18 April 2019

Kosbi: Durchbohrt

Numeri 25

Ich bin durchbohrt
für mein Vergehen,
durchbohrt von deinem Speer
und deinem heiligen Eifer.
Ich bin dein Sühnopfer,
Menschenblut
zu stillen den Zorn
der gekränkten Gottheit.
Mein Tod bringt zu Ende
Leiden und Plage,
mein Blut hat den Frieden erkauft.

Ich bin durchbohrt
für meine Vergehen,
dein Menschenopfer.
Du hast die Sünderin getötet
um die Sünde zu beenden,
die Schuldige
um vom Fluch zu befreien.
Jetzt trägt deine Gewalt
den Segen des Friedens,
die Zustimmung deines Gottes.
Jetzt trägst du
die grosse Verheissung:
ewiges Priestertum –
für immer so.

Und sie werden wundern und spekulieren
ob Der, Der Da Kommt, von dir kommen wird,
ob Der, Der Da Kommt, wie du sein wird,
ewiger Priester,
vom Eifer entbrannt.
Und sie werden wundern und spekulieren
und suchen nach einem neuen Pinechas
der mit Speer in der Hand
die Welt reinigt von Gottlosigkeit,
von Sünde saubermacht.

Schauen sie dann
auf den, den sie durchbohrt haben,
durchbohrt
für unsere Vergehen?
Denjenigen, nicht mit Speer in der Hand,
sondern vom Speer durchstochen
bis Blut und Wasser fliessen heraus;
denjenigen, dessen Eifer
sich nicht in Gewalt gezeigt,
sondern in Tod und Leid;
dessen Sieg über die Sünde
nicht im Töten gewonnen ist,
sondern durch Liebe,
die sich selbst hingibt?

Werden sie sehen
ihren Gott
durchbohrt
von den Pinechas dieser Welt
und ihrem heiligen Eifer,
ihren Gott,
ein Sünder durchbohrt wegen Blasphemie?

Durchbohrt
für unsere Vergehen,
durchbohrt von unserem Speer
des heiligen Eifers.
Gott, unser Sühneopfer
zu besänftigen den Zorn der Menschheit.
Gott, nicht der Zornige,
sondern Liebe
durchbohrt
durch unseren Hass,
ein Spiegel,
eine träumende Welt zu wecken,
unsere Speere zu brechen
und zu vergeben.

____________________________

Übersetzt von: Cozbi: Pierced

Erklärung (Predigt vom 19.04.19 - sorry, keine Energie sie zu kürzen):

"Durchbohrt aber wurde er unseres Vergehens wegen, unserer Verschuldungen wegen wurde er zerschlagen, auf ihm lag die Strafe, die unserem Frieden diente, und durch seine Wunden haben wir Heilung erfahren." (Jesaja 53,5)

Durchbohrt – das ist auch Kosbi.Kosbi ist eine Midianiterin, wahrscheinlich eine Tempelprostituierte. Die Israeliten sind auf dem Weg zum gelobten Land Midianitern und Moabitern begegnet, und haben angefangen, deren Götter zu verehren. Auch sind einige mit heidnischen Frauen involviert worden – nichts Kleines in einer Kultur, in der der religiöse Glaube durch die Mutter weitergegeben wird. Die Konsequenzen: Gott schickt eine Plage. Tausende sterben.

Pinechas, ein Nachkomme des Hohenpriesters Aaron, Bruder von Mose, greift ein. Er tötet die Tempelprostituierte Kosbi zusammen mit ihrem israelitischen Mann oder Liebhaber. Beide werden durch den Bauch erstochen - in den wenigen künstlerischen Darstellungen dieser Szene wird es darum so interpretiert, dass sie mitten im Akt getötet wurden. Mitten in ihrer Sünde, könnte man sagen. Der Text spricht von Sühne: die Plage lässt ab, Gottes Zorn ist abgewendet. Mit dem vergossenen Blut der beiden Sünder wird alles wieder gut.

