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, December 4, 2007

Reflection on Advent 2

The Voice of One Crying Out in the Wilderness: Prepare the Way of the Lord

Elaine Wainwright begins her commentary on the Gospel of Matthew in Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Commentary with this: “A scribe trained for the implementation of the inclusive basileia vision of Jesus draws out of a treasure of past and present, the new and the old toward a rereading of the Jesus story for a particular historical situation.” She interprets this from Matthew 13:52: “And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old..”

A feminist blog, in part, offers us an opportunity to look back with fresh eyes, to reflect on both the tradition of the text and a new way of understanding it. And, as a blog, it also provides us with the means to have a conversation about it through the “comments” section at the bottom of each reflection. I hope that, regardless of our response to the word “feminist” we can consider this a blog for women and men, black, brown, white, gay or straight; a place where people of faith can wrestle with the text and the realities of our lives. I hope we can struggle together to understand what it means to believe in a living God; a God who is active in our lives and the world. At least for me, that is a starting place for what a feminist blog can be about.

A Reflection on Matthew 3:1-12 by The Very Rev. Terri C. Pilarski

When I started seminary in 1995 my daughter was eight years old. We sold our home and moved “on the block” where my daughter met new kids. Most of her friends were not the kids at the seminary. Her friends were Jewish, or Methodist, or Christian Scientist, and one, an Episcopalian. And their parents were artists or professors or entrepreneurs.

Being in seminary and raising children was not particularly easy. One day, in the midst of a difficult time, Jessi asked me, “Mom? Why can’t you be a Mom like all the other Mom’s?” I found this humorous, although I didn’t laugh. You see for most of my daughter’s life I had been a massage therapist. I thought, “not exactly the kind of work the average mother does,” especially not then. And, well, it was also funny because the mother of Jessi’s best friend, Deanna, was a Jewish woman, who practiced Hinduism, and taught meditation for a living. Not your average mother either.

For many years my daughter and I forged a common bond around this Jewish friend. I too had a Jewish friend, Lisa, a rabbi in a suburb north of the seminary. One year Lisa created a women’s Seder and invited my daughter and me. We invited Deanna and her mother. The whole point of the women’s Seder was to tell the story from a woman’s perspective and celebrate the story intergenerationally, mother and daughter. The Seder was festive, filled with great food and lively song, games for the kids, and stories. I loved hearing the story of the Exodus told through the eyes of Miriam. I thought, surely she had a story to tell!

In some regard that Seder was my first venture into telling the story of our faith, using the historical texts, and re-visioning them from a woman’s perspective. I wondered what Mary, the mother of Jesus would say, if she could tell her story? Or Mary Magdalene? Or the wife of Peter? With a few exceptions the voices of women are lost in the written text. I hope the stories of our faith find a life in us as we ponder how we live as a people of faith.

It’s true, I often feel like I am a voice crying in the wilderness. Have you ever had that feeling? I struggle with the reality that we do not really hear women’s voices. Or if we do they are often judged in light of the male voices heard with them. Think of a job search. How many women have been one of two finalists, the other a man. And how often was the woman chosen? Sometimes, but not often. We hear, “She was good, but…” but what I wonder? I hear this all the time, in my own life, and the lives of other women.

How good do we need to be to live into our baptismal covenant? How good do we need to be to be heard above the other voices, to be judged worthy?

Even as we consider who we will elect as our next President of the United States I hear smart women colleagues say, “Well, I just don’t trust her…” And I wonder, do we really trust the male candidates? Have we ever thought about that? What does it mean to “trust” our politicians? Sure, I think they should be trustworthy. But, I think all politicians have mixed agenda’s. None of them are fully “trustworthy” by all the standards we each hold. Should we hold her to a different standard?

Last night, after I wrote the opening portion of this reflection, I read the local Sunday paper. In it I found an article about a woman who has created a new card game to counter the game, “Old Maid.” The article says, “Twenty-five years ago when Mary Grace Crowley-Koch was playing ‘Old Maid’ with her daughter, it dawned on her what a terrible message the popular game sent to young girls everywhere.”

“If you don’t get married, you become an Old Maid and are negated by society. That’s the message the game sends,’ Crowley asserted.” So. She created her own game, and after a long while managed to get the artwork done, the packaging done, and now is working on marketing the product. It’s called, “Me for President.” The game is played with the same rules as “Old Maid” where the players match and pair off their cards until they have none. However, unlike Old Maid, where the player who retains the Old Maid card loses, in this game the player who retains the card, “Me for President” wins.

The card game portrays women of all colors and cultures doing all kinds of jobs from Minister to Pilot to Ambassador, and of course, President. I think things like this are the beginning steps for shifting a culture with embedded presumptions that speak to us unconsciously. We are a culture that needs to remember John’s words, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor.” We need to change the very root of our presumptions, the ones that live silently in us, the ones we are blind too, and yet speak so loudly through our actions.

I don’t mean to diminish the fine male voices we have in our world. I merely want women to be given an equal shot at being really heard. I think the root of this bias is so deeply rooted, lives so unconsciously in our beings, that we are incapable of recognizing it. And, it’s not just sexism or racism, it’s also sexual orientationism, or weightism. We live in a world full of “isms;” our own brood of vipers. But if we hear the call of John, we are pointed in a new direction, toward Jesus. This pointing asks us to be very conscious of what is going on in us and around us. Don’t presume we know the one who is coming. We’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire! God has come to do a new thing.

PS: Crowley is marketing this game with the hope that people will use it as a fundraiser, like Girl Scout troops, schools, and non-profits. Crowley is a hospice chaplain and her company is the first to use this game as a fundraiser. I think I am going to order some decks of cards and offer them for sale on our table of gift ideas that include Bishops Blend Coffee and Heifer International. You can contact her by email at be-a-blessingatsbcglobaldotnet. (the phonic spelling is designed to ward of spammers who find ways to infiltrate blogs….)


Mother Laura said...

This is wonderful, Terri--thanks!

So glad this blog is starting up and looking forward to reading more. Not sure if it is an all-TEC project but if not I'd love to write a scripture reflection some week (or whatever) if there is ever a need.

mompriest said...

laura, I think you could offer us a wonderful reflection. It does get emailed out to a list serve as well, for those who don't blog. I'll let you know about a reflection in the season of Epiphany perhaps? We'll get a "schedule" soon.

Anima Sola said...

A very nicely written reflection with a lot to think about. Yes, we are voices in the wilderness -- and I think recognizing the longing and disconnectedness that sometimes feels like is part of the discernment that we are all called to as women of faith. Peace to you.

RevDrKate said...

I like the idea that the "isms" are our brood of vipers... challenges us all to take a closer look, we are not immune, and yet, we can be hopeful in "the new thing" and the new voices as well, who do have a unique perspective and story from their own wilderness places. Nice job on the reflection.

mompriest said...

anima, welcome - it was nice to meet you via this blog and to read yours. Thank you for your thoughts.

kate - I've been thinking a lot about our brood of vipers in this culture...where the poison comes from. oh, it can be so quiet but so fatal. glad you had a chance to stop by in the midst of your busy week.

mostly I think of this reflection as a work in progress. I am still working it out in me and struggle with both what it means to speak in a way as to be heard, and what it means to just not be heard. It happens in my life and the lives of women I care for and those I don't even know...