On Believing Women

Luke 24v11

The story appeared to them to be nonsense, and they would not believe them.

jacarandas

So… seems like women have to jump through some hoops to be believed in some situations. (I’m referring to some of the awful responses to women who have come forward with stories that expose, often high profile men, in the #metoo and other circumstances.)

As I went to sleep a bit worked up by this last night I was reminded that is not a pattern that the Bible sets out for us.

Two women sprang to my mind – One from the Old Testament and another from the New. Women who may have easily been dismissed with the unbelievable message they were given. Women who prove to me that God believes women, God entrusts himself to women and God expects men (and others!) to believe women.

Step up Rahab – what a woman!

She is mentioned in Hebrews 11 the chapter of the the faith greats. She is a gentile so pretty much expressly off limits for the Israelites in terms of marriage material. She is a prostitute… also not winning her any points. And yet! She is also named in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1) and she plays a key role in the battle of Jericho.

Spies are sent into the land to get a sense of what may be in store. They come back with their proverbial tails between their legs – ‘the land is great, but it’s too hard to conquer’ is essentially the feedback they give.

Two spies return with great news. This land is ours to take. They’ve spent the evening in the company of an intelligent, gentile woman who has protected them, reminded them of their past and their faith in God, prophetically declared what will happen, she has encouraged them, strategised with them and they have made her a promise, ‘Our lives for yours.’ (Which they follow through on).

Contextually, Rahab lived in Jericho, the most important Canaanite fortress city in the Jordan Valley, a stronghold in the path of the advancing Israelites. She practises prostitution in a key place of idol worship to Ashtaroth, goddess of the moon. Being one of the vilest and most degrading of the Canaanite religions (it could include child sacrifice and sex acts).

She owns a home in the city walls ‘entertaining’ travellers, being well versed in the history of Israel from the men she has met. Familiar to the king of Jericho, she is called on for information pertaining to the Israelite spies who have entered the city. She chooses to mislead them, hiding the spies. Rahab also provides advice, ensuring their continued safety after they have left her home. At the time her actions would have been viewed as treason with punishment including eye gouging, tongue and hand removal, public humiliation and stoning. Rahab’s overwhelming trust in the God of the Israelites, and her accompanying actions, leave no doubt of the justification of her title as one of the faith heroes.

The message Rahab gave the spies was an unbelievable one, but they believed her. They didn’t try to take advantage of her or dismiss her because of her questionable character. They spent an evening with a prostitute and no-one felt entitled to take anything from her physically. They saw a person who was intelligent, quick thinking, who had much to lose by speaking truth to them, and they believed her. Equally, God entrusted Rahab and Jesus has her named as one of his ancestors. The writer of Hebrews recognises her faith and courage. This is what it looks like to #believewomen and this is our example to follow.

This story could have played out so differently, and sadly I think in many spaces it still would – the foreigner, the woman, the reputation – none of these are unscalable walls to God. May they not be for me.

Woman two – Mary Magdalene.

Mary of all people is perhaps given the most impossible of messages. Standing as we do on this side of Easter it is easy for us to forget that the disciples had no framework for their Messiah to be crucified and no inkling that he would be resurrected. When they heard ‘it is finished‘ it had no wonderful ring to it. It was a funeral bell tolling for all they had believed.

In first century Judaism the testimony of a woman was not permissible in a court of law. So we have a grieving woman, bravely entering a garden as night turns to light only to be delivered the most exceptionally unexpected news and then commissioned to go and tell the others.

Mary is the first apostle. God doesn’t care if her testimony will hold up in a court of law. Jesus is not worried about the fact he is giving his message to a woman, that he is commissioning her before anyone else. Mary is the first choice! Jesus expects his followers to believe her. Mary has been right in the circle of Jesus friends, she is at the cross (most of the blokes had scarpered) and she is named in all the Gospel accounts as the first to encounter the risen one. This commission is given first to a woman, and subversively underscores something of the nature of salvation and mission. “John regarded the apostolic testimony of a woman as valid, effective and approved by Jesus.”[1]

Mary clearly went and told the news. She raised her voice, she declared truth that some were unwilling to receive. Perhaps they put it down to ’emotionalism’ or a ‘fragile mental state’ or something else. I’m glad that didn’t stop her. If this woman Mary could speak truth then I can do the same. If Jesus trusted her and she was bold and courageous maybe this might be true for me too.

The Bible clearly shows us, on more than these two occasions, that God believes women and sees them as valid agents of participating with and declaring what is and will be. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians were more like this too?

Here’s my morning reflections as I sat with these thoughts and the wonder of the women at the empty tomb:

It doesn’t look good for the credibility of the story when a woman, whose testimony does not count, is the bearer of the news

…. but God operates beyond our accepted systems.

It’s hard to deliver news that appears to be nonsense when you don’t have a framework for a crucified or resurrected Messiah

… but God is not limited to all we have understood thus far.

