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, August 29, 2009

A reflection on the Propers for 17B

A reflection on the Song of Songs 2:8-13 by The Rev. Crystal Karr

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills. 

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice. 

My beloved speaks and says to me:

‘Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away; 

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtle-dove

is heard in our land. 

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

Song of Songs or Song of Solomon is quite unusual when compared to the rest of the books in the Bible. Not once is God mention, nor are there any references to Biblical tradition or religious celebrations, and it’s a bit racy. Song of Songs is the only book in which a woman takes the lead and we hear what she says without also hearing the voice of a man interpreting what we hear, there is no narrator to direct the story—it is simply a woman and her lover. It is a book of rebellion just as the story of these lovers also breaks away from the cultural norms of Israel.

How so? You ask. The woman speaks with brazen desire, this woman who is expected to patiently wait on and for her husband and obey him, does not wait, she demands, she calls and desires. Some have tried to label these poems as marriage poems, yet there is nothing to suggest that these two lovers are married. The encounters are brief and passionate, it seems that they must hide and meet in secret. No, there is little evidence that this is a safe situation in which the bonds of matrimony have been shared. I invite you to take the time read the rest of the poetry in the Song of Songs and embark on this sensual adventure alongside these young lovers.

So why is this sensuous book of love poetry contained within our Holy text? That has been a question for many for thousands of years. Some rabbis believed that it was included in the Hebrew writings because it must contain some special meaning about God. More commonly it has traditionally been interpreted to be an allegorical or symbolic story about God’s love for Israel and then Christians have interpreted it as Christ’s love for the church.

This love is passionate and moving, tangible, touchable and real. It can be dangerous, exciting and beautiful.

The woman calls out for her beloved, beckons him to come to her in his magnificence and glory. Her own physical beauty woos and courts him. God desires us, God yearns for us and calls out to us. God’s passion and desire to be in relationship with all of humanity was so great that God became one of us.

In the verses we’ve listened to today, the woman, like God, watches over her lover with joy and anticipation, admiring his beauty. She hears him calling to her, “Arise, my love, my fair one and come away.”

Do we listen when God calls for us, enticing us into relationship with the Divine? Do we hear God’s voice as a demanding, responding out of obligation? Or do we hear the sweet tones of God’s voice, whispering to us and respond as a lover who cannot move fast enough to reach out other half?

Let us respond to God with joy and rapture, embarking on a new and inspiring adventure. Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Reflection, a prayer

on the readings for Proper 16B: 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43 and Psalm 84 by The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski

God of joy - we give thanks for a song in our hearts -
Our souls long for You;
Our heart and our flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Happy are those who
live in your house, ever singing your praise.

Hear our prayer; give ear, O God!

Behold our shield, O God;
Guide us in times of trouble, through night of sorrow,
and days when deceit lives in our heart more than love,
and hate for the stranger, more than love.
Speak gently to your anointed ones, that we may hear.

Hear our prayer; give ear, O God!

Help us see the stranger, who comes because Your song
is in his heart and on her tongue, ringing through -
help us to hear, to see, to embrace You -
in him, in her, in you, even, in me -
with outstretched arms and mighty hands.

Hear our prayer; give ear, O God!

God of joy - we give thanks for a song in our hearts!

Crossposted at: RevGalsBlogPals

Friday, August 7, 2009

Proper 14B

Reflection for Proper 14 year B by The Rev. Camille Hegg

The Epistle this week is somewhat a continuation of the one last week. Paul gives some very specific lessons in how to behave as Christians…..One of the best phrases is “be angry, but do not sin, and then he enumerates how to be angry without sinning: to speak the truth in love, put away falsehood, give up the kind of talk that is actually tearing down the body rather than building it up. and speak words that give grace. We could go on and on.

