‘Woman, you have great faith’, says Jesus to the Syro-Phoenecian woman in the gospel reading for last Sunday (Matt 15:21-28). None of the disciples get this affirmation from Jesus. Quite the reverse, e.g. in the previous chapter, after Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water, he’s called a ‘man of little faith’. Earlier in Matthew, a centurion is praised for his great faith (Matt 8:10). On that occasion, as on this one, these outsiders are seeking help for someone else (a servant, a daughter). Great faith is not displayed by self interest.
When this was the gospel for the St.Stephen's Student Service in September 1990, the chosen theme, was "Send Her Away". Jesus showed that he’s not for a cozy, inside club, but for every and any outsider in society. Often easier to acknowledge than to practise, it's the essence of the Good News - God becomes a human in order to gather in all of us outsiders.
On Sunday, we sang the song I wrote back then. We recorded it for the collection we put out in 1994, ‘The Word Became a Song’
1. Included, you and me and everybody
comprehensively embraced by
the love of the unrestrictive God of all
With Jesus, we are wanted, we're accepted
we are never segregated or hated
we're all incorporated in him
But they say they don't want her to be here,
she's trouble, she gets on their nerves.
She speaks a different language, she's noisy, an ethnic
- what's more she's got a daughter who's possessed by a devil!
2. But we're included in the new improved creation,
we are Jesus' renovations, he's fixed us,
and we're completely overhauled.
With Jesus, we're no longer out of order,
we're no longer on the border,
we're inside the most amazing land of all.
But we say we won't share it with strangers,
they make us feel so insecure.
It doesn't matter if they're hungry, or lonely, or desperate
- why don't they find a place of their own where they can go?
Included, you and me and everybody … Robin Mann © 1990
The song has acquired extra resonance in the new century in Australia with the arguments about who's welcome in our country. And more lately with arguments about marriage.