God is…

reframing our perceptions

reestablishing Eden

recalling the lowly to honour

repositioning the honoured to kneel

reordering relationships

exposing our prejudices

entrusting the message to the unexpected

expecting the faithful to respond with humility, faith and joy.

May we not forget that the most unexpected Good News may be delivered to us by the most unlikely of candidates.

Are we listening? or, will we miss out and remain wandering in the desert of our unbelief and prejudice, barred by our smallness and deaf ears from the welcoming voice of the promised land?

Be blessed and be courageous. May we champion all those who choose to speak the truth when their voice shakes and they have much to lose.

MJ x

 

[1] Schneiders, Sandra Marie. Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Crossroad Pub, 2003.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Room

I was asked to give a talk on the value of creativity recently. I finished it with this poem.

May we all take up the room!

stars

THE ROOM

we stand here on the edge of a room

this room, our lives

we observe the players

moving across the floor

admire their skills

the grace with which they carry themselves

their confidence

 

but this room is our life

this one wild life we have been given

with such generosity

 

to stand in the world at this time

on this whenua

with these skills

with this voice that might ring out and make its story heard

 

are you hanging out at the edges?

convincing yourself to shrink so no-one will notice what you lack

allowing the brilliance of others to loom large

overshadowing your horizon

 

throw off the cloak of small surrender

and waddle like the toddler you know yourself to be

stand

in the centre of your life

and sing

or dance

or build your sandcastle

 

will you fall and fail?

or hit a wrong note

or find you can only create something imperfect?

 

yes, you will

 

you will be weaker than you’d like to be

disappointed in the gap

but you will be growing steadily into

skills that will one day inspire others

 

every child must crawl, or bum shuffle, or commando their own way to walking with confidence

so it is with us

 

if we are to be more than outputs measured by economic scales

if we are to tell the story we would like to tell

let us start today

with one small thing that brings us joy

 

apologising not

for taking up space in this life

 

may we hold life with wonder

do our thing with bravery

 

let us be curious,

let us be joyful,

let us be courageously creative in a world that invites us only to small perfections

 

let us take up space

let us own

the room

miriam jessie

x

The Beatitudes

Heya,

This is a poem I wrote recently as I reflected on the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 4:23-5:12. I hope these words wrap you in encouragement wherever you are.

Miriam Jessie x

 

it is a strange invitation

divine and dusty

a call to be biggest

most invested

brightest

in the secret space

to pour silently, intentionally

into what will not be seen

 

when all the world is building followers

promoting best-sellers

building platforms – virtual & physical

 

a long-ago man sits

on a quiet hillside

no stadium, or microphone, or publishing deal

and tells his friends

the real secret to

blessing

joy

abundance

 

it sounds like downwardness

empty self

to be filled up – undeserved

 

it sounds like letting go

when inside and out chorus

“hold tight

no.1

self-promote”

 

it sounds like surrendering

glamour

gold

desire

 

embracing imperfect contentment

striving no more

standing open hand & heart

before persecution

& embracing an enemy with a knife in his hand

 

How can this appeal?

yet, on his lips

this man of dust and divine

I am considering it

excited even

at the prospect

of throwing it all away

the

important, image, ideology

& finding myself

 

home

fulfilled

content

 

in the company of the scarred

the overlooked

the locust-eaters

and perfume pourers

 

the depressed prophets

& righteous afflicted

the children

& the poor

 

What can they possibly offer someone like me?

 

I think perhaps

they are the shining stars

whose legacy

becomes my powhiri

 

“come, we have space for you too”

 

and a nail-scarred hand,

to match a body that did not grasp

deserved glory

enfolds mine

leads me gently

says to me

“come

 

here, amidst the mess & pain

& disappointment, & affliction

here is the

very throne room

here

is kingdom come.”

 

The Mother Heart of God

It can feel like a slippery fish to start using the term mother for ‘Abba’ God. Yet I am reminded today that the mother heart has its source in the same place as the father heart.

Our words are so limited.

Today I am reflecting on the joy and beauty of the mother’s love for us that exists. These are my reflections.

575ba-jn14embraceandhandsw

Anchor Me

The mother’s heart caterwauls loud within

My child

            notice

            see

            love

            include

 

Now I am a mother I can well appreciate

that ‘dreadful’ mother who approached Jesus

to petition for a place of honour for her sons

 

It is woven into the fabric of my life

this constant temptation

to promote

inflate

favour

 

the overwhelming desire, my constant companion,

for others to see

and notice

and love this child who keeps my wild heart in rhythm

 

What truly astounds me though is to think of you God

the mother heart that is from before beginning

            the mother heart from whom all other mother hearts were fashioned

the fierceness of that love

the depth of that knowing and noticing

the wildness of that advocacy

… now aimed at me, in all my splendid imperfection

 

To think I could be loved, as a daughter

by the very one

who longs to gather

whose name is comfort

who lives to intercede on my behalf

 

How well I know the very real need I have for intercession

yet,

just for a moment

 

Let me wiggle my toes deep

into the wet sand of being loved by you

so deep

I am anchored against the waves

so deep

that every sense knows

I am secure in an eternal mother’s love

 

though I may never comprehend its width

or plumb its depths

 

I am, in all my smallness

able to grasp its beauty, just a little

by knowing my own capacity

for mother’s love.