Ja... was macht so eine Geschichte mit uns?  So eine blutige Geschichte von Gewalt und Zorn und Strafe... was machen wir damit? Diese Tötung von Kosbi und Simri – das klingt doch wie ein Menschenopfer, als ob Gott das Blut von Menschen gebraucht hat, um beschwichtigt zu werden. Was für ein Gott ist denn das? Und Pinechas, der Henker, wird gelobt für das, was er getan hat. Seine Tat bekommt das "Gütesiegel" Gottes: Gott ist zufrieden mit ihm, er hat es gut gemacht. Pinechas erhält einen Segen und eine Verheissung – eine Verheissung ähnlich wie die, die auch der König David bekommen hat. David wurde eine Verheissung von ewigem Königtum gegeben – hier bekommt Pinechas das ewige Priestertum zugesprochen. Eine sehr hohe Ehre – ein sehr starkes Zeichen der Zustimmung Gottes.

Gottes Versprechen an David ist für uns wichtig, weil daraus die Erwartung eines "Messias" entstanden ist, eines Retters, eines von Gott gesandten Königs, der sein Volk rettet und alles wieder in Ordnung bringt. Darum wird Jesus im Neuen Testament immer wieder "Sohn Davids" genannt. In der Zeit vor Jesus gab es eine starke Tradition, die davon ausging, dass der Retter von David abstammen würde – und entsprechend auch wie David sein würde, oder wie Davids Sohn Salomo: ein mächtiger König, ein weiser König, ein grosser Herrscher. Ein König-Messias.

Was viele aber nicht wissen: es gab zur gleichen Zeit eine starke Tradition, die auch einen "Priester-Messias" erwarteten – entweder die gleiche Person oder eine zweite, die zusammen mit dem König-Messias erscheinen und die Welt zurechtbringen würde. So wie der König-Messias dem Muster Davids folgen würde, würde der Priester-Messias wie der priesterliche Vorfahre sein – und dieser priesterliche Vorfahre, das war Pinechas.

Wenn also die Leute in der Zeit Jesu über den Messias nachdachten, dann stellten sie ihn sich wahrscheinlich nicht selten wie Pinechas vor. Besonders unter der griechischen und römischen Besatzung, die beide fremde Religionen nach Israel hineinschleppten und in den Augen der Gläubigen schlechten Einfluss brachten, hofften bestimmt viele auf so einen heiligen Eifer wie den des Pinechas, auf einen Retter, der zum Speer greifen würde und mit Gewalt die "Gottlosen", die Sünder und Ungläubigen entfernen würde.

Dann kam Jesus. Jesus ist nicht wie Pinechas. Und das Sühneopfer auf Golgatha ist nicht wie das Sühneopfer von Simri und Kosbi. Jesus tötet nicht die Sünder mit heiligem Eifer – sondern heiliger Eifer nagelt ihn am Kreuz. Urteil: Blasphemie, Gotteslästerung. Jesus trägt nicht einen Speer, sondern ist derjenige, der vom Speer durchbohrt wird.

Oft wird von Jesu Tod gesprochen, als wäre das ein Opfer, um Gottes Zorn zu besänftigen – als wäre Jesus ein Blitzableiter, der zwischen uns Menschen und Gott kommt. Ich hatte immer Mühe mit dieser Darstellung – denn in Taiwan, wo ich aufgewachsen bin, kennt man so etwas in der einheimischen Religion auch. Da muss man die Geister und Dämonen mit Opfern besänftigen, so dass sie einen nicht schaden. Ist unser Gott ein Dämon? Nein. Die Bibel sagt: Gott ist die Liebe. Und das Leben von Jesus, Gottes Sohn, beweist uns das. Der Sohn zeigt uns, wie der Vater ist. Gott kann nicht anders sein als sein Sohn Jesus. Wir wissen, dass Gott Liebe ist, weil wir das in Jesus sehen. Gott ist nicht ein zorniger Gott, der besänftigt werden muss. Jesus ist nicht gestorben, um den Zorn Gottes auf sich zu nehmen. Sondern Jesus ist gestorben und hat uns in seinem Tod gezeigt: Gott ist anders. Gott ist nicht der zornige Gott. Gott ist nicht im eifrigen Priester, der den Sünder umbringt – sondern Gott ist in der durchbohrten Frau. Am Kreuz hat Jesus den Platz von Kosbi eingenommen. Am Kreuz wird Jesus, als Krimineller verurteilt, von den Frommen und Eifrigen umgebracht. Gott selbst wird zum Opfer des frommen Eifers.

