There were two underlying themes in the lectionary readings for this Sunday that just leapt off the page at me, grabbed me by the shoulders, and shook me. The first was about privilege.
In Mark’s gospel we read the story of an encounter Jesus had with a Syro-Phonecian woman (a gentile). She asked him for help, and he responded with the infamous line about not feeding the dogs (the gentiles) until the children (the Jewish people) have had their fill. Her answer was brilliant: “But even the dogs are allowed the crumbs that fall from the children’s table...”
This story is part of a set of stories that push at the traditional boundaries between Jew and Gentile. We may not divide the world into those categories, but that does not mean that we see all people as equal. We certainly do not treat everyone with equal regard for their dignity. In the United States, there has been a lot of criticism of the federal response to the damage caused to the city of New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many have suggested that if a similar disaster had befallen a “more white” area, things would have been different. I don’t think we need to look that far afield to see examples of the power of privilege.
The other issue, related to the first, has to do with our treatment of “the poor”. The selection from Proverbs included these words:
“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.”
After 4 weeks of vacation, during which my family and I enjoyed the luxury of time off together, in beautiful settings, and during which we spent money freely and ate very well, I feel very aware that I am not poor. I may not be “wealthy” compared to some of my neighbours here in Oakville, but I need to remember that I live in one of the world’s most affluent communities. Does that sound like an exaggeration? Do we really live in one of the world’s richest towns?
I have not done my homework on this one. I cannot prove my claim statistically. I am pretty sure everyone reading this can think of a “richer” place.
My claim is based on having viewed a video called “The Miniature Earth”,
which I included in the Sunday morning service. The video asks what the world would look like if it were a community of 100 people. Who would be there? What would they look like? How many would look like you and I?