes off, and he throws himself to the ground, and he prays.  He prays for a break.  He prays for some easier way.  And he prays for wisdom and discernment and vision: “Not what I want but what you want.”  Not what I want but what you want.  (By the way, take that one verse, that one prayer.  Begin each day—first thing in the morning—with just that prayer.  “Not what I want but what you want.”  Say, every day for a month.  And go to sleep at night with just that prayer on your lips.  “Not what I want but what you want.”  See what that does for you.  See how hard it is, how unnerving it is, to live with that prayer.  It’s not a long prayer.  It’s not a theologically complex prayer.  But, seriously?  “Not what I want but what you want.”  Jesus is serious about his practice.  And prophetic practice is spiritually disciplined.  He is deeply, deeply committed to the struggle, to the process, to the journey of surrender.  So: “Not what I want but what you want.”)

But it’s hard—for Peter and James and John and Mary and Joanna and all the rest of them.  It’s hard to keep watch in the Garden.  It’s hard to stay awake when the mind and the heart are so, so, so weary and so, so, so tired.  It’s hard to bear Jesus’ agony, to anticipate his suffering, to watch him waver in prayer, on his knees, this dark night of his sweet soul.  And, of course, he comes back to them a while later, and he finds them sleeping.  All of them.  The bravest and the most sophisticated.  The mystical ones and the most dependable.  He finds them all sleeping.  Because friendship—the kind of friendship, the practice of friendship that Jesus needs—is hard.    

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Their T-Shirts: ‘I Am What’s At Stake”

HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
CAPITOL HILL
4 September 2018

Standing with a growing and determined crowd of women this afternoon: from women’s groups of all kinds, civil rights movements and human rights organizations too—in the spacious rotunda of the Hart Senate Building. 
As the Senate prepares for day one of the Kavanaugh hearings, this is a lively community of young leaders whose future is hugely impacted by a disingenuous, dishonest and deceptive nomination process.  "I AM WHAT'S AT STAKE"--is printed, emblazoned on their many t-shirts.  
When the stories begin, they speak one at a time, women from all walks of life, women alert to the moment and all that means for all of us.  Health care is at stake.  Reproductive rights are at stake.  Fair and compassionate neighborhoods for immigrants, these too are at stake.  And bit by bit, dig by dig, this Republican President and this Republican Congress is determined to undermine democracy and (it surely seems) pervert democracy itself.  This is not, after all, the first court appointee to be nominated under dark clouds of dubiousness.  (See Garland 2016.)  Yes, there's a lot at stake.  And one by one, these defiant, daring leaders spell it out.
Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (NY)
The meanness of our politics demoralizes.  But not today.  Today, there’s such light in these many eyes...elders defiant, young activists ready to stand and speak!  Today, there's a future that's out there for the making, out there for the shaping.  And these women are ready, eager, fully equipped for the challenge.

It renews my spirit, just to breathe in the steady murmur of their hope, of their resistance.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

In Praise of Spike Lee's "BlackkKlansman"

The Klansmen in Spike Lee's "Blackkklansman" are grotesque, crude and racist.  Easy enough to find them detestable: captive to hatred and myopic in every way.  They inhabit a world so vicious I can't imagine going there, choosing to go there, ever.

Still, there's a chilling familiarity to their cultic life--the rituals and prayers by which Grand Wizard David Duke invokes blessing and protection for the great white American project, and its great white American mercenaries.  Duke calls his kinsmen (and klansmen) 'brothers in Christ.'  Solemnly, he calls upon God to energize their witness and work.  And then, in a moment I found especially gruesome, he anoints them with water, a moment that echoes the baptismal energies and commitments of my own Christian liturgy.  

And rippling, raging through it all: a sustained, bigoted and malignant contempt for blackness, for Jewishness, for any community other than the Klan's great white American tribe.  Everyone else--from anywhere else--is unwelcome, inhuman and an enemy of the state.  To be destroyed.  

I'm reminded--more like belted--by this: how our liturgies are fraught with history, with legacies of hatred and domination and worse.  How easily Christian liturgies turn toward racism and anti-Semitism, and how quickly white supremicists turn to baptism, communion, even Jesus to justify their ugly and evil project.  So I can find the Klan distasteful (and evil) and I do; but they use familiar language, forms and metaphors dear to me.     

