May 6, 2013: Unnamed Mothers

Posted on : May 9th, 2013 | By | Category: Still Speaking

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday in the Season of Easter.  It’s also Mother’s Day and the first anniversary of our coming into the United Church of Christ.  Put those three together and what do you get?  Strong women and men rising up to give birth to something fabulous!

The role of women – and guys who are treated like women in the scriptures – is remarkably sad.  Over and over again, women are often “unnamed.”  In both Matthew and Mark’s gospel, there is a wonderful story of a woman who comes to Jesus with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, which means it was very, very costly and she was obviously a very, very wealthy woman or she wouldn’t have had it.  She broke the flask and poured it over Jesus head.  She anointed Jesus, as in the words of the 23rd Psalm:  “God, you anoint my head with oil, my cup over flows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the presence (house) of God, forever.”  Only problem was, in the ancient world women didn’t anoint men unless the man was dead.  Somebody forgot to tell this strong woman about what she could and couldn’t do.  Oops.  She just crossed a gender line.

The disciples “caught this” immediately and some of the male-disciples were not happy!  They immediately replied, “This ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred thousand dollars, and the money could have ben given to the poor.”  And they reproached (rebuked) her.  But Jesus liked women – both those who were nurturers and those who were rule breakers.    He said, “Stop bullying her!  She has done a beautiful thing for me.  She has anointed my body beforehand for burying.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  [Mark 14:1-9]

What a beautiful story.  But sadly whoever this women was, her name got erased from history.  Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, wrote a magnificent book, “In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins” in which she tried to reconstruct these magnificent unnamed women who were disciples of Jesus.  It is nearly impossible to discover their names, but what is common in all these stories is wherever there is steadfast faith and wherever new life is about to be born, there is always one of these unnamed women present.

In this week’s “God is Sill Speaking devotional,” Quinn Caldwell who, with his husband, is one of two dads with their kids, writes about “giving birth.”  He tells the story of Wangari Maathai – a native mother of Kenya – who taught women how to transform their lives from poverty and death to prosperity and life.  He connects Wangari and the hopeless women of Africa who lived in abject poverty and the women who came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial with these words: “They thought they were burying Jesus when they put him in that desert tomb.  They thought he would stay in there forever.   But what they learned is what Wangari Maathai taught the women of the Green Belt Movement:  they weren’t burying Jesus that day; they were planting him.  And when he sprang up green and fresh, he took that dead, arid place and filled it with life.

I hope and pray we’re doing the same in our new garden home – the UCC.

Thank God for all the women – named and unnamed – who have given us the gift of life and helped plant us so that we might spring up green and fresh!

Amen and God Bless,

Dan

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