This coming weekend we have a passage from the gospel of Matthew that, if we’re honest with ourselves, should be pretty disturbing. A woman comes to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. But because she is a Canaanite he refuses. He says he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And then, doubling down on what was already a pretty insensitive response to someone seeking healing, says that it is wrong to throw the food of the children to the dogs. The woman persists, turning herself and her ailing daughter into a joke, saying that even the dogs get to eat the scraps that fall from the table. It is only then that Jesus relents and heals her daughter.
There have been times when scholars have bent over backwards to get Jesus off the hook for essentially being rude to this poor woman, but most acknowledge the probability that the gospel is showing us a picture of Jesus learning and expanding his own idea of who his ministry was for.
Which brings me to Flamy Grant. Ms. Grant recently had the #1 album and #1 song on the Christian music charts. What is a bit unusual about that is that Grant is a drag queen. In these days of controversy about drag queens reading storybooks at public libraries, one makes it to the top of the Christian music charts. And does it with a song pleading for a place in the church, a place as a follower of Christ, a place as a human being beloved by God.
It’s been awhile since I went ahead and let down my guard
‘Cause I carry the weight of the words you said
And that makes it just a little bit hard
To reject the lies you perpetuate
But you’re not the keeper of the pearly gate
It’s been awhile, but I’m coming back to fight for my place
Grant’s lyrics remind me of the way that the Canaanite woman called out Jesus in his rejection. Grant calls out the church for its words of rejection. If we’re looking for a real life way to live the gospel in our lives perhaps it would be good to start with the ways that the church continues to reject people who long for a place among us. As Pope Francis calls us to construct a church that is welcoming to all, it would be good for us to picture the reality of what that looks like. And it should include people whose plea for acceptance touches the hearts of Christians who have long rejected them.
I would hope that our response to a child of God who has taken the name Flamy Grant could be the same as Jesus’ words to the Canaanite in this week’s gospel, “O woman, great is your faith!”
Pastor, St Frances of Rome/St Leonard