In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reflection on the Gospel for Advent 1


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Feminist Reflections on Advent 1, 2007 Matthew 24:37-44 by The Rev. Margaret Rose


Questions arise, as I write these first reflections to begin a feminist theology blog using the Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent 2007. What is it that makes reflections feminist? Is it because I am one that makes the reflections so? Or does it require a deeper exegesis that starts with Schussler-Fiorenza’s hermeneutic of suspicion? Must I begin with experience? Beware of sentimentality? Be clear about the power analysis of the text? Ensure that there is contextual thinking both historically and as I imagine what might be relevant for today? Are there rules? Or can we give ourselves permission to wander in this work of blogging—part conversation, part reflection, part exegesis? I hope so. As I begin this series of what I hope will be fruitful essays by those who participate, I do so with the hope that we will share ideas about texts, and sermons as well as about our lives and how they move us to action in the communities of which we are a part. Thanks in advance from the Office of Women’s Ministries. And particularly to Terri Pilarski who has agreed to manage this work from Chicago.

So what about it? Advent 1A It’s November and the anniversary of my mother’s death, and so in this reflection I am remembering vividly those last weeks of her life and their connection to the admonition to keep awake and ready for the unexpected visitations of Jesus or of a thief in the night.

My mother had been in a coma for about a week and we four siblings kept a hospital vigil. “Wake Up!” we wanted to cry as she went deeper and deeper into the world of the unconscious. “Keep Awake!” we said to ourselves as we stood beside her bed. And then yearned for blessed sleep when we returned home to our own beds at rotating hours of the night. During the two weeks before we finally decided the respirator must be removed and she be allowed to die, I found myself living in two worlds. The one filled with trips to the hospital, praying beside the bed, rubbing my mother’s gradually swelling body, combing her hair, praying that Jesus was somehow with her in that other dimension of her existence, and finally coming to the realization that she was not going to wake up. The other was that busy world of every day, the routines which keep us sane more than we realize: planning liturgies, the eventual funeral, the Thanksgiving turkey, picking up children, receiving care and prayers sent on my family’s behalf. As I look back on it, both worlds seem so precious, each a gift, each a part of what it meant to follow Jesus’ words to keep awake, standing at the edge of death with my mother, and standing in the midst of daily life with family and children making ready for the different worlds that lay ahead.

It would have been easier perhaps to live in only one world, to deny the death, to turn away and let the medical people tend to my mother—especially in the ICU. Our culture offers that. I remember that first night when the nurses suggested I step out while they did some procedure. Automatically, I heard my self responding, “ I trust you but she is my mother and I am not leaving.” Kind in the midst of the pain, they made space for me in the room. Later that week, it would have been easier not to have seen my mother gasping for air when the respirator was removed. Yet as she took her last breaths, I found myself not only reliving the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished”, but also those of the Advent text, assured that my mother was ready. And I heard my own voice whispering in prayer and thanksgiving, knowing new truths about the blessedness of life and death.

Perhaps it would have been easier to race home then and allow the funeral home to take over. They want to do that, and often we want them too. But I needed to be close by as they wrapped my mother, to touch her as we made that final walk down the hospital halls, my mother’s body in a body bag shroud. Something about being ready for that death, going deeply into it, being awake to every aspect, made me also ready for life, acutely aware of its fragile nature yet all the more precious: everyday things made extraordinary by their sudden absence in one part of life.

The call to keep awake to the dying and even be ready for it, kept me awake for the living too. Somehow it took away the sting, the fear, not the grief of course. But the experience of death that year allowed the preparations for the birth of Jesus and of the renewal of hope in the midst of brokenness to be all the more real. Keep awake is the admonition—to death and to life. Be ready for staying and for leaving. One is taken the other left in the field. Be ready for the thief in the night—who might even be God intruding on our lives in moments when we least desire it.



Because I am a self named feminist re my reflections necessarily so. Is there a difference between such reflections and what one might call a feminists exegesis? I will leave the conversation on this to those of us who continue this work...

8 comments:

mompriest said...

Margaret, I love this reflection on the reading. Thank you! I think one thing that makes it a feminist reflection is the way it speaks from a woman's experience.

Pamela said...

The Hispanic women theologians have had a rift drawn between them over the use of the word "feminist" which they perceive as a Western construct, having little to say about the realities of women in most of the world, indeed in most of the Christian world. Some prefer the word "mujerista" (womanist), believing that it reflects a more feminine perspective that asks different things than "feminist," which implies certain Western epistemologies. Blah blah blah... Yep, I prefer some other word. And yes, I find the word "feminist" troublesome too. It doesn't speak for me either. Would I subscribe to a "feminist" blog? Probably not, except that my friend Mary Ann invited me. And I like hearing what other women have to say about things. So I like taking part in this and I love the Reflections and comments so far... we'll see how far down this road I go before I veer off... Love you all....

Crimson Rambler said...

so helpful, thank you all for establishing this.
and I think I've spent "years" saying, "yes, but not THAT kind of feminist..."

mompriest said...

In seminary (12 years ago) we did some anit-racism training. One of the ways we defined ourselves was "feminist" or "womanist". At that time "womanist" was a fairly new phrase to me. I did some reading and can appreciate the difference. I do think it is sad that an effort to promote women's experience "created" another level of hierarchy...or maybe it just revealed the level that is already there...sigh...

I am less concerned with the "word" we use, we may need several...I am interested in the lived experiences of women and men of all colors and walks of life.

I hope this blog can become a respectful safe place for us to share our experiences and learn from one another.

Mary Ann said...

I live and work in Oaxaca, Mexico. On Wednesdays, I go to the state penitentiary to visit with a group of women.
I read Margaret Rose’s piece in the morning. It certainly hit close to home, as I am sure it did for many of us. Our parents are aging, have aged, are finishing their time here with us on this planet. We are ever reminded of watching and waiting.
I closed the computer and went out for my prison visits. The first news was that Justina, one of the women, was released last week. I have no idea how long Justina had been in prison; she’d been with our group since June of 2005. What news! Every week when I write down their prayer requests, she has asked that the congregation and I pray that God bring her liberty. Finally.
And then the group discussed the Gospel for Sunday. Watch and wait; they all know how to do it, and they all know how frustrating it is to watch and wait when that is ALL they can do. They miss their families. They worry about their families. They pray; they ask that I pray, that the congregation pray. We share communion, the Body of Christ makes us whole together.
This is feminine theology in a Mexican prison.

mompriest said...

oh, mary ann, indeed! such a powerful witness to waiting..."which is all they can do"...that, and share the body of Christ. thank you for sharing this.

RevDrKate said...

One of the first things I learned oh so long ago as a baby feminist was that the personal is political...is the personal then exegitical too? I'd vote yes...and say Margaret's reflection speaks volumes to this notion...relevant, contextual yet deeply grounded in scripture. Use of personal narrative done well...a powerful tool, skillfully handled. Again Margaret did this so beautifully. A high bar has been set by Advent 1

mompriest said...

kate, indeed...and my reflection comes next...