Ich glaube, der Tod Jesu zeigt uns, dass nicht Gott der Zornige ist, der besänftigt werden muss, sondern wir Menschen. Die Menschen suchen Blut und Rache und gewalttätige Lösungen. Der Tod Jesu zeigt uns, was passiert, wenn heiliger Eifer zu weit geht: dann töten wir plötzlich, ganz ohne es zu merken, Gott selbst. Jesus ist nicht gestorben, um Gottes Zorn zu besänftigen – sondern Menschen haben ihn getötet, um ihre Blutlust zu besänftigen.

Und die Kraft in diesem Tod Jesu ist, dass Gott nicht mit Rache und Gewalt und Strafe reagiert auf diese grösste Sünde von allen: auf den Gottesmord. Gott rächt sich nicht, er sendet keine Engel, um die Mörder zu erschlagen. Gott reagiert mit Vergebung. Wir haben es gehört: "Vater, vergib ihnen, denn sie wissen nicht, was sie tun." Gott reagiert mit Vergebung.

Und von dem Punkt aus können wir uns verändern. Weil Gott uns gezeigt hat, wo Rache und Strafe uns hinführen. Wo heiliger Eifer uns hinführen kann. Gott will nicht den heiligen Eifer, der gegen sogenannte Sünde kämpft. Gott will, dass wir ihm ähnlicher werden: dass wir wie Jesus werden, der am Kreuz hängt und vergibt. Jesus, der wie Pinechas hätte werden sollen, wird wie Kosbi. Gott wird zur durchbohrten Tempelhure, um uns sagen: stopp. So geht das nicht weiter. Am Kreuz hält Gott der Menschheit den Spiegel vor und ruft uns auf, unsere Speere fallenzulassen und zu vergeben. Es musste nie Gott zufriedengestellt und besänftigt werden. Sondern wir Menschen. Jesus ist nicht gestorben, um Gottes Meinung über uns zu ändern, sondern um unsere Meinung über Gott zu ändern. "Lasst euch versöhnen mit Gott!" fasst Paulus die Botschaft vom Kreuz zusammen. Und ich verstehe das so: es ist nicht Gott, der sich mit uns versöhnen muss, Gott hatte nie mit uns Streit, er hat uns nie abgelehnt oder gehasst. Sondern die Trennung kommt von uns aus. Da, wo wir der Liebe den Rücken kehren, wo wir hassen, streiten, rächen, nicht vergeben. Das Problem ist nicht der zornige Gott, sondern die zornige Menschheit.

Aber am Kreuz gibt uns Gott die Kraft, einen neuen Weg zu finden. Am Kreuz hält uns Gott den Spiegel vor, aber er gibt uns auch ein Beispiel, wie es anders geht. "Vater, vergib ihnen." Verzicht auf Rache. Verzicht darauf, die zu bestrafen, die es verdient hätten. Verzicht darauf, den Feinden eins auszuwischen. Verzicht auf die eigene Macht – auf die Allmacht. "Vater, vergib ihnen."

Am Kreuz wird nicht Jesus bestraft für all unsere Sünden – sondern am Kreuz ist das Ende aller Strafe und aller Rache. Am Kreuz sagt Gott: "Nein. Stopp. So nicht. So bin ich nicht." Am Kreuz gibt uns Gott eine neue Möglichkeit, Geschichten wie die von Kosbi anders zu lesen. Gott steht nicht auf der Seite des frommen Eifers, der Sünde verdammt und aufs härteste bestraft. Sondern Gott ist bereit, den Platz der Sünder einzunehmen, mit ihnen und für sie zu leiden.

26 December 2018

Lo-Ruhamah: What's in a Name?

Hosea 1:2-8

What's in a name?
Any name would be sweet
unless you are burdened
with the name they gave me.
Two letters too many
and the Loved becomes the Damned:
"No-Mercy" they called me -
just fancy that!

"No-Mercy" - imagine
the awkward looks
every time I introduce myself.
Picture little me,
shunned by other kids,
the brunt of every bully's jokes,
a victim from the start
of my father's stupid choice.

What the hell, Dad?
Did you even
stop to think what it does to me?
"God told me" - whatever!
What about me?
You made me your message
but also made me messed up,
blessed me with childhood trauma
and chronic doubt in God.

