sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Category: Women

And With Your Spirit

Ritual is the way we (learn to) believe with our bodies.
James K.A. Smith in Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works

There were no announcements, no instructions, no words of welcome, and no introductions. We gathered, called by the melodious sounds of music. We settled into our places, hushed, by a few chords on the instrument. Before we knew it, we were worshipping.


Abbey Church at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Benedict, Louisiana

I’ve been to mass many times. Parishioner’s family funeral, weddings, and the occasional “stop” to worship. I love the worship rhythms of this ancient tradition, its sensuality, earthiness, and aesthetic. I love how those around me know by heart the movements, gestures, and words. I love how you can “sneak in” and still feel part of what is happening, even if you don’t know the choreography.

I am not saying that it is perfect. Sitting in Mass reminded me how thankful I am that our tradition includes women as leaders. I also longed to partake of the Eucharist alongside my brothers and sisters. For the un-initiated it could be intimidating: with its movement, responses, and gesturing. And there are a series of other important theological differences that make Wesleyan Christianity my home.

In the end I’ll have to say that from the moment I entered the space — with its smell of incense, the baptismal waters, the gathered community kneeling as they prayed — I began to be transported into God’s presence.

I wish those of us in the protestant tradition would lean more towards this kind of kinetic aesthetic. I think at times we are too “chatty,” explaining too much, acknowledging too much, and moving too fast. We leave little room for silence and we certainly struggle with using our bodies.

It is our bodies that open the door for the holy to shape us into a sanctified people. It is our bodies that move us into a life of discipleship. Theologian James K.A. Smith tells us:

[P]ractices — communal, embodied rhythms, rituals, and routines that over time quietly and unconsciously prime and shape our desires and most fundamental longings.

We need these movements, silence, and common language to fully experience God’s transformative presence. Our ministry of hospitality should extend in worship as we “teach” each other what it means to worship in this place, at this time.

Our Christian tradition is rich with ritual, movement, and embodied practices. Our Wesleyan heritage is rooted in an experienced grace, through sacrament, through looking over one another in love, through study and reflection on God’s word, and through worship on the Lord’s Day.

My prayer is that we find ways to move, to bow, to kneel, to raise our hands, to pray together, to hear God in the silence, to allow the smells and sounds to call our bodies to a posture of prayer. Our bodies becoming visible temples of the Holy Spirit.

Bible in 90 – Day 60: Avoidance

The person who sins, he alone shall die. A child shall not share the burden of a parent’s guilt, nor shall a parent share the burden of a child’s guilt; the righteousness of the righteous shall be accounted to him alone, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be accounted to him alone.

Ezekiel 18:20

©2010 Todd Rossnagel

Although I’ve read Ezekiel before, I had forgotten how difficult a read it would be. As I read today I kept on waiting on a piece of scripture that would be less than “R-rated” that I could write about today. I was relieved when I found this clarification about who deserves punishment.

As I continued reading and thinking about what I read I realized that this little piece of scripture avoids the raw description describing God’s anger towards the people of Israel: unfaithfulness!

The image that Ezekiel uses is whoredom:

After all your wickedness (woe, woe to you!) — declares the Lord God — you built yourself an eminence and made yourself a mound in every square. You built your mound at every crossroad; and you sullied your beauty and spread your legs to every passerby, and you multiplied your harlotries. You played the whore with your neighbors, the lustful Egyptians — you multiplied your harlotries to anger Me.                                                                                  16:23-26

These are not passages that we will read in worship any time soon! Should we? Should we struggle with the idea of a God who gets upset at our unfaithfulness?

I am not sure . . . still thinking about these passages and what they say about God, humanity, women. Still struggling with its harsh language and its place as part of the biblical narrative. What do you think?

Bible in 90 – Day 18: She

Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel at that time. She used to sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would come to her for decisions.

Judges 4:4-5

My Daughter Isabelle

Up to this point in my journey through the bible all the leaders have been men. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb, now in the beginning of Judges seemingly out of nowhere comes this story of the prophetess Deborah who led Israel in battle and judged over it for forty years.

There are still many today who dismiss the call of women to lead God’s people. The arguments seem empty for the many, like myself, who have been and continue to be deeply shaped by women who are leaders in the church and in the world.

As I read the story of Deborah I wonder about the many other women who have led God’s people, whose stories we will never hear. As I read I am reminded that we need to tell the story of the women in the biblical story, in the church, and in our lives. Telling them gives voice to many who are voiceless and reminds the hearers of the myriad of ways that God uses all of us to be about God’s mission in the world.

I want my daughter to know that God is calling. I want her to know that as a beloved child of God she has been given gifts to lead, to guide, to make a difference in the world on behalf of the good news. I want to model, for her, and for my sons, that God created us male and female and God called it good.

I am thankful for Deborah’s story, it came at a time when I had already read enough of what I would call misogynistic portions of the biblical story. I was reminded that when it comes to sexism we still have a long ways to go in the church and in the world.

May all of us, like Deborah, not be afraid to go to battle. May we join the struggle for gender equality in every area of life!

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