Aug. 17, 2014 talk by Dedie Taylor.

These past few weeks, in addition to reading Morning Prayer, I have read one essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson every morning. Like most of us, I read some Emerson in school but have always meant to read more. While going through our books a few weeks ago I found his collected essays and some excerpts from his journals. The essays are short, 10-18 pages each, and it is a refreshing thing to sit down with a cup of coffee after breakfast and read one. What have I learned from this? I have learned that Emerson, while very well read and influential, was not a very clear thinker—or, at least, was not able to express his thoughts very clearly. At least not to this woman in the early years of the 21st century.

But he does have faith in a divine power, truth, goodness, and in Jesus. And the discipline of reading him has caused me to think about issues beyond my day-to-day world. And that is good for me. Emerson takes many pages to say what Jesus said succinctly, that it is what comes out of our mouths that defiles us, not what we put into them. Many of my childhood friends and I communicate by Facebook. My friend Nancy recently posted a list of things those of us who grew up in the 1950s remember. Kool-Aid, playing hide and seek until dark, and describing someone as having “cooties.” The girl with cooties in our class was Susan. She transferred to our school in fourth grade; she had a twin brother, James, and did not look like the rest of us. She had curly black hair, black eyes, and freckles. She and James were the only children in her family and had been adopted by a rich older couple in our neighborhood.

2.
Once I spent a Sunday playing at her house with Susan. She was intelligent and could play some games but her house was too immaculate and too quiet so the rough play, laughing, dancing, and messiness of my life did not seem possible with her. Rarely was I overtly mean to her but she was, with me, as with all of the girls in the neighborhood, outside of our lives. Susan moved away from my hometown in 9th grade and we all later learned that she committed suicide at 23. Our discussions on Facebook this past week make it clear that all of us carry a real sense of guilt for not behaving differently to her. In the case of Susan it was not only what came out of our mouths, but what did not come out of our mouths, that defiled us. We should have been nicer.

Now to the Canaanite woman. It has always seemed to me that Jesus should have been nicer to start with. He clearly was going to ignore her until the disciples asked him to send her away. It has always bothered me that Jesus said he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He might as well have told the woman that she had cooties—in fact, he implied, by comparing her to dogs, that she had fleas!

In behaving this way, Jesus showed clearly how human he was. It seems he did not yet know fully what he was about here on this earth. But impressed by the woman’s wit, and by her faith, he rid her daughter of demons, even though she was the other, the dog.

3.
It is thinking of people as the other that is the cause of much that is wrong in the world. Part of our job as Christians is to live as though all of us, the entire human race, are brothers and sisters, sharing in the crumbs from the master’s table.

In recent years I have become increasingly disturbed by the growing disparity of wealth in this country and in the world. My hometown, Astoria, Oregon, was recently visited by the 33rd largest yacht in the world. It is 317-feet long and cost $160-million to build a few years ago. It is owned by a Swiss-Italian pharmaceutical magnate and his wife, Miss United Kingdom of 1988. It costs $400,000 each time the yacht’s fuel tanks are filled. Add to that the real-estate ads for houses and apartments that are selling for $35-million and up. Apartments! I wonder where those buyers come from. The answer is that they come from an overwhelming greediness. A greediness that has caused people not to see that the poorest creature is their brother or sister. During the 1950s, when I was growing up, taxes on corporations accounted for 33% of the federal budget; today, because of the influence of special interests, such taxes account for only 9% of the budget. Something is wrong here.

This greediness stems from several sources but it has been exacerbated by the fact that it is now socially acceptable to say in some circles, “me and my friend,” instead of the correct “my friend and I.” Think about what that means. It is putting yourself first! Before your friend, and by implication, before anyone else. That is wrong.

4. In Philadelphia, the public schools are facing bankruptcy and face an $81-million shortfall. Half the price that magnate I talked about earlier paid for his yacht. In Fort Davis, the school board, of which I am a member, has struggled to close our deficit, by reluctantly cutting programs. Several private citizens have attempted to urge our rich neighbors to give money directly to the school district. Some have done so. But others have actually written letters saying that they will not because the legislature in Austin should be giving us more money. The legislature should, but that does not solve the immediate problem. One of those letters came from someone who recently spent millions on a new home in another state. Who has forgotten that he is a dog begging for crumbs from the master’s table.

What we seem to have lost sight of is that we ALL are God’s children. That we are called to love one another. And to eat at the same table. A greedy slogan of the 1980s, “he who dies with the most toys wins,” is not and has never been true. We are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. Real love, the love Jesus showed the Canaanite woman, in fact is all we need.

Amen

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