Friday, August 16, 2019

Special City Notes '19 | Hermanas: Engaging the Margins for Personal and Public Justice, Healing, and Breakthrough

Hermanas by Kristy Garza Robinson, Noemi Vega Quiñones, and Natalia Kohn Rivera (pictured left to right above)

"Lord, help me to come to You first as the One who brings me true justice and healing. Help me to learn how to keep pressing in to You for more and how to keep going low; trusting You will lead me into greater revelation and the tremendous healing and breakthrough You have for me and my people. Amen."

Since the horrific news broke of the mass shooting by a white supremacy terrorist in El Paso on Saturday, August 3, 2019, leaving 22 murdered, Emmaus City Church has not had a service of worship on a Saturday (we have celebrated a baptism mass on Sunday, August 4 and a joint service of worship with Living Word Church on Sunday, August 11). So this coming Saturday, August 17, we will be gathering for the first time since this brutal tragedy, and we will begin the mass with a time of silent lament and prayer, particularly for the Latinx Community in our country who have suffered greatly after the murders of many who fell prey to the shooter's desire to "shoot as many Mexicans as possible." Here is a list of the 22 victims:

Andre Pablo Anchondo, 23 of El Paso
Jordan Anchondo, 24 of El Paso
Arturo Benavidez, 60
Leonard Cipeda Campos, 41
Maria Flores, 77
Raul Flores, 77
Jorge Calvillo Garcia, 61 of Torreón
Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68 of Aguascalientes
Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66
David Alvah Johnson, 63
Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90
Maria Eugenia Legarrega Rothe, 58 of Chihuahua
Elsa Libera Marquez, 57 of Yepomera
Maribel Loya, 56
Ivan Hilierto Manzano, 46 of Juárez
Gloria Irma Marquez, 61 of Juárez
Margie Reckard, 63
Sarah Esther Regaldo Moriel, 66 of Ciudad Juárez
Javier Rodriguez, 15
Teresa Sanchez, 82
Angelina Silva-Elisbee, 86
Juan Velazquez, 77

One way I have personally chosen to enter into this grief and suffering with the Latinx community is to read the powerful and prophetic book, Hermanas: Deeping Our Identity and Growing Our Influence. Here is the link to the previous post featuring excerpts from Hermanas:

Hermanas: Coming to Our Latina Family's Table w/ Lament & Listening, Led by Hope w/ Noemi Vega Quiñones

I needed to hear their voices these past two weeks. Perhaps you do, too, as you grieve, question, listen, lament, struggle, and dare to hope in the face of darkness. The last post predominantly featured the wise and strong voice of Mexican-American Noemi Vega 
Quiñones. This post will feature the wisdom and strength of Argentinian-Armenian Natalia Kohn Rivera.

Chapter 7 | The Canaanite Woman: Breakthrough at the Margins by Natalia Kohn Rivera

Matthew says Jesus "withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon" (Matthew 15:21-28), which is modern-day southern Lebanon, only around twelve to fifteen miles from the border of current Israel. This Greek Canaanite woman hears he's in town and decides to engage him. She appears on the scene loudly, boldly, and full of conviction that Jesus can help.

Pushing Past Rejection, Racism, and Barriers

We as a Latino people, who currently make up around 18 percent of the United States at 57 million people, have experienced the hierarchy of systems and people in power trying to shut us up or shut us down. This is a lot like what the disciples tried to do to the Canaanite woman. Whether it be issues surrounding immigration, living in low-income neighborhoods, fear of not being able to provide for our families, systemic injustices that make us have to work even harder to be given the same opportunities as others
 – our Latino people often run into barrier after barrier. 

Where we fit in society, how we're seen and treated as Latinos, and the stigmas and stereotypes attached to us – much like this Canaanite woman – can create within us so much angst and anger. Yet this woman didn't seem to be dealing with animosity or bitterness that day with Jesus. Her response provokes curiosity: Why didn't she walk away, giving up on Jesus, assuming he's like all the other Jewish people? Why did she keep pushing past the rejection, the racism, the barriers?   

The Outsider Receives Much More

What the Canaanite answers to Jesus' puzzling response to her is as important as how she answers. This woman tells him that she understands that he came first for the Jews, the "children" in this parable, but she's also aware that he's coming for the Gentiles, all non-Jewish people, "dogs who eat the children's bread" in the at first glance seemingly confusing and offensive parabolic language.

