This Week’s Text: Matthew 15:21-28
The second rule of improv builds on the first. We aren’t supposed to just say, “Yes,” but says, “yes AND…” By adding the “AND” we don’t simply keep things moving, but we contribute to the journey. “Yes” opens the door. “And” goes through it. “Yes” accepts what your partner has created. “And” builds on it. “Yes” respects your partner. “And” builds on that respect by saying you will be a part of what they are building.
Tina Fey says that this rule teaches us that we shouldn’t be afraid to contribute. In the world of improv, if you are a part of a scene, it is actually your job to contribute. But the sad reality is that many people don’t contribute. It can be scary to offer up something if you don’t know how it will be received. It is also true that sometimes the context or the system seems to restrict contributions. Entrepreneur and writer Seth Godin says this happens in business meetings. How many times are rooms full of highly intelligent, competent people, and yet there is silence when the boss asks for feedback? It takes one person who is willing to contribute first to blaze the trail and suddenly those meetings become places where innovation and ideas happen.
In today’s passage, while Jesus and his disciples are walking around in a Gentile land, a woman comes out and begs Jesus to free her daughter from a demon that was tormenting her. And because Jesus is everybody’s homeboy, he stops, has compassion on her, and heals her daughter, right? No! He ignores her. She repeats her request over and over again. Eventually, the disciples get annoyed and ask Jesus if he can just get rid of her, implying that he should just heal her daughter to shut her up. Really compassionate, guys… But Jesus responds that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. He essentially blames it on God—I would love to, but that wasn’t the job I was sent to do!
She then humbles herself even further by kneeling before him and begging for his help again. This is where the Scripture gets uncomfortable if it hasn’t already. Jesus says that it would be unfair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs. This woman then responds with the first rule of improv. She says, “Yes, Lord.” She doesn’t dispute any of what he has said. She instead employs the second rule of improv and adds to the image. Sure, the children eat first, but there are always crumbs that fall from the table for the dogs. Jesus replies, “Woman, great is your faith!”
At the end of the day, everyone in this story wanted the daughter healed. What ultimately changed the situation? Her contribution. Her faith. This week, I want us to practice the rule of “yes and.” I want you to be sensitive to whether you are someone who is willing to contribute or not. In what places and situations are you willing to speak up, and where are you not so confident and why that might be. But even more than that, it is important to ask ourselves, what are we contributing? Is it, like with the woman, a contribution that speaks the truth and reveals Christ? The rule of “yes and” doesn’t mean we just say whatever crosses out mind. But are we willing to give the best of what we are to others? Are we willing to speak up when we have something that can make a difference? Are willing to be witnesses to our faith and to the God who sends us out into the world with the authority and responsibility to contribute by sharing the Good News of the Gospel?