Against Prejudices   1 comment

Above:  Ruins at Tyre, Lebanon

Image Source = Heretiq

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 2:18-25 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God said,

It’s not good for the human to be by himself.  I’ll make for him a strength corresponding to him.

And YHWH God fashioned from the ground every animal of the field and every bird of the skies and brought it to the human to see what he would call it.  And whatever the human would call call it, each living being, that would be its name.  And the human gave names to every domestic animal and bird of the skies and every animal of the field.  But He did not find for the human a strength corresponding to him.

And YHWH God caused a slumber to descend on the human, and he slept.  And He took one of his ribs and closed flesh in its place.  And YHWH God built the rib that He had taken from the human into a woman and brought her to the human.  And the human said,

This time is it:  bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh.  This will be called ‘woman,’ for this one was taken from ‘man.’

On account of this a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his woman, and they become one flesh.

And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman, and they were not embarrassed.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine from within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus indeed be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you out of Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Mark 7:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he got up and left that place and went off to the neighbourhood of Tyre.  There we went into a house and wanted no one  to know where he was.  But it proved impossible to remain hidden.  For no sooner had he got there, than a woman who had heard about him, and who had a daughter possessed by an evil spirit, arrived and prostrated herself before him.  She was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she asked him to drive the evil spirit out of her daughter.  Jesus said to her,

You must let the children have all they want first.  It is not right, you know, to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

But she replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs under the table eat the scraps that the children leave.

Jesus said to her,

If you can answer like that, you can go home!  The evil spirit has left your daughter.

And she went back to her home and found the child lying quietly on her bed, and the evil spirit gone.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Tyre was a splendid city in the time of Jesus.  Today the ruins from that time are treasures of archaeology.  The city, located today in southern Lebanon, was also a Gentile domain.  Jesus seems not to have had qualms about being surrounded by Gentiles, who were “the other,” according to many of his co-religionists.  Jews were the Chosen People; Gentiles were not.  There were parts of the Jerusalem Temple complex Jews could enter but Gentiles could not.  And Gentile “God fearers,” who believed in the Jewish deity, were marginal because religious authorities decided they were.

Based on the internal evidence of the story and its placement within the Markan Gospel (immediately after a discourse on ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness), I conclude that the comments about feeding dogs were not sincere.  Rather, they constituted a test; they were a prompt for the Syrophoenecian woman to provide the desired rebuttal.  And Justa (as tradition calls her) secured deliverance for he daughter (known to tradition as Bernice) and became emblematic of the fact that Gentiles, too, may partake of grace.   Grace is inclusive, not exclusive.

Today we read this story and this analysis.  I, as a Gentile, agree that grace extends to me, as well as to the Jews.  But I should not stop there, and neither should you.  Part of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it continues to challenge our comfort zones.  Are we listening to these challenges, though?  So I ask you, as I ask myself the same question:  Who are our (my) Gentiles?

The psalm and the reading from Genesis speak of men and women.  The beautiful creation mythology from Genesis (so far) speaks of primordial innocence and gender equality.  This is apparent in the Hebrew, in which “helper” can also mean “strength;” thus the woman is the man’s “corresponding strength.”  And, in the Hebrew, as Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his commentary, Genesis 2:23 can also read in English as, “…This will be called ‘woman,” for this one was taken from ‘her man.”  This is parallel to “his woman” just one verse later.  The possessive pronoun does not indicate domination of one over the other.

Much of the narrative of the Christian Bible consists of the consequences of the end of primordial paradise and the divine efforts to restore humans to that state.  The human story in the Bible begins with paradise and ends with the New Jerusalem.  So we ought not to internalize socially defined concepts of inequality (with regard to race, gender, et cetera) and think that they are God’s will.  We should treasure and delight in each other, for everyone bears the image of God.  This is hard, and all fall short of the mark.

I am a history buff.  As such I recall a speech Sandra Day O’Connor, now retired from the United States Supreme Court, gave years ago.  She was working as an attorney in Arizona in the 1960s.  By state law, her husband received her paycheck.  Many people today like to criticize feminism, but feminists (literally those who believe in the equality of men and women) got such unjust laws overturned.  As a feminist and a heterosexual, I affirm that women are wonderful, many are beautiful, and all are equal to men.  Any individual or institution which does not affirm this equality in practice is in error.  Thus I affirm the ordination of women, for example.

Which prejudices do I affirm, consciously or unconsciously?  I need grace to make these and the error of them obvious to me, as well as to purge them.  Which prejudices do you affirm, consciously or unconsciously?  You, too, need grace to make these and the error of them obvious to you, as well as to purge them.  May the purging commence, or continue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/week-of-5-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 2, Mark 7, Psalm 128

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One response to “Against Prejudices

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  1. Pingback: Week of 5 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1 « ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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