What are we to do with this?  Christians, I mean?  Those who insist on resisting racism and empire and all the projects of supremacy and oppression.  Surely it necessitates deep reflection, honest communal reflection, around the themes and symbols, language and practices of faith.  For starters.  Baptism, for example.  Let's be clear and bold and grounded in prophetic truth and generous faith.  In our tradition, baptism draws on the memory of a people liberated, a people racing through the Red Sea and leaving Pharaoh's brutal regime behind.  It's recalls Jesus' rising--overcoming by grace the vicious violence of empire--and building a beloved community as a blessing for all life in all lands.  Baptism is a celebration  and a commissioning: grace upon grace, the Spirit calling each into a body of loving and liberating witness.  

In Spike Lee's movie, David Duke uses the water, prayerfully, to anoint his mates in their exclusive and violent quest for purity.  Instead of embracing the slaves flight to freedom, the Grand Wizard joins Pharaoh's bloody band, thirsting only for vengeance and aching only for privilege and supremacy.  Water, yes.  Baptism?  Are you kidding me?

There's so much more: much, much more in this film--which calls to mind "Do the Right Thing" in its intensity and relevance and closes as it connects its 1970 story to Trump, Charlottesville and the contemporary struggle to overcome racism at last.  What I'll be thinking about these next days is my own baptismal commitment: to join the struggle in appropriate ways, in faithful ways, as ally and friend; to risk and love as Jesus risked and loved.  Because David Duke had it all wrong.  We are called not to supremacy, but to service.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Occupation No Model for DC


"Why is the DC police force training as if it's going to war?"  There's no reason for DC's metropolitan police to be training with Israeli military, an occupying force.  You can sign the Jewish Voice for Peace petition here!  It's especially important that DC residents help JVP meet its goal of 7000 signatures.  We can make it happen.  When we organize together.

Sermon: "I Will Believe in You"

I Will Believe in You
A Sermon for August 19, 2018
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Galatians 3:23-29

1.

Easter 2017, in the Pacific
So every Easter Sunday, just about sunrise, our California congregation would gather on a sandy beach for a baptismal celebration.  We’d baptize folks, full-on full-body total immersion, in the Pacific.  We’re talking pelicans overhead, sea lions barking in the distance.  Inevitably, these would be raucous occasions, with live music and unscripted dancing.  And a couple of times we’d have dolphins diving just a dozen yards from shore; as a newly baptized brother or a newly baptized sister came rising up out of the surf.  I have to tell you: I’m never so sure I’m a Christian (or a pastor) as when I’m up to my waist in the salty surf pulling a child of God from the sea.  (And fair warning.  I’ll be looking for a place—a beach, a lake, a river—to do this kind of thing with you.  So keep that in mind!)

Sometimes we’d be baptizing believers for the very first time, bringing them into the beloved community, acknowledging their deepest dreams and new commitments.  Other times, friends would come to the beach, Easter Sunday, to renew those faith commitments: maybe they’d been baptized long ago, maybe they just needed a reminder of what it felt like, maybe there was something special going on, and they wanted the church to pray and bless and witness a new moment in their lives.  So we’d do that: pray and bless and witness, with lots of water and pelicans wheeling overhead and dolphins dancing and music.

2.

In our reading this morning, we’ve got a snippet, just a piece of an ancient baptismal liturgy, maybe one Paul and Lydia and others used in their early years together.  “As many of you as are baptized into Christ this day, now clothe yourselves with Christ.”  I imagine baptism, in the first generations of the movement: I imagine it as raucous and delightful and powerfully affective.  Affective—with an ‘a.’  I imagine sisters, brothers, new friends, taking risks together, and praying and laying hands on one another.  Maybe on a beach.  Maybe by the riverside.  And I imagine a sense among them that baptism is just the beginning, just the beginning of a wonderful life together, a difficult life together, a life of communion and prayer, a life of service and witness and resistance.  Together.  Connected.  Fully alive.  In a beautiful and bewildering, stunning and astonishing world.

In California, we’d circled each one afterwards, each baptized brother, each baptized sister, and wrap them up in warm towels and shower them with bright flowers.  “As many of you as are baptized into Christ this day, now clothe yourselves with Christ.”  Warm towels, bright flowers, loving, blessing, anointing hands.  In a beautiful and bewildering, stunning and astonishing world. 

I remember one year, one of those friends looking up at me from the swirl of hands and flowers and towels on the beach.  And I remember her saying, real softly, “This changes everything, Dave.”  This changes everything.  And it did.  Her life changed the church.  And the church changed her life.  And so it is with baptism.  And so it is with the baptized disciples of Jesus.

3.

Now we’re not doing any baptizing today, at least I don’t see that in the liturgy this morning.  But something spiritually seismic is going on.  When a beloved community calls on Jesus and breaks bread with Jesus, something spiritually seismic is going on.  When sisters and brothers of different fathers and mothers choose compassion, and commit to solidarity and love, something spiritually seismic is going on.  I want you to know that I’m profoundly aware of the risks we’re taking together today.  I’m profoundly aware of the way Jesus changes everything in our lives, if we go where he goes; the way Jesus challenges everything we’ve come to know, if we listen and pray as he prays; the way he blesses everything and everyone around us, if we sit at his table. 

