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"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christ The King, Last Pentecost

A reflection on Christ the King, Last Pentecost: Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1: 46-8;John 18: 33-37 by The Rev. Sarah Rogers

‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’ (John 18:36).

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Jesus is about to go to his death, hailed as King of the Jews, Pilate and Caiaphas have both disowned him. Only a penitent thief on the cross beside him will acknowledge his sovereignty.
When he comes in just a few weeks time as a baby, the manger will be ready, lined with soft hay waiting to receive him. He will be welcomed with carols and gifts. A humble birth in a stable.

But today we welcome him as King, but are we ready? How do we welcome our King? I am never quite sure, I find it difficult to conjure up a picture of Jesus reigning in heaven. The traditional picture we have of a monarch clothed in fine robes, seated on a magnificent throne, never quite fits – perhaps that is just a British view of a monarch. I find it difficult to reconcile that image with the image of Jesus on the cross. I think this poem sums things up:

King of my life, I crown thee now,
Thine shall the glory be.
Lest I forget thy thorn-crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary,
Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget thine agony,
Lest I forget thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.
(Jenny Evelyn Hussey).

I cannot separate the crucified God from the King, Jesus reigns from the cross. At this time of year our minds are often drawn towards those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Christmas is approaching, and this week America celebrates Thanksgiving, both are times when families gather together, to share a meal, to exchange gifts and just to spend time together. So many don’t have that, and so I am drawn back to Jesus, crucified. That image of the ultimate suffering, and all for our sake.

Jesus reigns here and now, he is to be found in the homeless, the poor, the sick, the bereaved, indeed all those whose suffering mirrors his own suffering on the cross.

Jesus cannot truly reign until there is no more sorrow or suffering. Although for those who rest in Christ the kingdom has come, for those of us here on earth, we must still work towards the kingdom. As we sit down with our families and friends and celebrate, we remember the struggles of those who have gone before us. Those who have fought and are still fighting for equality of all people, those who fought against slavery, those who won the right for women to vote, those who fight for all of the marginalised groups.

Being a Christian is not easy in today’s increasingly secular society, and yet Christianity persists and will continue to persist. It persists because the crucified God reigns, wherever there is suffering. So, the kingdom is come, Christ reigns through us, whoever we are, regardless of our gender, race, colour, ability. Christ reigns through us as we minister to him when and wherever we find him in those who are in distress and suffering.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Proper 28B

A reflection 1 Samuel 1:1-20 from the Propers for 28B by the Rev. Margaret Rose

As a feminist and practitioner of Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s hermeneutic of suspicion I read the Bible with a lens which often notes the absence of women. And when women are present and named I rejoice. Hannah’s well known story prompted me to name my older daughter Hannah, and through the years we often reminded her of this fact. We told the story of Hannah’s persistence, her desire, and especially of her song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, the prototype for Mary’s Magnificat. We reveled in the news of Samuel’s birth and of the answered prayer.

But until a few years ago when I was writing daily devotions for a month of Forward Day by Day, I had not paid much attention to what surrounded the text. My lens was just a bit too short sighted and I did not notice the other characters or even the social context.. I did not hear the loving words of Hannah’s husband Elkanah who says to Hannah in the agony of her barrenness, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad?” I did not take note of the text which tells us that Elkanah gives a double portion of the sacrifice to Hannah “because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.”

Filled with the pain of barrenness and the ridicule of a rival wife, Hannah is in misery. Steeped in the cultural norm which claims she is not worthy or whole unless she bears a son, she weeps and prays for deliverance. Her prayer is answered and we have remembered Hannah and Samuel through the ages.

But the real hero of the story is Elkanah, the husband whose words defy the very cultural norms that would exile Hannah from the social circle. Elkanah claims Hannah as whole and worthy, offering himself to her, proclaiming his care—in spite of what the culture might dictate. As I often lament the missing voices and history of women in the Biblical texts, here I want to lift up the courage of Elkanah, whose name is certainly not a household one, but whose actions were quite radical and without whom, the Biblical story would be quite different. I am grateful for Elkanah’s long ago witness and for the chance to tell his story.

In fact, I am thinking of starting the Elkanah Circle—good men who love women well and who have the strength to defy stereotypes and cultural norms to do so. This week I attended a panel discussion on Young Women and Violence hosted by the Wellesley Centers for Women. There were the horrifying statistics of young women raped and trafficked, the continued realization that domestic abuse is still rampant. We were reminded of the recent violence in Richmond, California on the grounds of a high school during a high school dance where a teenager was raped in full view of many. But the good news was the story of the number of men who are engaged in stopping this violence: 100 Black Men; Men Stopping Rape; and the groups of fathers and husbands and brothers who are engaged in changing the culture of bullying in schools and on playgrounds.

Elkanah-- and these men and so many others help me remember to use my glasses to see the whole picture-- to question my own assumptions, to look at all the characters of the story. Here of course, I have not dealt with the “rival wife”. And the Biblical scholars will surely remind me of much that I have neglected. But those questions are for other reflections. For now, thanksgiving goes to Elkanah for his respect, for his love and for his courage.

The Rev’d Margaret Rose
New York November 13, 2009