Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bible Sisters Book Review & Give-Away

I have a book to give away!! If you would like to win a copy of Bible Sisters, please comment on my FB thread about this review. On May 21, I will draw one of the comments out of a hat and send you the book!

This is a 365 day book of devotions. Each day features a different woman of the Bible, named and unnamed. Each devotion begins with the chapter and verse from where that woman is mentioned. The devotional writing is less then a half page, bringing the concerns of contemporary women into conversation with the woman mentioned in the Scripture. After the devotion, a simple prayer closes the daily practice.

I believe this book would be especially fruitful to use alongside my CEB Women's Bible. It would be edifying to look up the scripture each day and read a bit more of the story surrounding each woman. Also, the index in the back of Bible Sisters could be a great resource for locating the different women in scripture.

I finally dog-eared the pages at the end of each month to keep my daily spot more obvious. I really wish it had dates, since there is no reason to start in a particular place (unless I missed an over-arching reading plan, which is possible). My mom has laid claim to my copy, so I know the dog ears will drive her bananas - score!

If you don't win, or are too impatient to wait to see if you win, you can order the book through Amazon, or other sellers.

This is the official information on the author: The Rev. Dr. Gennifer Benjamin Brooks—the author—is the Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Preaching and the director of the Styberg Preaching Institute at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. In both her teaching and her pastorate as an ordained elder in the New York Conference of The United Methodist Church, she is committed to supporting women and speaking out in support of their rightful place in the realm of God and in the church.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Women Rising

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus has long been an advocate for justice and a change agent in the Episcopal Church, standing firmly at the nexus of sexism, misogyny, racism, ageism, and heterosexism in the church. It formed in 1971 as a caucus, not a committee or task force, making explicit its founders’ intention to be a politically potent agent in the polity of the church.

The Caucus’ advocacy initially focused on advocating for women’s ordination and the full inclusion of women in the governance and ministries of Church life. The Caucus’ focus on gender equality not only raised the Church’s awareness of adverse practices that enable sexism and other power inequities, it also worked with other social justice advocacy groups to help the church understand the interlocking nature of oppressions. The Caucus works under the umbrella of The Consultation, which also includes Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Advocates, Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission, Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Urban Caucus, Integrity, TransEpiscopal, and the Union of Black Episcopalians. These groups joined forces to advance an agenda of social justice based in the baptismal imperatives of seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. 

The Caucus understands that politics is simply the way humans organize to get things done. From its beginning it has helped members learn how to be effective workers within the polity of the Church. From helping members be effective deputies to General Convention by understanding convention protocol and Robert’s Rules of Order to initiating resolutions and organizing people to testify effectively before committees and on the floor of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, the Caucus has worked to shape people and policies in the church. The Caucus effectively organized and helped pass the resolution granting women ordination to all orders in The Episcopal Church. In the decades that have followed the Caucus has worked on justice issues from racism to the rights of the LGBTQI community.

On June 22-23 the Caucus is convening “Women Rising” in Dallas, Texas to honor our history and to plan our future. The gathering will consider the deep seated ways sexism and misogyny are being revealed in our world today, how we can become more aware of how these reside in each of us, and how we can work within the Church and society to overcome this. We will develop tools that invite us to deeper awareness of ourselves and increase our capacity to be supportive of others. We will create plans of action and ways to implement those plans, both at General Convention 2018 and in our home dioceses and parishes.