What's also interesting is that the Canaanite woman immediately speaks back to Jesus in the same parabolic language, not stuttering or missing a word. Somehow in that moment she understands what Jesus is talking about. No one in all of the Gospels speaks back to him in this language. Most just walk away silent and confused, and a few come back to him and and ask him to clarify. Not one other person ever responded confidently with an answer to Jesus' parables.

The Canaanite woman both gets Jesus' puzzling words and solves the riddle. What she understands isn't a word game; she grasps the plan of salvation, first for the Jews and then every tribe, tongue, and nation. How in the world does an uneducated woman, a non-Jew, speak parables and understand the timing and strategy of salvation for this world? The disciples that Jesus was with day in and day out for three years don't understand the plan of salvation until the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. In Matthew, Jesus provides us his answer: "Woman, you have great faith!" (Matthew 15:28). This woman was given these revelations supernaturally from heaven. She didn't read them from a book or hear them from a sermon; she received them as revelations from God. The God who created her gave her his blueprints of salvation. This broken, suffering woman who came to Jesus with a sick daughter and who received what we perceive at first as silence, rejection, and humiliation, ultimately receives supernatural revelation and healing for her daughter.

Not Giving Up on Who Jesus Is with Persistence, Boldness, Tenacity

In this story the woman is brought closer and then again closer to Jesus, first out of desperation and then out of a revelation of who he is. Jesus gives her so much more, but it costs her having to go lower and lower. She's experiencing a paradox of sorts: the more unoffended she is, the more she receives. You see, Jesus isn't one who humiliates, he's one who humbles, and often we can get the two confused. This woman lays aside anger, injustice, racism, and sexism, and fights back with humility. She leads her daughter to health by being lowly and meek herself. She spiritually leads in front of these twelve Jewish disciples by being persistent, bold, and tenacious, and not giving up on who Jesus is and what he's capable of giving her. Jesus is drawing her barriers out to give her revelation and healing.

I don't believe her daughter was the only one who got healed that day; I believe she herself walked away healed. You see, she came in marginalized by her race, gender, and faith background only to walk away free. Jesus gave eternal insight to a desperate Gentile woman. He brought up race not to slap her with it but to surface it, to address it, and to redeem it. If he didn't bring up the racial tensions then we'd think he wasn't addressing all the suffering the woman was bringing into that encounter. Healing requires getting to the wounds, the memories, the roots of the pain. Jesus doesn't gloss over pain; he knows that for true healing and freedom to occur, it must be dealt with at the very personal, root level.

Responding for All, Declaring for All 

The Canaanite Woman continues the parable Jesus began by responding for her people, the Gentiles. She could have responded just for herself, but God was revealing his salvation plan for the world. She is declaring that the Gentiles will not longer be on the margins of eternal salvation but will be sought after and covered by the heart of the Father. They won't be "dogs" much longer as Jesus will send his disciples generation after generation to reach the Gentiles. They will join the children at the table of salvation. Our Canaanite hermana understood all of that in her very holistic encounter with Jesus. Jesus honored and praised her faith publicly for all the disciples to hear. His goal was to meet and provide healing for this one very humble woman.

The barriers the Canaanite woman carried into that room with Jesus and his disciples all melted away as she sought the face and power of Jesus. Her faith in him and not in the racial, religious, or gender barriers led her into holistic freedom. She trusted Jesus because he is trustworthy and committed to redemption and justice and is about the Jews and the Gentiles, including those who don't yet know him and haven't experienced his saving grace.

Following the Canaanite Women's Mentorship with Practice and Prayer

Let's follow the Canaanite woman's mentorship and allow Jesus to take us into the ministry of going low and depending on him, even when he brings up the very pain we've worked hard to avoid. Let's allow his Spirit to consume the barriers and give us the opportunity for healing for ourselves and for our community. Let's be leaders free from being consumed by our barriers. Let's took to Jesus to raise us up as confident and wise women (children and men), stable in his healing power. Whether we're on the margins or not, let's never despise the margins, for Jesus encountered and honored many living and leading there. Let's be women (children and men) who can engage the margins, not just interacting horizontally with the pain and injustices, but being those who can focus vertically, set our face to Jesus, and be leaders who can receive heavenly wisdom, insight, and revelation.

Lord, help us to come to you first as the one who brings us true justice and healing. Help us to learn how to keep pressing in to you for more and how to keep going low; trusting you will lead us into greater revelation and the tremendous healing and breakthrough you have for us and anyone who is marginalized. Amen.

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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