Based on Titus 1:1-9

This morning, as I meditated on the first nine verses of Paul’s letter to Titus, I imagined what I might write, were Lady Wisdom gracious enough to bless my humble service:

We, free women of God, our Lady Wisdom, and sisters of Jesus Christ
For the sake of the faith of God’s ignored ones
For the recognition of Her eternal truth
In the hope of Her eternal love –
The love that God, our gracious Lady Wisdom who is always truthful, promised before time began
Who through all time reveals Her word, though it be not spoken or written
In the proclamation of which, lately, we women are entrusted
By the command of God, our Wisdom and our Savior
To all our sisters and brothers of faith
Grace and peace from God our Mother and Jesus Christ our brother.

For this reason we are hearing the words of our Mother
Wherever we are, wherever we worship
So that we might set right what needs to be corrected.

Those who serve our needs of faith
Those who worship with us
Need not be blameless
Need not be married only once
Need not have perfect children
Need not be men
But, to serve as Lady Wisdom’s stewards
Must not be arrogant
Nor overly irritable
Nor abusers of themselves or others
Nor aggressive
Nor greedy for their own gain and pleasure
Those who serve as stewards for our Lady Wisdom
Must be hospitable, lovers of goodness, temperate
Striving always for justice, for holiness, for self-control
And must try, to the best of their ability
To hold fast to the true message
Though it has become more ignored than taught
So that they will be able to see themselves clearly,
To admonish others charitably and truthfully,
And to rebuke and reject narrow-minded arrogance
In interpreting the word of Wisdom.

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Based on Luke 14: 15-24

Praying, I imagined myself dining with Jesus and I heard him say:
“Some will say,
‘Blessed is the one who consecrated the bread and wine in the Kingdom of God.’
But I tell you this:
God gave a great dinner to which She invited many.
But some priestly men stole many of the invitations
And secretly gave them to other men, only men,
whom they judged more worthy to be invited.
When the time for the dinner came,
God dispatched Her angel to say to those invited,
‘Come, everything is now ready.’
But one by one, the priestly men began to excuse themselves.
The first said to the messenger,
‘I have to hear confession and stay to free people from their sins;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have to raise money to build a better church so people can come watch me worship God;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have to say Mass to bring God to the people, and therefore I cannot come.’
And each woman said, ‘I did not receive my invitation,
But I would love to come.’
The angel went and reported this to God.
Then God in a rage commanded Her messenger,
‘Go out quickly into all the world
and bring in here the abused and the outcast, the ignored and the silenced.’
The angel reported, ‘Madam, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’
God then ordered the messenger,
‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and invite everyone to come in that my home may be filled.
For, I tell you, none of those pompous priestly men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”

Jael Remembers

Ah, I have lived too long. Better that I would sleep the long sleep beside my Heber. Because now again comes war and rumors of worse. Now again these descendants of one ancestor, all children of earth’s first man, fight over their father’s earth. And my daughter, my gentle daughter, weeps and prepares her household for war. They gather their flocks, their children, their servants close. The men sharpen their swords.

They encourage each other with stories of past victories. Joshua at Jericho and Ai, the sun standing still, southern and northern kingdoms conquered. They chant the names of 31 defeated kings. They tell of taking Jerusalem, of putting the city to the sword and setting it on fire. They tell of Shamgar, son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad and saved Israel. And they tell of me, they call me most blessed among women.

My mother called me headstrong. My father worried that no dowry would be large enough to entice a man to put up with my outspoken opinions, my brash ways. But my Heber wanted me, just as I was. He laughed and told me that he loved my strength, my intelligence, my courage and energy. How I loved him, my strong and gentle Heber. Our youngest daughter takes after him.

We lived for a time among my husband’s kin, descendants of Cain, whom the Israelites called a murderer. Among my husband’s kin Cain was not known as a murderer but as a wanderer, one who could not settle to raise crops or tend flocks. My Heber, he was the gentlest of men, but a true descendant of Cain. We laughed a lot, we worked a lot, we made a lot of children – and we moved a lot. Sometimes for better pasture for our flock, sometimes for cooler air, sometimes for better water sources.

Once, once we moved just to spend some time near a beautiful tree – a terebinth, grown tall and wide over time. There was a good stream nearby, flowing into the Kishon River, there were pastures for grazing, shade from the sun, and lots of room for our tents and our children.

But the land was restless again, with talk of a new war between Jaban, king of Canaan, and the Israelites, who wanted Canaan all for their own. These Israelites worship a strange god, a jealous god who wants only his own people in Canaan. So the Israelites don’t just conquer others, they slaughter them and drive them out. Still, they are not bad people, they can be generous, sharing what they have with widows, orphans, beggars and strangers. But their god is a jealous god and is easily angered.

One strange thing I remember from that strange time: the Israelites had no king. They had a strong general named Barak but their real leader was a woman named Deborah. She settled all their disputes and their god talked to her. My Heber would laugh and tell me that I would make a good Deborah.

