Clean & Unclean

This semester, I am taking Witness of the Gospels, a class where we look at all four Gospels and how they came to be, as well as what they are actually saying through the original language. At the beginning of the semester, we were given one text from each Gospel and were asked to choose one to work with for eighteen weeks. I chose Mark 7:24-30, the story of the Syrophoenician woman:

From there [Jesus] set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. 

During my drama class in January, we worked a little with this text, and I wanted to know more about it. We did quite a bit of exegetical work (figuring out what the Greek is saying), and then wrote a heady, academic paper that was actually really helpful in deciphering the real message. Then, we were graced with the integrative project. The task? To use what we found in our exegetical work to creatively present the text. Some of my classmates wrote really insightful sermons, some wrote beautiful and/or hysterical songs, and some created visual art. It has been a huge blessing to see my friends use their talents to creatively preach the word of God.

For my project, I took a cue from the Woman at the Well video that I found a few years back. If you haven't seen it, watch it immediately, it's incredible. Anyway, I wrote a slam poetry monologue based on this story, and then recorded it for the project. I've embedded the video below and included the text. This helped me learn quite a bit about the story of the Syrophoenician woman, and I really enjoyed creating this.

I am a woman, of no distinction, of little importance.
I am a woman who they say is unclean.
I avoid you in the street, if I’d touch you, you’d recoil.
And you can’t even see that I’m a person too,
I’m a person who is so much more like you,
Because clean and unclean may not mean what they seem.
This demon in my child, it has ripped us apart, cursing, beating, swearing, tearing, condemning, hating, shouting, doubting.
I have prayed and I have paid, in every way you could imagine, but this spirit haunts my daughter and shows no sign of release.
They say that you’ve healed others:
You can remove a leper’s spots and make a paralyzed man get up and walk, and give a withered hand new life and stop bleeding, pain and strife,
And I heard you healed a man who was unclean just like us;
We can’t help where we come from, and we don’t know why we weren’t chosen, but we know that we deserve to be loved like the rest,
Because clean and unclean may not mean what they seem.
They said that you would come to this house;
Close the curtains, lock the door, rest your feet, take some time, take some time just for you.
But there’s no time for my daughter, how much longer can she bear it?
I’ve sat across the road, hoping, wishing, praying, doubting, needing, for you to appear and release us from this pain.
So imagine my pain when you brush me off and cast aside
Comparing me to the dogs who roam the streets where they reside
I won’t bark but I’ll beg, and I’ll beg but won’t bite.
I’ll take what you can give us, crumbs and scraps from off the floor
That they would step on, sweep up, throw out, disregard, even ignore
I’ll take what you can give us, we haven’t gotten much before,
Because clean and unclean may not mean what they seem.
Now there’s a change in your eyes.
Did I offend, affront, insult or taunt?
I wait for the cold shoulder I’ve come to know so well, the one that chills my heart and lets my daughter’s demon dwell.
But then you do what I asked; you say my child is healed, that from here you made the demon yield.
I want to thank you or to kiss you or to show you what you’ve done
For me and for my daughter and our new life that’s just begun
But I can only turn and run
And when I see her I’m undone
Because she’s smiling, laughing, blinking, talking, doing all the things we’d missed.
I never saw your face again, but I heard about your words and deeds, the things you did for people like me
So when everyone asks how my daughter got well,
I tell them about the man who knows
That clean and unclean may not mean what they seem.
All items in this post ©Julie Stecker 2010. May not be used without permission.

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