Yesterday we read (in the Episcopal Daily Office Lectionary) in Luke 8 one of those passages I know is there, but can never find:  “The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities:  Mary, Called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.”  Back then, women and children really didn’t count.  They were not considered worth notice.  But it really sounds like there were a lot of people who routinely traveled with Jesus.  Not just the twelve.  Not just a group of men.  But men and women (and probably children).  And they weren’t all poor — though many of them probably were.  Joanna would have been a woman with access to resources.  And these women, whatever their resources were, provided for Jesus and the whole community which followed him, out of their resources.

So women were an active part of Jesus’ first followers.  And the success of Jesus’ mission probably depended heavily on the behind the scenes, largely invisible, support of many people.  And our success in our congregations and judicatories also depends heavily on the behind the scenes work and support of many people.  A lot of them are women.  But men, and even children, are also part of the equation.

In today’s reading of the Psalms (I use an alternate schedule for my psalm readings in the offices) psalm 137 was scheduled.  It ends with one of the most problematic portions of the Psalter:  “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us!  Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock!”

I have often talked about how we can take (and need to take) everything we are experiencing to God — and that one of the strengths of the psalter is that it does precisely that.  It takes absolutely everything to God:  the whole human experience.  But I seldom feel like people are really hearing what I am saying.  In the case of this psalm, they are simply too horrified by what they hear to move beyond it.

In today’s reading from Forward Day by Day, Sister Patricia Angela Jones does a great job of making my case.  “[This] is really ugly, but I understand both the grief in the first part of this psalm and the rage expressed at its conclusion,”  she says.  And she talks about how these feelings mirror her own journey through vision loss — mourning her loss of independence followed by rage.  “People often pray in ways that seem inappropriate,” she says, mentioning Abraham bargaining with God, Jacob wrestling with God, Moses complaining to God about how badly God is treating him, Job practically shaking his fist at God …  “It is no use hiding these feelings from God ‘unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.”  You can’t pretend with God.”

I would add, not only can’t you hide what you are thinking and feeling from God, but God is big enough to take it.

And yesterday I read the poem “Walking Away — For Sean” by C. Day Lewis.  The poem ends, “… selfhood begins with a walking away, And love is proved in the letting go.”  And I found myself thinking, not so much about my own children and my parents, but about God.  Selfhood, I think, in the biblical story, begins with eating the apple and leaving the garden.  We really wouldn’t be people (as we know people) if this hadn’t happened — I mean, going our own way and trying to figure things out for ourselves is part of what it means to be human.  And God’s love is manifest, at least in part, by letting us go.

Which doesn’t mean there is no way to be faithful and human, to live (at least largely) in the way God would have us live and still be ourselves …  I really think (as many have said) that we can learn to be most fully ourselves by living as God invites us to live.  But that walking away and letting go is a powerful image for me.

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