Whether you call it the road to Zion, to wholeness or to "thy kingdom come" it is unarguably a long and winding one. But it's the road we've been called to to journey -- as individuals and as a community of faith -- as we follow the One who went before us. And last Sunday our friend and former-All Saints colleague Maggie Cunningham was in the pulpit and gave us this great beginning to a wonderful sermon with some fascinating food for thought as we make that journey together:
The [Road to Emmaus] gospel concludes with the two disciples returning to Jerusalem where they find the eleven and others exclaiming excitedly, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” They have no doubt about the veracity of Simon Peter’s report – but it is a different story in the verses immediately preceding our section of the gospel.And I decided today was the day. And here's but one of the reasons. Have you seen this?
There, we are told that “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them” had gone to the tomb first, found it empty, and heard two men (presumably angels) say to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen.” The response of the eleven to this report was predictable: “These words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.”
In the first century, the testimony of women was not only inadmissible – it was impossible. The words testimony, testify and testament are etymologically related to the word testicle. In the ancient Near East, a man would grab his testicles when swearing a solemn oath. Lacking the necessary equipment, women were incapable of testifying.
As fascinating and amusing as this information is, it would be more so if that belief system behind it had completely disappeared – but that is a topic for another day.
It's the picture the White House released of the President and senior staff watching the Navy Seal raid that culminated with the death of Osama bin Laden.
But wait ... there's more! Have you seen THIS ...
Same picture ... photoshopped in a Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish weekly called Di Tzeitung to cut Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason (a female member of the National Security Council) out of the picture.
Why? Because Maggie was spot on. Because the 1st century belief system that made it impossible for a woman to testify is alive and well in the 21st century.
The newspaper has "regretted" the editorial decision, as the New York Times reports in its piece "Newspaper 'Regrets' Erasing Hillary Clinton." And well they should. But what about all the other less obvious times and more subtle places where women are erased -- ignored -- dismissed -- silenced.
I know, I know. "There she goes again -- get out the feminist soap box."
Yep. That's why I led with the "me with a megaphone" picture. Because whether we like it or not -- whether we admit it or not -- whether we're willing to confront it or not -- sexism is alive and oh-so-very-well in this world -- this country --and yes, this church.
And it's our job -- ALL of our jobs -- to work to end it. And we will. We have the power. We have the determination. And we have the megaphone. That's all the "equipment" we need to put an end to women being erased from photos, being ignored on Boards, being dimsissed by bishops or being marginalized by those who have not yet gotten the message that we're STILL on the journey toward wholeness -- toward Zion -- toward "thy kingdom come."
The GPS that guides us on that journey will not speak those longed for words -- "Arriving At Destination" -- until we've left behind (once and for all) the sexist baggage of our past as we move ahead into God's future. But we WILL make it happen.
And to that I testify: "So help me God."