But guess what:
I have learnt
to grow beyond my bitterness.
I have learnt
that I am more than this name.
And now, I forgive you.
I want to try to understand.
I forgive God
if this was really from his hand.

It took me so long to see
that God never hated me.
That for God
all along
they were just two letters.
And God was for me
all the time they called me damned,
waiting
to strike two letters off my name,
"No-Mercy" no more.

And maybe the message
that I bear with my name
is that God loves the damned
and wants them saved -
just like his people
who went astray,
who lost trust in a God
they thought was far away.

So I drop two letters
and I become
Mercy.

__________________________

[26. December 2018]

You know what they always say about choosing a child's name. Make sure it's not too hard to spell. Make sure it's not too easy to twist into something nasty by bullies (because children can be horrible to each other). Make sure the name has an appropriate meaning.

Recently there was that news item about a girl called "Abcde" being mocked by a flight attendant and more people were angry at the poor child's mother than the flight attendant. Well, a parent does have to think about the consequences of their name choice!

Enter Hosea who named his children Jezreel (i.e. place where revenge will happen), No Mercy, and Not My People. I am sure the children did not get away completely unscathed psychologically.

Anyhow, here some thoughts from her perspective.

And another thought: biblical prophecy is poetry. It may well be that Hosea did not actually give his children horrible names, but that the idea of him naming them like this gives an important message.


Picture by William Adolphe Bouguereau

31 October 2018

Deborah: Fight Like A Girl

Judges 4:1-16


When men run and hide
their heads in the sand
I'll fight like a girl.
When men stand and falter,
their hearts in their pants,
I'll fight like a girl.
When no man will rise
and take up the sword
I will arise
and fight like a girl.

And I will advise
and I will encourage,
steady their shaking legs
because a mother
knows how to teach little boys to walk.
And I will be there
to hold sweaty hands,
give that little push
into the right direction
because a wife knows the words
a man needs to hear.

Why should I not teach,
correct and encourage?
Why should I not lead
or show them the way?
Why should I not heed
God's call above culture?
Why hide my gifts
in the face of need?

Even if men did not
hide their heads in the sand,
I'd fight like a girl.
Even if men would rise
and take up the sword,
I'd fight like a girl.
Because God called a girl,
so a girl will answer,
and fight and lead
and teach and encourage
as God commanded her to.

___________________________________

[31. October 2018]

It's unbelievable that even today there are still people who, based on two verses in the Bible, believe women can't be pastors or, going even further, can't teach or lead or have any authority whatsoever over men.

Reading her story again (Judges 4) I feel Deborah pretty much does the job of a woman pastor. She advises Barak, passes on messages from God, she accompanies him when he doesn't want to go into battle without her, as something of a "pastoral presence" to encourage him. Deborah is not even the only example of a prophetess / teacher / female leader / woman in authority in the Bible. There are no good biblical arguments for excluding women from positions of authority and many good biblical examples of women who were called by God to lead.

Go Deb!

And people who say the Bible is rough on women have no idea either - so many strong women, so many women depicted as way stronger than the men in the story. The Bible is what makes me feminist, and especially the Old Testament stories are very empowering in my opinion.

Picture by Otto Semler

01 August 2018

Pharaoh's Daughter: Just Like Me


Exodus 2:1-10

Foreigners.
Outsiders.
With your strange religion,
your alien ways.
Taking our jobs,
threatening our culture,
hostile,
dangerous,
lazy ingrates.
Who knows what you're planning?
Who knows when you'll be more than us?
Who knows what you'll do?
What then?

Stereotypes
are like horoscopes:
broad enough to sound so true,
convincing enough
that you can't smell the lies.

But
I see you mourn your children.
You're just like me.

Stereotypes
are like horoscopes.
So easy to hate all of you,
for the actions of a few,
so easy to let fear
distort your features,
till you're no longer people
but monsters to be culled.

But
I see you mourn your children.
You're just like me.
Because
I've mourned my children too.

I know what it's like
when joy is replaced with emptiness.
I know what it's like
to have your hopes and dreams
smashed to smithereens
with your aching mother's heart.
I know what it's like
when your breasts weep milk
for a child no longer there.

