Woke up this morning to a radio report, another in a long line of stories about the courage of Ukrainian women as Russia invades their country in an act of war. Retelling the story of the old woman who scolded Russian soldiers and then offered them sunflower seeds to put in their pockets so that when they die and are buried in Ukraine, something good will come from their abhorrent presence.
Reminded me of a story I read years ago about Russian mothers traveling to Chechnya to reclaim their soldier sons, rather than sacrificing them in another stupid war.
Scrolling through Twitter, I came across an excerpt of Samantha Bee on her television show, Full Frontal, where she manages to infuse the facts with a mother's sarcasm as she lambasts the Russian leader.
Sitting with Diana Butler Bass’ daily online reflection, part of A Grounded Lent, I see more clearly the connection she is making, the Bible is making, that Jesus made. “Jesus gives water, and he is water,” she quotes her book Grounded: Finding God in the World -- A Spiritual Revolution. Today Bass revisits the story of the woman at the well in John 4:10. Jesus says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’”
Sifting through my own writing, I found a piece I’ve written about Miriam, the sister of Moses. Many who know her name think of her saving her infant brother by putting him in a basket and setting it adrift on the River Nile. Some also know that she sang and danced after the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. A few know that later, when she and her other brother, Aaron, questioned why Moses thought God only spoke through him, she was struck with leprosy and forced from her community for seven days.
A handful of feminist Bible scholars know the powerful end of her story: When Miriam died and was buried at a place called Kadesh, “there was no water for the congregation” (Numbers 20). Water had flowed in and out and over Miriam and her people for years and years, sometimes summoned from the ground as Moses struck it with his staff. But without Miriam, there was no water. It was if the earth itself felt the need to mark her passing.
Still thinking about and women, war and water.
The magi finally made it. The thousand pieces of my holiday jigsaw puzzle took some time to assemble this year – two have gone AWOL in the past decade and one reminds me that our golden retriever Klickitat used to like to chew on bite-sized bits of cardboard. Anyway, I finished the puzzle and, after I write this, I’ll tuck it away for another year. Yes, I know pieces are missing, but I’ve had this one a long time. Its pieces are smaller and larger than in other puzzles and cleverly cut so it isn’t easy to fit them together. It’s a challenging task. Completing it – as best as I can -- is satisfying. I won’t part with this one.
Today I read a piece in America, the Jesuit magazine, that has given me new ideas for my devotional reading. “The Black Writers All Catholics Should Read” caught my eye because some of the authors mentioned are familiar to me and others I’ve not run across before. James Cone was one of my professors in seminary. The Spirituals and the Blues: An Interpretation and his more recent book The Cross and the Lynching Tree have confronted, convicted and challenged me. If The Lynching Tree had what we in newspapers called a “nut graf” (a concise answer to the "so what" question) this might be it:
“Theologically speaking, Jesus was the ‘first lynchee,’ who foreshadowed all the lynched black bodies on the American soil. He was crucified by the same principalities and powers that lynched black people in America. Because God was present with Jesus on the cross and thereby refused to let Satan and death have the last word about his meaning, God was also present at every lynching in the United States. God saw what whites did to innocent and helpless blacks and claimed their suffering as God’s own. God transformed lynched black bodies into the re-crucified body of Christ. Every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus. The lynching tree is the cross in America.”
I know of Bryan Massingale because his work was quoted in Alison Benders’ Open Wide Our Hearts, a study guide on the U.S. Catholic bishops 2018 letter on racism – yes, they did issue one that year. This essay reminded me that I want to read one of Massingale’s books. I think I’ll start with Racial Justice and the Catholic Church.
Through the years, I have prayed and read scripture for as my devotional time. But now I find myself – quite literally – by focusing on books that break me open, scatter my pieces and slowly help me put them together again. The magi were strangers, even outsiders, who contributed wisdom to the story of Jesus’ birth. Better late than never.