|Pen and Ink Reflections||
How do you feel about being called a dog - and/or not quite human, or sub-human, unnatural, intrinsically disordered, not biological, unclean, heathen, pagan, infidel, heretic, wild, rabid, crazy, illegal, alien, or one of the long, long, list of ethnic, gendered, and other slurs some continue to endure today? So many people know this only too well. If you have more than one type of marginalised human identities then you may face this even more intensely. Today’s Gospel story puts such ‘dogs’ firmly in the centre of life and faith, in the figure of the one named as a Canaanite woman. Note well: this is someone not even given a name. For denying people’s true names and authentic identities is a game as old as time, and it is still well and truly alive today. Every day, there are people treated like dogs who, at best, can only aspire to the crumbs which fall from the tables of the privileged. This story therefore is still our story as a human race, and the light it brings comes from speaking in crumbs…
If, metaphorically speaking, one of the capital cities of Australia represented the earliest forms of the Christian Church, which would it be? One answer, for me, at least in terms of an old joke, would be Perth. For remember how that old joke went: in Sydney, they ask ‘how much money do you have?’ – little sadly has changed in recent decades; in Melbourne, they ask ‘which school did you go to?. in Adelaide – times have changed - they ask ‘which church do you go to?; and, in Perth, they ask ‘so what did you come here to get away from?’
Now, there is a good deal more to it than that. Yet, when they gathered together, there would have been a degree of truth in some of the earliest Christians asking one another ‘so what did you come here to get away from?’ That, as we can see from Gospel passages such as that we heard today (Mark 6.1-13), is part of the early Jesus movement story. It was also very much about where Jesus and his earliest followers were headed to. Yet what they were getting away from is vital to understand. For why did Jesus do no great deeds in his hometown? And why did he counsel his first followers to travel light, and be prepared to shake the dust off their feet, even if it meant enduring the metaphorical equivalent of crossing the Nullarbor?...