I see you mourn your children.
You're just like me.

So you see,
I can't hate you,
can't watch them cull you like animals,
because you're not.
You're just like me.
I can't watch
as another child dies,
as another mother is left bereft,
because you're just like me.

We don't have to mourn this child.
You and I can both be mothers.
I can save us three.


______________________________________________________________________

[1. August 2018]

Some of what flowed into this:
  • Visiting my third home South Africa and experiencing the disconnect that still often remains between the races.
  • All the stuff here in Europe about refugees being turned away, deported, or talk about sinking boats on the Mediterranean to discourage more migrants from trying to cross over. The rhetoric is appalling.
  • Watching "Schindler's List" with my Ouma and seeing how horrible human beings can be (and they haven't changed one bit).
  • Islamophobic rhetoric which I often hear here in Switzerland (a lot of it from "Christian" circles which is sickening).
  • Reading a bit too many novels involving infertility / miscarriage / etc.
 Anyway I decided to look at Pharaoh's daughter from the angle of "What if she was desperate to have a baby but kept having miscarriages, and finding Moses for her was like an answer to that longing for a child?" Of course the Bible tells us hardly anything about her background; we only know she is Pharaoh's daughter, we don't know whether she has other children ("The Prince of Egypt" gives her a son), we don't know what moved her to adopt Moses except simply that she had pity for him (Ex 2:6). I played with the "what if" here. Thinking of how finding small connections to the people we're supposed to distrust or hate can open the door to compassion, break down stereotypes and remind us of their humanity.

There are so many stereotypes that you hear day by day. I included some common ones about immigrants in this poem. They sound correct enough that they're easy to believe. Stereotypes are often based on some aspect of truth which makes them so convincing. But they can make us forget the others' humanity, can blind us to the complexities of other people. It's all too easy to commit horrors against other human beings (see the Holocaust... the Nazis were normal people, not monsters) - and even to think it's okay or to think we're doing a good thing! (The people who killed Jesus thought they were doing God a service..)

We need to look beyond the stereotypes, generalisations and caricatures to the humanity of the people we're afraid of or being taught to distrust. In South Africa I heard a lot of things about all sorts of people but I saw all of them hanging out their laundry - and that to me was such a powerful reminder of how in the end, we are all human, with the same day-to-day hopes and fears. We need to stop generalising about each other and dehumanising each other, and start noticing the sufferings we have in common (e.g. child loss as I wrote about here) or the small details of life (like hanging laundry).

Pharaoh's daughter stepped beyond the stereotypes of her day and crossed a boundary by saving the life of a Hebrew child who her own father had commanded to be killed. She took a step towards dialogue by making the arrangement with Moses' mother that she should nurse him till he was weaned, and then let Pharaoh's daughter adopt him. What are the ways we can dare to dialogue with the people who are different from us?

Picture by Lawrence Alma Tadema.

28 April 2018

Womb of God


In the beginning
was YES.
The Yes of a Mother
to new life inside her,
the Yes of Love
and potential.

In the beginning
was Your Womb,
and I was nurtured,
enveloped by Your love.

In the beginning
was the life you gave me.

Thrust out into the world,
I stumbled,
helpless.
Cut was the cord
and I foundered,
reaching for You.

I lost sight of You.
I forgot
the warm walls of love
that once surrounded me.
I doubted
your unconditional Yes to me.
I feared sternness;
I ran away,
seeing my shame,
separated, I believed, from You.

But in the end
is Your YES,
a Yes that will never be taken back,
a Mother's enduring, unconditional love,
Your mark on me
that I belong.
In the end
there is no chasm
between You
and me.
Only Your arms
waiting
to hold me,
to put me to your breast
and nurse me to strength,
to lead me as I find my feet
and make baby steps
into a world
that you prepared for me.

There is no rejection,
no condemnation,
no separation.
Teach me to see.

__________________________________________________

[28. April 2018]

So I have been itching to write about God as Mother (a perfectly biblical image btw; if in doubt see here). And about God's uterus because according to the Bible God has a uterus. :-P (John 1:18 bosom = κόλπος = womb) Finally managed...

