She came and knelt before Jesus, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
We seem to be settling into this new normal for a while. Any hopes that we are over the pandemic evaporated when I woke up today to see that California just reported a daily increase of over 50% in Coronavirus cases over last week. (Yikes!)
A big part of that new normal, of course, is meeting through various communications technologies. So last Tuesday I started the day with a phone meeting, then I participated in a Zoom meeting, then a Zoom meeting, then a Zoom meeting, then another Zoom meeting, then one last Zoom meeting.
Since I never had to leave my desk, I was able to bounce from meeting to meeting so quickly I could participate in more than I would have, back in the old “Flintstones” days of driving from place to place. (In retrospect, though, it was just a little bit tiring!)
But all of the meetings were extremely productive, and I was grateful to be in every one of them. During one of the meetings, we reflected on scripture following a lectio divina (“divine reading”) practice, and the passage that was read three times for us to contemplate was Matthew 15:21-28. With the first reading, we were asked to reflect on a word that resonated with us. With the second reading, we considered an image, and I can’t even remember what we were told with the third (though usually, I ask what God might be saying to you at this moment).
For me, the word that jumped out was “crumbs” and as I considered this revolutionary moment in Jesus’ ministry, I thought of today’s world, when marginalized people also start with crumbs in our effort to gain equity. I thought of the strategy that I have adopted and advised to other Asian women, to be very careful and patient about catching the little chances we get to make an impact. (To those of you who think I have more than enough respect accorded to me, that is probably true now, but this came after 50 years of being ignored, dismissed, pushed down or out, or derided for being more or different than what a conveniently passive Asian woman is imagined to be.) I wondered if this approach is still relevant, and worried that too many people just settle for the crumbs.
The second image that came to me has been repeated many times in recent days—the image of so many people waiting in line for 15 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, even 6 hours or more in order to vote. I think especially of African-American people who speak of the many challenges in their lives, and the ways the system works against them, and yet they vote. They remember the many people, most famously Representative John Lewis, who suffered bloody physical harm for the sake of full voting rights. They put their faith in the belief that their one little vote, gathered with many other little votes, can add up to significant change. And as I saw the images of people standing in lines that seemed to go forever, I recalled the many images from new democracies around the world, when oppressed people would wait for hours on that special day when they are allowed to participate, in some small way, their new-found right of self-governance.
Apparently, I am not the only one, as Jim Wallis wrote on October 14th:
Texas and Georgia are trying to suppress the early vote by cutting polling places. But the lines keep growing with record turnouts. Reminds me of the first free election in South Africa.
I remember the 2012 election, held after the 2010 Citizens United case which allows corporations to give unlimited funds to their chosen candidates, when we were reminded that even the richest man in the country still only has one vote, the same as you or I.
As we seek to be God’s hands and heart on earth, let us take the crumbs of each and every vote to speak the truth that God reveals to us for this world. As we consider our call as Christians, let us remember that Jesus did not retreat from speaking God’s will for justice and dignity for all to religious, military, and imperial authorities. As we respond to God’s claim on our life, may we give all of ourselves—not just an hour on Sunday morning but our time, our treasure, our talents, and also our ability to making all systems of the world tuned towards God’s realm, be they educational, judicial, economic, health and food, global, or political.
Some of us have the power to hire and promote people; some have platforms from which to speak God’s truth; some have financial assets that can empower mission and restorative justice; some have nothing but a vote. Like that foreign, desperate mother of a sick daughter, daring to approach and then argue with the famous healer named Jesus, let us take whatever crumbs we can, to gain whatever justice and mercy God wills for all peoples. And as we do so, may Christ say again, “Great is your faith!” And may we all know healing for this earth.
Now go out and vote!