The Syro-Phoenician Woman

Mark 7.24-30

by Nick Jowett (88.88.88 metre)

  1. What causes our perverse delight

    in finding strangers bad or wrong?

    Do we deny the other's right,

    to reassure that we belong?

    Why is the human world unkind?

    What makes it hard to change the mind?

  2. We dread asylum seekers' flood;

    we blame the 'undeserving' poor;

    The alien of face or blood

    may not come closer to our door.

    Why are we humans so unkind?

    Why can we rarely change our mind?

  3. A woman of Phoenician stock

    whose daughter had a mind possessed

    once turned to Christ in need and shock

    and was sent packing as a pest.

    Why were Christ's followers so unkind?

    What would have made them change their mind?

  4. And Jesus said that Jewish 'bread'

    should not be given to Gentile 'dogs'.

    What was his tone when this was said?

    Was humour in his dialogue?

    How could our Lord have been unkind?

    Surely he knew he'd change his mind.

  5. The woman spoke, with sudden wit,

    of crumbs that fall, from table piled,

    for 'dogs' whose faces do not fit.

    Now Jesus smiled and healed her child.

    O God, you cannot be unkind:

    as human once, you changed your mind.

  6. As human too, but not divine,

    we're tied to culture, language, place.

    Lord, give us Jesus' Spirit fine

    to welcome strangers in our space.

    Stop us when we would be unkind;

    Help us each time to change our mind.

Revd Nick Jowett is Vicar of St Andrew's, Psalter Lane, Sheffield and Diocesan Ecumenical Officer.