I’m reminded of a saying, one of those catchy phrases that is succinct and so true and clever, too. “No matter how long you nurse a grudge, it never gets better.” Not letting the sun go down on anger is a good axiom, too. In the church people often forget Paul’s admonitions and encouraged, and his reminded in this passage, which is that we are to remember the Holy Spirit with which we are marked at baptism. He is also reminding us that forgiveness is the best, most graceful way to buildup the body, and is healing for the one who forgives as well as the one forgiven.

Paul has probably given all feminists trouble, but one can’t neglect that his encouragement and reminders do soothe us all when we try to practice them. In many churches, people carry grudges, sometimes not even realizing that they are doing so. Anger, and a disposition toward a way of life can make one bitter and suspicious, always looking for a villain. That’s no way to live into the day of redemption, or into the Kingdom which Jesus said is “now.”

So many people don’t know how to speak in love and forgiveness when they are angry and the stalling I see in most parishes I know much about come because people cana’t speak openly for fear of being blamed, or because they are afraid of their anger.

Paul is both making a plea and giving instructions for the smooth function of a group of Christians trying to live and grow and live into the Kingdom. We all know this. Sometimes a nice reminder helps.

I am also thinking about this passage in relation to the gospel. Jesus has fed the people and then teaches them that they are clamoring for the bread that he gave because he said “I am the bread of life.” He said ‘don’t complain among yourselves but listen to me because I am speaking eternal things.”

We have manners in these passages and promise of a richer life. And someone baked that bread that they distributed.

I have been quite a bread baker in my day. I once spent a week in New York City at a cooking school in a Master class for baking bread. One thing I learned, first, is that kneading is a gentle act, not intended to be rough or harsh, but gentle, firm, consistent. It can be very healing just to knead bread.

We started at 9 a.m. and left around 5 p.m. We baked three or four loaves of bread – all different kinds – each day. We baked some basics, some Italian, Swedish, Jewish, Russian, French, and more from around the world. Some were very dense and heavy, some light and airy and a variety of shapes. We spent a lot of time kneading, shaping, and learning even the chemistry and physics of what happens when the ingredients come together.

I stayed at the Community of the Holy Spirit on W 113th St. The culinary school is on E 23rd. I traveled to and from on the subway each day. Every afternoon I was loaded with my day’s work on the subway. The sisters were so glad to see me because we had a banquet of bread for all. .

Bread is a miracle. A few basic ingredients can make such a variety of bread.
. The feeding of those who were hungry when Jesus was teaching and who were fed physically and spiritually by him was a gracious miracle, and sustained them longer than just physical food.

A few basic ingredients can shape a parish of people and help them become graceful, forgiving people who delight in one another and in remembering the promises. We have a gift and a task – to be the people of Christ and to show forth through our lives and through putting away falsities, grievances and speaking to one another without blame and with care. thanking God for all God’s blessings.

The production of food, especially bread is an act of generosity and kindness. The feeding of people, physically and spiritually are also gifts of generosity and kindness. I suggest it is hard to carry anger when we set out to bake bread or prepare something else for someone, especially someone who has hurt us. To accept food from someone is also an act of generosity and kindness.

There is a beautiful article by Debbie Taylor from ‘Women: An Analysis” in “Women: A World Report.” I found just a part of it in the book In Celebration of Women by Helen Exley. Taylor describes in very poetic ways the new mornings of women around the world. She begins, “At dawn in the dry lands of Africa …,as one body the women rise, tie their scarves round their heads and their babies on their back… set sticks to burn under cooking pots, slop food for chickens and pigs, pile porridge in bowls, …..and as the sun rises they make their way to the land for the day.”

Another paragraph begins at dawn as Andean women awake. They tend the goats, heat beans, and then go to the fields. Sometimes it is the prayer call from the mosque that awakens them, sometimes it is a cock crowing, sometimes a baby, but always as dawn begins and the sun rises. .

The part that I know ends with this sentence concise sentence: “These women, who live in the world’s rural areas, are farmers in everything but name. And their labor produces half of the world’s food.”