What flowed into this was thoughts on "original blessing" from this podcast I listened the other day, and the book I am reading ("Original Blessing" by Danielle Shroyer). The idea is that the concept of original sin distorts our view of relationship with God. We see it in terms of separation, and basically make our sin more powerful than God by seeing it as an insurmountable obstacle that even God can't overcome without sacrifice. The idea of sin separating us from God did a lot of havoc in my mind as a child and teenager (because it's in every summary of the gospel / evangelistic presentation). Even with the sacrifice of Jesus, you keep asking yourself: am I really good enough for God? Because at the basis of everything lies God's distaste with sin, and original sin means we are all born sinful (or "totally depraved" depending on which theological corner you're in) and need to be made good enough first. Of course I repeated the "sinner's prayer" a few million times, but I was never confident that it had really "worked", because shouldn't a sign of being "born again" be that I don't sin anymore? But I was still fighting with my sister and doing things I regretted later (and sometimes my "Christian zeal" made me a bigger bitch [sorry not sorry] than I would have been without).


Original blessing is what I have discovered in my baptismal practice (as a pastor): in the beginning, before we are able to respond or understand, God's love is already there. Meaning: the basis is not God's distaste with sin, is not our depravity or evil which needs to be put away first, but pure love. I love baptising children / babies because I believe this is such an important message, in this day and age where young people / teenagers are often insecure about their own value. The message of original blessing is that before everything else stands God's love. That's my understanding of it, at least. :-)

Of course God does not agree with evil - because God loves everybody so if I hurt someone else I'm hurting God, right? But even there: God does not want to destroy the "sinner" or wrongdoer but bring them home.

I recently read the "Revelations of Divine Love" of Julian of Norwich. And what really intrigued me was this concept of sin: that the biggest problem is not the wrong deed itself, but running from God because we are afraid of his reaction to our sin. The solution to sin would be running to God who can comfort and heal and forgive - but too often because we think God is stern and punishing, we flee. For a long time I saw God as angry and punishing and was afraid of making mistakes. It was very freeing to realise that God really and truly is love.

And for that I think the image of womb and birth and mother is fitting. As it says in Jeremiah: "Can a mother forget her child?" God never rejects us. He wants to bring everyone home.

Here's if you want something meditative: [click me!]

13 February 2018

Jesus' Sister: Family First

Mark 3:31-35

Family first -
isn't that how it should be?
Then why
do you put this rabble
before us, your closest kin,
and call them mother, brother, sister
while your mother, brothers, sisters
are stuck outside the door?

Family first -
isn't that the law of God?
Then why this affront
right out in public?
Why this reaction
that feels like rejection?
Are you forgetting
all you were taught
about honouring father and mother?
Are you forgetting
your mother who gave life to you,
your brothers who look up to you,
are you forgetting
me?

Once
you were my own big brother,
always there for me.
You played with me,
you taught me all I know,
you carved me little toys from wood,
defended me
and guided me.
Once
you were my own.

But now
I can't reach you
through the sweaty throng surrounding you,
the squirming, stinking masses
of hideous faces pressing you,
strangers, sick, unclean,
people who disgust and frighten me.
Now
you say that I must share you
with the likes of these.
And it hurts me
that you prefer
this unsavoury company
over me.

Once
you were my own big brother.
Once
you were my own.
NO, brother:
I don't want to share you.
I don't want this privilege
of being your sister
given to anyone else.
For it feels like I must lose you.
It feels like, when you love them,
there's less love left for me.
Like when you honour them
you're shaming me.


I know this is stupid.
I know this is selfish.
But this is what I feel.
Why?
Am I forgetting
that nothing can change
that I am your sister
and you are my brother?
Why do I deny them
an honour that won't cost me mine?
Why do I deny them
a privilege I got for free?

Family first -
but you say all are family.
Family first -
yes, but
maybe I need to learn
your family is larger than ever I thought.

_______________________________________________________________

[12. - 13. February 2018]

Yes Jesus had sisters. 😁
I find this scene very interesting: Jesus' family coming to look for him and unable to reach him because he is so surrounded by a crowd of people. Reading the Gospel of Mark this time around has made me realise how completely overrun poor Jesus was... everyone just rushing to him to get healed, pressing him from all sides, hardly leaving him a minute's peace, making it so bad he had to get in a boat and preach to them from water because they were thronging around him so... People believed he had gone mad, letting all those people come to him like that (Mk 3:21).