For more information and to register to attend please go to the Episcopal Women’s Caucus website:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Be Beloved

            “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  That Jesus – what a kidder – no pressure folks!  Be perfect – doesn’t he know that some of us kill ourselves everyday trying to be perfect?  And these are the ways he tells us to do it? 
            This reading only comes up occasionally but is very central to who we are as Christians, right?  Seems out of proportion – like we should hear it more often.  And when we do hear it do we completely understand it?  Yet we quote it often enough – “turn the other cheek” “give your cloak as well” “go the extra mile”  - sounds all pretty and simple doesn’t it?  Let’s look closer.
            There is a biblical scholar, Walter Wink, who has done a great amount of work on this passage.  His exegesis is extraordinary at showing exactly what’s at stake in these relatively simple-sounding sayings.  It’s amazing how he explains it – I will attempt to explain it here, but you can google his paper – or look on Facebook at the Text This Week page for a link – it’s really fascinating!
            “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” is actually A LOT more specific than how we have generalized it to “turn the other cheek” – the only way for someone to strike you on the right cheek in those days was with a right-handed backhand.  Your left hand was considered dirty, contaminated, unclean – it was used for personal bidness – not for any sort of social interaction.  A backhand was considered the most humiliating sort of slap and could only be used for servants, slaves, those less than you.  A slug was for equals – an open-handed slap was an insult of sorts.  A back-handed slap was to remind the other of their place – remind them that they were less then human.  By turning the other cheek, with the left hand being rendered unclean, that would force the slapper to either an open-handed slap or a slug – either of which equalized the people.  No longer slave or free… sounds familiar?
            “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well” – this suit would be to pay a financial debt – usually to pay unfair taxation.  Nakedness was a huge humiliation – but Wink paints the picture of being summoned to court and forced to give up your coat.  You only wear two garments – no undergarments – Jesus says give it all up and walk out naked and free!  Can you imagine the shock?  Maybe the suer would try to force your garments back on you – who is ultimately shamed? 
            “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second” takes on another layer of meaning  - the Greek words used in this point to the Roman Army’s privilege of being able to compel ordinary citizens to carry their military packs.  The packs could be 40-60 pounds and you were obligated to carry it a mile.  However, the soldiers would get into serious trouble for making you carry it more than a mile – there was a limit to the amount of forced labor you had to endure.  There were mile markers on every road.  Imagine the soldier following you, when you continue past that mile larker and head to the next… all of a sudden, he’s facing a flogging for breaking the military law.  He’s at your mercy to give up his pack.
            The Leviticus reading today was about recognizing those around you as human – from the top view – it assumes you own the field, you pay the laborer, you are able-bodied, you are the judge.  This Gospel reading is about making other’s recognize your humanity – your dignity as a human being – being an agent of your own humanity – giving you the power to make a choice from the view from below.  Jesus is talking to those oppressed by society.  Let’s be careful here though: “turn the other cheek” should NEVER be used to urge a spouse to stay in a marriage – NEVER.  Reclaiming human dignity then would be to leave – remove oneself from the situation.  Jesus is very clear that we are no called to be doormats!  One of my favorite images is Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple – nothing passive about that!  In this gospel today, he’s telling us about turning the tables in much more subversive ways. 
            What keeps us from claiming our own human dignity?  What keeps us from seeing the systems that stifle the human dignity of those around us?  It is so much easier to go with the status quo.  Lord, open our eyes… help us to claim our own selves – our own dignity – our own belovedness, so that we can then see the belovedness in others!  It’s only when we are mature enough in the love of God to accept ourselves as beloved children, that was can see others as equal, as just as loved, as forgiven.  We can learn from this Gospel lesson today that we are not to willingly accept humiliation – we are to overcome it by shaming those in power.

            Be perfect – that’s how the phrase from the Greek is translated here.  A more accurate translation might be “Be whole – be what God intended for YOU to be – be beloved” – we live our entire lifetime striving toward this – “being sanctified by the Holy Spirit” – we believe that we will fall short, but we will keep striving – and with God’s help through prayer and supplication, by Sacraments, by community, by striving for social justice for ALL, that we will indeed move closer and closer to wholeness – to perfection.  Jesus never said any of this would be easy.  There was only one perfect man – and look what we did to him -  but he modeled this Gospel to the very end – he refused to accept the humiliation – he himself declared his own agency with “It is finished” – and then he rose again… AMEN.