Hannah, A Black Madonna And Elizabeth :Feast of the Visitation: 2018

Let us pray:

Blessed God,
who danced in our hearts,
filling us with the knowledge of your presence:
let your proclamation sing forth from us
as it sang from the lips of Hannah and Elizabeth,
announcing the coming of your promise
and the fulfillment of your desire. Amen.

This morning,I looked at the Vanderbilt University Lectionary Page to see what Sunday’s readings are so to prepare myself. {If there are weird  place or persons’ names, I like to know ahead of time .} Thursday is the Visitation of The Blessed Mother.  The Lectionary Page also has links to artwork that illustrates the readings. The one that caught my eye is posted here:

The Visitation - Mary and Elizabeth meet - Luke 1:39-45

I like this piece of art because I imagine that both Mary and Elizabeth were NOT white women. It bothers me how often western Christianity ” white-washes” Bible images; so I make a point to seek out images that show the people as they probably appeared.

Both the Magnificat and the  Song of Hannah  {found in 1 Samuel Chapter Two} have parallel themes. But praise a God Who is on the side of the weak and oppressed. Hannah’s song, however, is more focused on God’s Judgement  than Mary’s song of pure praise.  Both women sing a song of praise to their God, but  Mary’s song reminds us that she is the Chosen on  yet remains a humble servant-girl.

Hannah’s song praises God’s power and God’s ability to judge the people. Check this out:

2:1 Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

2:2 “There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

2:3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

2:4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.

2:5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.”

Now compare these words to The Blessed Mother’s words found in today’s Gospel. Rather than a God full of judgement, Mary sings of a God Who is fulfilling God’s Promises ; through her, to bring the world a Savior:

1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

2:6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up

This is one of my favorite stories— along with the Gospel reading designated for Sunday. Both of these stories tell us about two faithful Jewish women who recognize that our God is a God Who does long to be in relationship with us.   I am also reminded that Hannah’s baby , Samuel, rose to be a great leader in his community. Like Mary— Hannah’s son will alter the course of human history.

Although Hannah was ” too old” to conceive and bear a child; nothing is impossible if it is part of God’s Plan. Hannah’s story also reminds me that there are many ways in which we women can ” bear fruit”— we just need to trust that God will show us what we are to do to fulfil God’s Purpose.

Mary’s song and story remind us that we are also called to be servants– and to have a humble heart– giving glory to God for everything in life.

Hannah’s song is one of thanksgiving for answered prayers. Her story reminds me that God answers prayers in God’s own time.

Yet I also wonder if both these songs can be looked at through the eyes of an oppressed people yearning to be free and equal ?  Both songs praise a God who turns the tables on the rich and powerful… feeding the hungry, and toppling the thrones of the ruling elite. This is why the image of a Black Madonna running towards a Black Elizabeth warms my soul and stirs  my curiosity. Are both these women , heroines in our faith tradition, speaking a prophetic message to we 21st century Christians?

Were these songs recorded as a message of hope to oppressed people throughout human history?

Hmmmmm.

 

In the Name of the Triune God

Amen.

Feast Of The Visitation 2018

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The Divine ” Mother”

Well, Mother’s Day Weekend is almost here. As much as I think this is a ” Hallmark Holiday” , I am grateful. I am blessed to still have my own Mom with me and I am blessed to know many women who nurture in ways that reflect the Divine Mother that is inherent in Creation.

Now I do not think that God has a gender. But if God somehow does  have a gender I think She would be feminine.

Here is a quote by my favorite Christian mystic , Dame Julian of Norwich:

This fair lovely word “mother” is so sweet and so kind in itself that it cannot truly be said of anyone or to anyone except of him and to him who is the true Mother of life and of all things. To the property of motherhood belong nature, love, wisdom and knowledge, and this is God.”
~ Julian of Norwich – Long Text of Showings 60.

I know the notion of a Divine Feminine scares many Christians, and some may even think that anyone who dares even entertain the idea of a Divine Feminine is a heretic.

God is in NATURE

God is in LOVE of others.

God is WISDOM { Sophia}

God is KNOWN. 

Honestly, I have no problem with the traditional male pronouns that usually reference God. After all, when Scripture was written and canonized, women were still seen as ” property” {UGH UGH UGH} of their fathers or husbands. So of course any pronoun that referenced The Divine had to , by default be male. 

But since Scripture is a living document of a living faith tradition, perhaps it is not such a stretch to entertain the notion of ” Mother God”.

After all, we personalize our planet as ” Mother Earth”, so why not ascribe the same gender to the I AM ? 

Why are we, in the 21st century, so afraid of feminine power?

In the name of God the Creator, Redeemer , and Sustainer.

 

Amen.

 

True ” Wireless Connection” in Nature

“I have a lot of  Celtic heritage, so it only makes sense that I find peace in Nature.

As a matter of fact, daily time in Nature is necessary for my mental health.