So Jesus' own family wants to get to him, but can't. Jesus is surrounded by people who were probably not all savoury characters. I don't know how comfortable you'd feel in a crowd of sick people... especially considering in those days no one really knew what to do about contagion. Then there were the "sinners", people who were deemed unclean because of their illnesses or way of living (and coming too close to those would infect you with "uncleanness" too), ...

Jesus calling these people family would have been a very shocking pronouncement.. and might have felt like an insult and affront to his immediate family. He was bestowing a great honour on those gathered around him - but in a culture where family has top priority (as was the case in ancient Palestine), that would have sounded like dishonour towards his own direct family.

And it got me thinking about privilege. And how very often, sharing something or giving a privilege to others results in the privileged feeling like they are losing out on something. It is very odd because it makes absolutely no sense; just because someone else can  have the same privilege does not mean you lose it or that it has any less worth. But I see that happening e.g. in discussions about gay marriage (people talking as if they and their marriages are being attacked simply by others being allowed the same privilege they already have), or in discussions about welfare etc. With welfare often the arguments go along the lines of "we worked for our money and our privileges, why give them for free to people, that will just make them lazy" etc etc. But God's system of fairness works counter to that: in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, all the workers receive the exact same salary, no matter how many hours they worked. And those who worked more complain - but they do not receive any less than what was promised to them. Why do we want privilege, to be "better off" or treated better, rather than aiming for equal treatment for all, unity, sharing?

So anyway those were my thoughts behind this...  as well as: Jesus' family is way larger than we can imagine. We spend so much energy on thoughts about who is in and who is out, who is "saved" and who isn't, how to "save" those who aren't... but Jesus tells these dirty sick sinners around him that they are his family. A majority of them probably did not understand his message. There are a few stories of people who came, received healing, and left again without having really learnt anything, e.g. the 9 lepers who were healed and went home, with only one turning back to thank Jesus and follow him. But Jesus calls the whole crowd his family. Isn't that food for thought?


Picture by Etienne Dinet.

15 November 2017

Rizpa: I Am Mother

2. Samuel 21:1-14


I am grief,
My heart torn with loss,
an aching hole
where once you were.

I am loss,
alone now, forsaken,
robbed of my sons,
bereft in a cruel sacrifice
done in the name of god.

I am love,
pouring from a shattered heart
flowing in tears
that can't bring you to life,
enveloping arms
to shield you from the sun and rain.

I am fury,
fighting for my children
against all forces of nature,
if must be: against god,
spitting in the face of death,
battling down decay.

I am fidelity,
more powerful than hate,
sharper than a sword,
stronger than death,
enduring all storms,
ignoring my own pain,
your protectress
beyond the end.

I am Mother.
My love never dies.
I would kill death
if only I could.

Where now is God?
Delighting over human sacrifice,
or fighting death with me?

________________________________

[15. November 2017]

I have been intrigued by the picture of Rizpa furiously fighting off the carrion birds to protect her dead family members.

Rizpa's story is a terrible one. After David's rule has been established, there is a famine, and David asks God why. The answer: there is "bloodguilt" on the family of Saul because Saul killed the Gibeonites, i.e. in the tribal system of those days, revenge was still pending. Now instead of asking God what to do, David asked the Gibeonites what they wanted - and they demanded human sacrifice. So David had all the remaining male descendants of Saul killed (except Jonathan's family).

Here's where Rizpa, Saul's concubine, comes in. She goes out to the corpses and defends them - throughout the harvest season! Rizpa remains mother even in death. I find that picture very impressive.

Interesting to note: the famine does not end after the men were sacrificed - but after they were given a decent burial. Not only they, but also Saul and Jonathan who had been dead for years. Which to me shows that God clearly did NOT accept the human sacrifice. There is a lot of ugly violence in the Old Testament, and this is one example of it. But God does not condone it. The hero in this story is Rizpa, who shows David what is to be done. The end of bloodguilt is not punishment and sacrifice but forgiveness and burial.

Rizpa fighting death made me think of how in Jesus God conquered death for us. I see God in her, in this story - not delighting over the murder of men innocemt of their forebearer's crimes.