Welcome to the historic First Baptist Church of Memphis, serving Memphis & the Mid-South since 1839. You will find exciting ministries, mission opportunities, and vibrant worship.

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Crying Out

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately by the news.  From Gaza to Iraq and Isis to Ferguson to senseless violence here in our city, some in our own schools, my heart has been breaking for the brokenness of our world.  Even the suicide of Robin Williams hit me hard as it reminded us all of the secret pain that so many carry with them in such a way that it never makes the news, until…

I have a confession to make.  I avoided a lectionary text a couple of weeks ago.  It’s the story of the Syrophonecian Woman from Matthew 15.  You remember it.  It’s the story of a desperate mother crying out for Jesus to heal her daughter.   The problem is, she’s not a Jew.  She’s a foreigner, a fact that gets her initially dismissed by the disciples and then Jesus.  Still she cries out.  Jesus goes so far as to call her a dog.  But even this does not deter her, for the woman simply adds logic and wit to her cry and says, “Even the dogs get the crumbs.”  And in her stubbornness, she gets through.  She stops Jesus in his tracks, causes him to do a 180, in every respect.  She leaves not only with a healed daughter but with a compliment, “How great is your faith!”

I avoided this text, not just because it is a hard text, but because my take on it is one that you have heard before, and is one that is hard for some to hear.  Some say that Jesus’ initial refusal to help this woman, and his reference to her as a dog, are just a test of her persistence and faith and/or of the faith of those standing around.  But I read the text in a more straightforward way.  I think the woman teaches Jesus something, or at the very least, reminds him of who he is supposed to be.  I realize that’s a hard reading for some, to think that Jesus could be taught.  But to suggest that Jesus would adapt and learn and grow does not make him any less, in my mind. Quite the contrary, it makes him more, and further sets an example for us.

But I read a blog on this text recently that pointed out that before this story is about Jesus changing his mind or learning something new, it is a story about a person crying out, a mother who refused to allow her voice to be silenced in the face of sorrow and grief until she is heard, until her need is met.  It seems to me to be a rather close parallel to Jesus’ parable of the friend who goes to his neighbor at midnight and cries out for bread until the neighbor gets up and meets the request, not out of great love and concern mind you, but just to shut his friend up.   Both stories suggest that healing begins with our cry, with letting our need be known.   But is that all there is here?  A simple reminder that for our needs to be met, we must let them be known?   Possibly.  But when you add these texts to the strong Biblical tradition of lament, I think there is something more. 

I think scripture is saying that there is an inherent power in our crying, and in our crying out; that our healing and that of this world actually begins in the midst of the tears that we shed for the pain we know and know of; that if we are doing this thing called life and faith correctly we will find ourselves continually crying out on behalf of ourselves and others for healing and hope and peace and wholeness; and that such cries please God.  And while such cries may not change the mind of a God who is, no doubt, already engaged, maybe God does hear those cries and says, “Here is one that shares my pain for the brokenness of creation.  Here is one that I can work in and through to change this world.”

So, if you are needing to cry out.  Please do so.  For yourself, for others, for these situations, for those to come.  Cry out to God.  Cry out to one another.   Cry out over and above the obstacles that will be put in your way.   Listen, too, and be willing to serve.   But keep crying out until something is done, someone is changed, someone is healed, even if that someone is you. 

Grace, David 


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the September edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at 7:00 AM
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