This week’s post is about redistribution and equity. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection.
Lauren is a multifaith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and not-yet-spring. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment.
“That’s not fair!”
I have said these words so many times. Sometimes I yelled it with indignation because my rights were impacted. Sometimes I whimpered these words with sorrow as my heart broke in grief. Sometimes I snarled these words with jealousy, fueling a bit of cruelty. “That’s not fair!” can convey so many emotions and meanings, but I cannot think of a way to say it that conveys a sense of wonderment.
Oftentimes, we answer the cry for fairness with “Life isn’t fair”, like shrugged shoulders and a tough stance only helps us survive. But is it true? Is life, generally, really not fair to all living beings?
Life and death are entwined and have always been. It’s true that no living being is guaranteed life without change or suffering. But how we approach life and death, how we have relationship with all of creation, that is up to us!
We as a community and as individuals within our communities have agreed to live in this current system of injustice. We agreed for whatever reasons: it’s always been this way; some of us like the benefits we get for living this way; some of us have someone or something to blame for the suffering; we can’t imagine another way; that’s not how it’s done; it’s hard to turn over a new leaf; no community, that I know of, has done that before; and so on.
Take a deep breath with me. Let it out slowly. Repeat this soothing breathing while considering the possibility that we can live together in ways that make life fair for all. Let’s open our sense of curiosity and stretch our sense of wonderment. What would it look like to make life fair for all?
We learn from sacred texts and stories that fairness isn’t equality. Though, many times fairness must begin with everyone having equal amounts of resources. In many spiritualities, creation stories have a baseline of equality. From birth, we have either all we need, or a way to get what we need. At least, that’s what creation stories from across the global tell us. So this means what we do to each other diminishes what life on this planet gave us, originally.
Justice equity is when our goal is justice (see last week’s post), but we recognize not all of our community will be able to live in justice. So, we as a community—together as a community—do something about that. Usually, equity needs the community to change how we use and pass out resources like food, clothing, tools, and ways of getting what we need, as well as how we show each other compassion, and chances for healthy growth and spiritual development all at the same time. This is called redistribution.
Our sacred stories tell us we need a way to help get back to creation’s original gift and explore wonders beyond. When we listen to each other’s cultural stories, we hear inspiring systems of equity and redistribution of resources that allow communities to care for all living beings. We hear histories of people recognizing differences as spiritual gifts needed for the betterment of community. We also hear cautionary stories of what happens when those communities made mistakes or failed, and how they repaired relationships or not.
In the Gospel books of the Christian sacred text, there are many stories of equity and redistribution, especially from the Gospel of Luke. My favorite story of equity and redistribution is in Matthew and Mark. It is the story of the Syrophoenician woman from Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. This story tends to be ignored when it shows up to be read in the Christian calendar, just as the woman in the story was. Or, this story is interpreted to gentle Jesus’s words, as though Jesus couldn’t have made mistakes or been influenced by the culture he loved. Today, let’s explore this story with curiosity and amazement.
As you read my retelling, let’s spend some time reflecting:
- I wonder where you find redistribution and equity in the story and who is advocating for it.
- I wonder how your communities do equity and redistribution.
- I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in the story of the Syrophoenician woman.
The Retelling of the Syrophoenician Woman
Jesus was tired from the foolishness of his own people, especially people who should know better. He left that place and went into the district of Tyre. You know the one, over by Sidon. Anyway, Jesus told the disciples to let him have some self-care time. He entered a house, trying to hide out for a bit. But, nah, that didn’t work. News travelled quick, even back in the day. I think Jesus’ disciples were a bit gossipy, and you know how bored some townspeople are.
This woman heard that Jesus was relaxin’ over at the Airbnb. She had a little girl, who had “an unclean spirit.” Townfolks said dumb stuff like that for anything they couldn’t explain. They didn’t know the full story. This woman’s daughter was brilliant, bringing sunshine to her life, even though being a single mother was extremely difficult. Not only that but her well-known relatives were Syrophoenician and Greek instead of being a Tyrian or Sidonite. Actually, this woman’s parents’ peoples were Canaanite, indigenous folks living on this land before any of these knuckleheads. On top of that, she wasn’t even the same religion as a lot of these folks… so yeah, life sucked here. She had decided a while ago to keep her head down and work those side-hustles.
When this woman heard about Jesus, she said to herself, “I could get rid of this unclean spirit nonsense.” She and her daughter would still be considered outsiders as foreigners, but at least her daughter would have a chance at a better life. She ran to find Jesus, shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, son of David! I need help!” She thought if she talked like someone from Jerusalem, maybe he’d help.
He ignored her. Of course.
Jesus’ entourage didn’t ignore her. They wanted to get rid of her. Apparently, pushy women are annoying.
“Well, that’s not gonna happen today” she thought as she kneeled in front of Jesus. She begged him to throw the demon out of her daughter. She would make this man see her, this man whose words carried so much power and access.
He quietly gave some lame brush-off answer about not being for her people. And honestly, no one was for her people; it hurt so much! She thought about her daughter having a chance at a good life, not having to go through so much struggle. She felt more determination and continued demanding help.
And this “great” man of God said, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Like, seriously!?! She sighed, if she had a nickel for every freakin’ insult, she wouldn’t need a blessing from this fool. So, she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Because if your logic is dumb and oppressive, I might as well point it out to your face, she thought.
This Jesus looked at her for the first time. He grunted, “Good answer! Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.”
Could it be? She ran home hopeful. When she returned to her house, she found her beautiful daughter there, bright as ever, playing with the next-door neighbor kid. The kid’s mom said, “I heard the demon left…”
Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.