If we take baptism seriously, you see, if we live into the promise and delight of baptism with Jesus, inevitably we find ourselves at his table.  Looking one another in the eye.  Dreaming God’s dreams.  Risking everything.  If baptism says ‘I’m ready for the kingdom of God,’ then communion says, ‘I’m living in the kingdom of God.’  ‘So bring it on!’

And this is exactly why I’ve come all this way, why I’ve flown all night to be with you this morning.  Something wild, something sweet, something good is happening among you: and I can see it in you, I can feel it in you.  And I want to be part of it.  The Holy Spirit is stirring in your dreams and even in your Christian discomfort: and I want to dream with you.  I want to weep with you, and ache with you, and dream with you.

So there’s just no doubt that the journey we begin together today will change us.  It’ll change me in a thousand ways, I know that for sure, and I can only wonder now what kind of pastor I’ll be when you’re done with me!  But it’ll certainly change you too: the ways you pray, the ways you attend to one another and one another’s dreams, the ways you experience baptism and communion and the restless calling of God. 

So this morning I invite you to embrace that journey with me: to anticipate the deepening of old relationships and the discovery of new ones and the expanding of our horizons and even the breaking of our hearts.  Because that’s part of this too.  You know this.  To follow Jesus, to go where he goes is to open our hearts to the pain, the brokenness and the despair around us.  To follow Jesus is to risk disorientation and relentless sadness—when injustice tears at the fabric of our city, when racism breaks the spirit of a friend, when the rivers run dirty with pollution and disinterest.  A genuine faith, a mature faith is in so many ways a fragile faith, a broken-hearted faith. 

And the thing is, and this is my promise to you today, when your heart is breaking, or if you’re overwhelmed with questions or fears, you will not be alone.  You’ve got all of us.  And I’m here to tell you: you’ve got me now, to call on.

Sermon: "Because She Insisted"

Because She Insisted 
A Sermon for August 26, 2018
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 15:21-31

1.

There are just so many reasons for her not to go.  Not to look for him.  Not to expect anything of him.  Not even to try.  She’s a Gentile, after all, and Jesus is a Jew.  She’s a mother, obviously, and Jesus is a mystic, a monk, a man.  And at least in the eyes of most Jews, she’s impure, this Gentile mother, unclean, unapproachable; and Jesus is proudly and passionately Jewish.  Those are the rules he plays by.  To this point in Matthew’s story, he’s been feeding hungry Jewish crowds and healing broken Jewish bodies.  So she’s got reason to suspect that Jesus will be at least suspicious, maybe even dismissive, or downright hostile.  To her.  To her family.  There are just so many reasons for her not to go.  Not to test him.  Not even to try. 

But she’s a mother.  We don’t know her name.  What language she speaks.  What God she worships.  But we know she’s a mother.  And we know she’s got a little girl at home, a daughter.  And her daughter is tormented by something, something physical, something spiritual, because, you know, it’s all mixed up: the physical and the spiritual.  Nightmares after dark.  Demons all day long.  She’s tormented by something: depression, despair, pain, abuse, and it’s eating her alive. 

And this mother, this Gentile mother, will go through any hell, any humiliation, any agony for this daughter she loves.  I imagine every one of us knows a mother like this one.  In her heart, in her body, love manifests in loyalty and loyalty in tenacity.  And it’s a powerful thing; it’s a godly energy; it’s disruptively divine.  You can see it in her eyes. 

So what if he’s suspicious.  So what if he’s Jewish.  Her family’s in crisis.  Her sweet little girl, ravaged, possessed by pain.  So she hunts Jesus down.  On the coast.  Goes door to door.  “Have you seen him?  This Jesus?  I’ve heard he’s around.  Have you seen him?”  Door to door.  She searches out this mystic with a reputation (at least) for healing and mercy.  Somebody, somewhere has seen him do some stuff.  A healing touch.  Big heart, big love, big dreams.  Word’s got around.  So she follows every lead.  And finally, she flings the doors open on his little retreat house, Jesus’ getaway on the coast, and she throws herself at his feet.

2.

And it’s just then, in the story, when she’s on her knees, when she’s broken all these rules; it’s just then that Jesus has what we’re going to have to call his Donald Trump moment.  You caught that, right?  His Donald Trump moment?  “It’s not good,” he says, and she’s on her knees at his feet, and she’s begging for mercy.  “It’s not good,” he says, “to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  Omarosa, right?  When she calls you on your crap, you call her a dog.  When she oversteps her place, you call her a dog.  When she insists, when she persists, you call her a dog.    

