Dogged Faith

crumbs400x400This reflection on Matthew 15:21-28 was originally preached at St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community rooted in the Anglican tradition located in Vancouver, BC.

As the teacher entered her village,
a woman from the region came out and started wailing

But all they heard was barking as of a dog
and barking
Nipping at their heels
refusing to leave them alone

That dog-hearted daughter
of an inferior race
whose genocide was long-ago complete

That dog-hearted daughter of Rahab,
the Canaanite Roxanne
who turned on the red light
let down the red cord
sparing her family while the rest
were unprepared for the coming onslaught
the wholesale slaughter,
of every woman, man, son and daughter
when they found themselves besieged
by Joshua, Caleb and the Israelite marauders

That is, if you believe the dominant narrative
If you were to believe
that the seven Canaanite tribes had been wiped out
that God had ordained their genocide
that none had survived

Because there’s a counter-narrative too
There’s another story, a minority report
a story in which the Canaanite survives
one in which the culture is not decimated
one in which the Indian is not beat out of the child
one in which they will not be defeated
one where the oppressed are Idle No More

Which brings us back to this stray, yapping, homeless dog,
this godforsaken Canaanite woman
they wished would just go the hell away

That’s when the teacher speaks up, staring past her,
That’s when the teacher speaks up, playing the party line

Those self-righteous ingrates must go away.
These people must leave us alone.

This is about us. Not them.

After feeding the five thousand men
and untold numbers of women and children besides
He feeds his entourage a line,
speaking loudly, directly

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

As if to test their understanding
As if to say:

“I was sent only for the chosen few.”
“A doctor for those who are well.”
“A teacher for those who always agree.”

As if I would be sent for

those on the outside
those who are sick
those who don’t already know what’s up

As if I would be sent for

those of no consequence
those whose culture ought to be abolished
those whose language ought to be dead
those who ought long ago have been assimilated

And you have to wonder if the disciples find themselves
affirmed in their biases, hatred, misogyny and xenophobia

Until she, she, unflappable, persistent she, speaks again

She speaks

in a posture of humility,
in a posture of power

She speaks

and Jesus listens
and Jesus hears her
and you can just imagine
he turns, meeting her gaze
and you can just imagine
that moment of mutual transformation
when she calls his bluff
when she too demands crumbs,
from the one who just had

Broken and

to one and all
with twelve baskets left over

Crumbs. All she wants is crumbs

She speaks

To a man whose stories
whose words
whose actions
whose very life seems to indicate
that last will be first
that unlikely friendships will transform and renew you
heart, soul, mind and strength
whose choice of traveling companions should be enough to prove
that no-one will be left behind
and that justice for some requires justice for all

She speaks

Saying, “Lord, help me.”

He retorts

She speaks again

“Thou callest me a dog,” she says
“before thou hast cause.
But since I am a dog, beware my fangs.”

(Merchant of Venice III, iii, 7-8)

He averts his gaze.

Great is her faith

Great is the faith of

the woman who dares to talk back
the one who dares to question
the one who dares lean in
the one who dares to demand
justice and equality for all

Great is the faith

of those who dare question the status quo
of those who demand God’s blessing
of those who refuse to put up with the second best
imposed by glass ceilings
and systemic injustice
and phobias of every kind

Great is the faith

of those who seek and pursue God
even when the religious establishment gets in their way
even when they are told

you must get out
God hates you
and who you are

Great is the faith of those of us

who are coming to know
and to boldly declare that this table
is for all
and that all are welcome in this place.



Crumbs from Your Table” image by Flickr User Ana C. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

5 Responses to “Dogged Faith”

  1. John Deacon

    This is worth circulating!
    Thanks for posting this. Love words that overturn the dominant narrative.

    • Andrew Stephens-Rennie

      John – Thanks for reading and sharing. Sometimes it’s hard to find the liberating aspects of the gospel when we read it through the dominant lens. I constantly find myself surprised by what Jesus might actually be up to, if I take off my blinders.

  2. Josh

    This is a beautiful retelling. I agree with John. It’s definitely worth circulating. And I’ve shared it with a few of my friends.

    May we all have such persistent faith…

    Thank you.

    • Andrew Stephens-Rennie

      Josh – Grateful for your feedback, and generosity in sharing it around. Blessings.

  3. Sylvia K

    Beautifully written, Andrew, and a wonderful interweaving of this woman’s insistence into our own context. Would’ve loved to have heard you preach it!


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