I remember Sisera’s nine hundred chariots fitted with iron. Sisera was Jaban’s general, as Barak was Deborah’s. Sisera was a proud, cruel man, used to taking what he wanted, used to fighting, used to winning. Barak and Deborah came with 10,000 men to challenge him. Heber said they were crazy, driven on by their crazy god. They had 10,000 men but Sisera had Jaban’s army and those nine hundred chariots fitted with iron. That is what everyone talked of, those chariots. Who can win, they asked, against nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

Ha! Nine hundred chariots fitted with iron became nine hundred deathtraps when the Kishon overflowed its banks and flooded the battleground. The Israelites sing of that day: the day that Barak and Deborah’s army killed every one of Sisera’s men. I’m not sure that part is true, but it makes a good song.

We knew nothing of this at the time, although the battle was not far off. We were watchful. We kept the children and livestock close to the camp. We readied everything in case we had to flee quickly. But all we saw was one man, one filthy man, running, stumbling into our camp. He named himself Sisera, proud general still, and demanded that we care for him and hide him until his men rallied and came for him.

You don’t refuse a general who has nine hundred chariots fitted with iron. Our servants bathed him and cleaned his clothes. We prepared a meal for him and Heber and our sons. My daughters and I served the men, of course.

I watched Sisera watching our Hurriya. She was only 8 years old but his eyes were hungry as he watched her. He asked her name, he told her how pretty she was, he told her what a fine life she could have in Jaban’s court. Then he asked Heber about her dowry. I could see my Heber, I knew my Heber, he was ready to explode.

We were not poor but we were not rich either. We came from fine, respectable people, but we were not a noble family. If Hurriya went to Jaban’s court, it would be as a concubine, not as a wife. She would soon become little better than a slave. Maybe offered to favored soldiers. This is not what we wanted for any of our daughters, but especially not for Hurriya, our youngest.

But what of Sisera’s men? What of those nine hundred chariots fitted with iron? I imagined those chariots storming up just as my husband and sons challenged Sisera. They would all be slaughtered and then my daughters and I, we would be worse than concubines.

I caught Heber’s eye and slowly, with just the smallest movement, shook my head. And I smiled. And Heber knew. He knew he could leave it to me.

The rest you know, the rest they still sing of. The invitation for Sisera to hide in my tent while I stood guard. The spiced – and drugged – drink. The hammer. The tent peg I pounded into his temple as he slept his drugged sleep in my bed.

I was ready, the next morning, ready to take the blame. To be the only one to take the blame. Better leave my family without a mother than without a father.

But those fabled iron-clad chariots never came. Mud, it turns out, defeats iron-clad chariots rather easily. Sisera’s men never came. Barak came. And Deborah. When they saw what I had done, they honored me. And Barak said with wonder, “It is as Deborah foretold. Sisera met his fate at the hands of a woman.”

We have lived among them for forty years now. My daughters married their sons. My grandchildren worship their jealous god. I myself am still honored, though I was just a mother, protecting her child.

And now I will face this new war with that child and her family. When they ask I will tell my story. I will listen to their songs. I will listen to the song that tells of my part; the song that ends, “So may all your enemies perish, YAHWEH! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” I am Jael, and I remember.

Based on Mark 12: 28b-34

I imagine myself, a poor woman who likes to write, asking Jesus,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
And Jesus replying, “The first is this:
Hear, O daughters of Israel!
YHWH, our God, the sovereign Lady Wisdom, is the only God.
You shall love the Lady Wisdom, our God, with all your heart,
With all your soul,
With all your mind,
And with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor,
Of whatever sex, race, color, creed, origin or lifestyle,
You shall love your neighbor,
Even though your neighbor hate you and harm you,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment, no Canon Law, no hierarchy, no Pope
Greater than these.”

And what do I say to Jesus?
Can I echo the scribe of old,
“Well said, teacher. You are right in saying,
‘She is One and there is no other than She.’
And ‘to love Her with all my heart,
With all my understanding,
With all my strength,
And to love my neighbor as myself’
Is worth more than all offices and honors,
Worth more than all priests and deacons,
Worth more than all churches and liturgies.”

Would Jesus think my understanding true?
Would Jesus think my imaginings not far from the kingdom of God?

Could I then rest from questioning, from doubting, from anger?

Re-Membering

To re-member
within my own selfness
requires first dismemberment
of those members of others
that are dangerous to my own-ness.

Not to dismember from others
risks my own dismemberment.

(Sometimes our electronics
are smarter than we know:
When I type “own-ness”
Autocorrect changes it to
man-made.)

I don’t want to re-member
unless, like Proust, I can find
my lost own-ness
(not man-made)
that was me before membering
in family, church, school,
work, couple, culture…

Who was am will be I?

Can I member my own-ness?
Can I unmember enough
to remember my divinity?

Based on Luke 14: 7-11

To Roman Catholic priests:

You choose the places of honor everywhere
As if honor is always your due
But you will discover that it is the rejected, the outcast
And those you abused in body and soul
Who have the place of honor
At the banquet of the Lamb.
At that banquet, the Hostess will say to you,
“You must yield your place to these more distinguished guests. You were not invited to My banquet to be honored but to serve.”
And then you will proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place of service.

For God will humble your priestly hierarchy,
But the ones you humbled, abused, excluded,
She will exalt.