That was one of the recurring phrases from my sermon this morning. It was about the Canaanite woman, and how Jesus' words to her amounted to, "It's not for you." What is it like to hear that? Yet she persists in begging even for table scraps from God's table. I wonder why she did not give up as Jesus ignored and insulted her.
Even so, I confess to being haunted by the words of Isaiah this morning, words about "the outcasts of Israel." In the gospel, it's clear the Israel is the chosen people, the ones that deserve the bread, not crumbs. They are the insiders -- just like we consider ourselves to be, most of the time. And, in more ways than one. Those of use who are Christian -- well, we are insiders because we are Christian. (There's a T-shirt that says: "Jesus loves you, but I'm his favorite." And sometimes I think that back in the recesses of our brains, we think this.) And we're insiders because we are citizens of the most powerful nation on earth.
In Isaiah, God's chosen people are called outcasts. They are both God's chosen people, and they are outcasts. They are children who get bread, and they are outcasts begging for crumbs. I wonder what it would mean for us if we thought of ourselves this way. Not as insiders, with all the answers for everyone else, but as outcasts.
A while back, there was an evangelism initiative in my denomination. There was a lot of focus on "Welcoming the Stranger" and the ministry of hospitality. What would it mean for us to be more welcoming communities of faith, more friendly, with bigger hearts and more open arms? Don't get me wrong, I think this is a good idea, but I wonder...
I wonder what it would look like if the church, instead of welcoming the stranger, started being the stranger. I wonder if it's even possible for us, except in the most unusual situations, to experience what it means to be the outcast: not just the chosen people, but the outcast, begging for crumbs, desperate for healing.
Really, that's what we are. God's children, but wandering strangers, searching for a home, and welcomed in the end by the same one who once said, "it's not for you."
"The body of Christ, given for you."