Now words matter, right?  In private conversation.  In public life.  Words matter.  And when Jesus hauls out this awful word, this derogatory word—‘dogs, you’re all dogs’—and not just for one mother, for one daughter, but for a whole people; when he deploys ‘dog language’ in this story, he’s deploying the crudest and meanest language available to a first century Jew.  We know this from New Testament scholarship, first century scholarship.  It’s a lot like hearing someone on the bus use the N-word or a guy at the park talking about ‘spics’ or ‘fags.’  This language means to intimidate.  This language means to divide and hurt and then to subdue.  So let’s be honest.  It’s the vocabulary of oppression.  Not democracy.  Not discipleship.  And certainly not the church.  For all of his sweet intentions, for all of his courage, for all of his holy chutzpah, Jesus (even Jesus) reveals (right here) his own prejudice, his own bigotry, maybe even his own racism.  Right here.  His Donald Trump moment. 

It turns out that Jesus (even Jesus) is all tangled up in prejudice, bigotry and racism.  He’s still operating out of the old, tired notion that family has something to do with race and orthodoxy, that God’s love is limited somehow to a privileged few, to an entitled few, to one race over all others.  And the plain truth—at least, in the story—the plain truth is that Jesus’s not ready to extend the blessing of God to a single mother, a single Gentile mother and her tormented teen. “How can I take food prepared for the children of God,” he says, “and toss it at you dogs.”  So Jesus has some serious work to do.  Right here, at the heart of the gospel story, maybe the most important work he’ll ever do.   

And by the grace of God—by the grace of God—she believes he’s got it in him.  And here’s how stories can shake things up and move us around, and then break us wide open.  Because this Gentile mother is not intimidated as Jesus assumed she’d be.  And she doesn’t back off as his disciples urged her to do.  Even before she got to Jesus.  This is a story, first, about her fierce loyalty—to her daughter, to her people, to herself.  And then it becomes a story about the transforming power in human relationship, the redeeming power in human conversation, the way her loyalty pierces a hole in Jesus’ heart and changes him and his movement forever. 

It happens so quickly here.  One of these compact, densely constructed gospel stories.  So much happens in so few words.  Instead of backing down and backing off, she engages.  She insists on conversation, discussion, even disagreement.  You caught that, right?  “Yes, but,” she says.  “Yes, but.”  And this ‘but’ signals her resolve.  And this ‘but’ signals her intent to challenge his prejudice and encourage a wider, broader, sweeter vision.  “Lord, there’s a bigger picture.  Lord, there’s a bigger God.  Lord, you’re going to have to examine your assumptions and confront your own bigotry.”  After all, she says, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their master’s table.” 

I wonder if—by parroting Jesus’ own ugly language—she forces Jesus to recognize how ugly, how divisive, how bitter it really is.  She bravely persists.  She argues her point, her people’s right to compassion and healing and blessing.  It sounds self-deprecating, to be sure, but using Jesus’ own biting words, she challenges him to reconsider.  She pushes him to think more broadly, more honestly, more humanely.  She insists on her own humanity, and her daughter’s, and her people’s. 

And he gets it.  I have to imagine that this is a whole conversation—intense and emotional and raw and honest--and that it gets compressed into just a couple of verses.  But Jesus gets it.  In a moment, in an exchange that changes his ministry forever, he hears her.  “Woman,” he says, “you have great faith!  It will be just as you wish.”  And right away, right away, her daughter is healed.

So something breaks—just now—in Jesus’ heart.  An awareness of his own prejudice.  A reckoning with oppression and his own participation in it.  This mother’s fierce loyalty pierces a hole in Jesus’ heart.  And here’s his shot at redemption.  Here’s his moment of healing and letting go.  This is as much a story about Jesus’ healing as it is the young Canaanite girl’s.  Could it be that God imagines a bigger movement, a more extravagant welcome, a family of families?  And could it be that this family of families includes all kinds of families—Gentile families and Jewish families, single-parent families and two-parent families, straight couple families and gay couple families?  Could it be that God imagines and inspires loyalty and love among a wildly diverse family of families? This mother’s loyalty pierces a hole in Jesus’ heart—and he begins at last to imagine something much, much bigger.

It turns out that her faith--her great faith--is not so much faith in his miraculous power, as it is faith in his capacity for change, in his openness to transformation.  And I've got to tell you friends, right here in 2018, that's a beautiful thing.