 

Blessings and love

x Miriam x

Resurrection Sunday

It is the day

for earthquakes that

remove stones that

contained the dead

 

It is the day

to hear the words

Why look for the living

among the dead?

 

The day when angels speak

and mortals quake in silence

shedding their mortality

unlocked and free

 

It is the day to hear your name

on the lips

of the

Resurrected Saviour

 

A day to be embraced

but not to cling

clinging is for the ones

who have something to lose

 

Today is the day

when what is poured out can no longer

be contained:

to time

to location

to a people group

to a gender

to an age

 

Today good news for all people breaks in and announces:

HE IS RISEN

rose stained glass

May your Easter Sunday be filled with joy that cannot be contained, life that knows no limits, the embrace of the One who died to set you free. Miriam x

Holy Week

These are my current musings as I journey Easter-ward.

May it bless you, may you find yourself accompanied on the way toward the narrative of difficulty, death, vigil and resurrection. May you have courage at every part of the journey to wait, to see, to understand and to continue on.

Bless you – wherever you are along the way.

Lords prayer forgiveness

This Week

This is a week to kneel in Gethsemane’s garden

to feel the gravel push hard into thin knee flesh

 

It is a week for letting go

for sweating blood and crying tears

fear

surrender

mercy

 

It is a week to show grace to friends who could not stay awake for us

A week for others to misunderstand the gravity of what we face

 

A week to acknowledge

the heart wants to run

the flesh is weak

the journey may be intensely lonely, despite the thronging crowds

 

It is a day to kneel as light turns to night

to feel the touch of cold hard wind on skin

to long to stay eternally in this moment because the way ahead is dark and dreadful

 

It is a night to remember the One who knelt for me

that I may remember I shall never kneel alone

there is no pit so deep his love is not deeper still*

no chasm so wide he will not cross to make a way for me to come

This is Gethsemane’s week

 *Corrie Ten Boom coined this phrase

 

Christmas Prayer

Hey Lovelies,

I spoke at our church Advent service on Sunday night and I closed with this prayer. May it be a prayer for you this season too.

May we each of us be carried with care and love through this season.

x

stars

God we stand at the edge of this season of wonder. All around us there are noisy carols playing, and family expectations, and things that demand our attention.

Jesus some of us feel as though we have been in the desert for a long time and we’re beginning to wonder if that star has made us a false promise. We’re tired, we’re disappointed, maybe we’re even angry and fearful. Remind us God that we are called to a stable not a palace. Remind us God that we are welcome however far we feel from you tonight.

Holy Spirit – would you breath on us tonight. Would you help us to lay down the burdens we have and hear your voice encouraging us in. For those of us who are stuck in the palace would you give us courage to leave and seek the real king.

In this moment God we hold someone we love before you who seems far away, maybe we even hold ourself as someone far away and we carry them in our heart with us to the stable.

God would you give us back a Christmas of wonder? Would you forgive us for forgetting and make our memories bright with all that you are.

God we give you permission to surprise us again. Help us receive you and love you this Christmas.

For you Jesus are our greatest gift.

 

The Table of Hope

This past week been I was asked to lead communion. During the week I decided I would write a poem… As I wrote I looked at this moving piece of art by Joey Velasco.

Writing is a re-emerging creative place for me, something that is shifting in its style and subject matter and I am trying to let it shift me, not to over-analyse or hold too tight a reign on it.

I share it here.

rose stained glass

Table of Hope

We come sometimes to the communion table, head bowed.

Ashamed.

 

Certain that every other saint in the room has lived a good life this week,

has spent time in prayer,

has behaved in holy ways.

 

We creep to the table like a starving, homeless child

Certain that we could not be welcomed

 

We come to the table aware of our own shortcomings,

Entirely unsure that we could have the courage to look Jesus in the eye as he says,

This is my body broken for you

This is my blood poured out for you

 

We are quite aware that our sin is vast

That we require rescuing

 

What we forget, is that the communion table beckons us to a wider table

A longer table

A table lavishly set for feasting.

 

This communion table is a table of Hope

An invitation

A portal into a life lived in lavish communion,

In wild feasting

With the one who made the table

 

Our saviour is a carpenter too –

Sometimes I think of him making chairs of every shape and size

And engraving our names,

my name

your name

on the back of one

 

The table we come to this morning is vast

It stretches out through space and time

Across geography

This eternal table

Invites us to a love that is impossibly wide

As is the love of God

 

A love we cannot measure

A love we cannot fathom

 

A love that directs us to a table of feasting

Where there is a chair with our name on it.

 

Let us come to this table reminded of the invitation extended to us all

To be loved with the

Vast

Wide

Never-ending

Love of Jesus.

 

Be blessed dear friends xxx