In our increasingly ” wired” society we often lack a true connection with our humanity. I reboot myself by connecting to Nature.

For me, there is no better ” wireless connection”, like the one I find in God’s Creation. If I feel doubtful of any existence of God, a walk outside will instantly re-connect me to the Divine.

If I miss my daily walk outside, I become exceedingly grumpy.  One of the perks of Florida life is that it is possible to spend the majority of time each year out-of-doors. DSC_0177

In Barbara Brown Taylor’s book _An Altar in the World_ one of the practices she suggests is to take time to ” ground” oneself in the Earth. Take off socks and shoes, and walk around barefoot– even for a few minutes. { the neighbors who see one doing this might think one is insane but who really cares what the neighbors think?}

If you are blessed to find yourself near a natural body of water take off your footwear and wade into the water. Take time to feel the water ‘s temperature against your skin. Sink your toes into the bottom of the water— be it sand, clay or rock. Take time to really feel the water lapping against your ankles. Breathe the fresh air. Listen to the sounds of the other animal life around you.

I am blessed to live near some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth. Best Dude and I make a practice to spend about an hour or so walking along the many shorelines around Pensacola. One of our favorite spots in Fort Pickens National Seashore. We were there just recently and I was again reminded of the affinity I possess for Nature.

We walk” the wall” around the old Civil War fort and we get to see the view from three sides of the island.  We’ll start near the fishing pier where the local Blue Heron waits patiently for someone to throw out unused bait.

DSC_0020 (2)

We then cross over to the pass, where Santa Rosa Sound meets the Gulf Of Mexico. We see tide pools that are full of bait fish, thorny holly bushes  that are filled with bright red berries in the springtime.

The next leg of our walk on ” the wall” involves climbing a hill— as someone born and raised in Appalachia hill-climbing comes easily for me. However, my Best Dude has the Florida Flatlander’s unsteady hill feet!  Wildflowers cover the incline as we cross what passes for a hill in Florida

Fort Pickens is one of many sacred ” altars in the world” near my home. Such places remind me that there is a wireless connection available to we humans that never needs to buffer.

Eastertide 2018

Feast of Harriet Starr Cannon.

 

Diva Statements and Becoming a Butterfly

 

 

hands

Each April the women of St Christopher’s Episcopal Church in  Pensacola are invited for a weekend retreat at Beckwith Camp and Conference Center. The theme of this year’s Women’s Retreat was Transitions to Transform.

From Friday evening until Sunday morning 80 women from my parish deepened existing relationships  and formed new connections as we prayed, played  and shared stories along the serene shores of Weeks’ Bay.

For me, one of the most powerful, memorable event the retreat was when we { all 80 of us in attendance}placed our hands on the altar in the chapel and blessed our Diva Statement Bracelets.

Our Diva Statements are words or phrases that we created to remind us of our strength as women. Most of us stamped our word or phrase onto a metal washer which is tied to a cord to wear around our wrists.

My Diva Statement is : I am a butterfly. 

My word that I stamped onto my bracelet is simply : BUTTERFLY. 

Why, you ask? Let me try to explain.

My life has not taken the trajectory that I’d hoped for growing up in a happy, middle-class family. My plan from childhood through high school was to grow up—  graduate college within the usual four-year plan have a successful career, get married and have two or three children.

To say the least, my adult life has not unfolded in that order.

All the ” milestones” of life that most women hit occurred at an older age or not at all . Health problems left me unable to bear children; and it took me seven years to finish college. I met my soul-mate when I was in my 30’s and didn’t marry him until I was nearly 40 years old.

My early years were that of a caterpillar, slow-moving and steady. In contrast , my 20’s and early 30’s were like a chrysalis: stuffed in an uncomfortable place while undergoing a transformation.

I made many mistakes in my life so far, but I regret nothing. Instead I look at the bad choices I made in my lifetime thus far as lessons learned. Bad choices and consequences thereof have built character, and I am much wiser than had my earlier life’s choices been good.

I am not the same person I was even five years ago; and for this transformation I give thanks to God.

My heart has been broken into smithereens and I once promised myself that I could never allow myself the vulnerability required to love again. In hindsight I see that God did have a soul-mate planned for me, and if I’d married earlier I’d not have met and married my spouse.

My health has gone through some trials– but being ill has made me grateful for what my body can do at the age of ‘ over 40″. Although I am unable to bear children from my womb, God  is continuing to show me that the word ” mother” is a wide umbrella term that encompasses so much more than those who either bear or adopt children. At mid-life, I am finally learning to love myself God made me.

Transitions are part of life on Earth and no two persons ever transition at the exact same time or in the same way.

Just like the butterfly, I’ve had to go through metamorphosis to become the woman who God intends for me to be Some stages were slow-going, messy and painful.  Yet without these experiences, I know I would not be the woman I am today.  At mid-life I am finally able to fly confidently as a beloved  creature of God .

I am a butterfly.

 

Eastertide, 2018