I commute to work each day: side streets to freeway to bridge over 7 miles of the beautiful San Francisco Bay to freeway, freeway and yet another freeway. These 33 minutes (without traffic) give me time to connect with world news, politics, and my own thoughts.
Like many drivers, I get easily startled by motorcyclists whizzing by in between lanes, carving out their own space. Some do this legally, some do this despite the danger and risk their own safety and the safety of others.
Today I caught myself thinking about women in the church and the current conversation of re-thinking women's role in the life of the church as I sat both startled and annoyed by these motorcyclists sharing the road with me.
I thought of the metaphor Jeremy Dowsett uses to name white privilege. He talks about how a bicycle on a highway made for cars is at a disadvantage. "Privilege talk," he says, "is about a system imbalance." He continues with making the connection for minorities in a system that privileges white people:
I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn't change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I'm on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.
Jeremy's reflection on privilege serves as a backdrop for me seeing the road -- both as it is and as the church is for women -- and my participation on it, today. As I share the road with motorcyclists, 18-wheelers, speedy Porsches and other coasting hybrids -- or with clerics, lay people, politicians, and those scandalized by our church community I begin to wonder just how we can continue to build God's kin-dom of love and justice as opposed to complying with separation, domination, power and control.
A song comes to mind and heart, David Haas' "Now We Remain":
We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts.
Living, now we remain with Jesus, the Christ.
Once we were people afraid, lost in the night.
Then by your cross we were saved.
Dead became living, life from your giving.
I think of the first witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. How these women brought anointing spices and the gift of presence amid the tumultuous devastation brought on by the system of domination at the time. John's account has Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, unable to imagine that they continue to torture the one she loves.
I think of today's church, as broken as we are. Yes there's joy, but this immense pain and suffering seems to loom large as many of us continue to mourn in this tomb -- for the many disappeared or killed from ages of warfare, to those on the margins without food to eat or clothing to wear, to those whose paperwork is not approved or identities understood. Our church people are crying and awaiting the newness that a dying system of injustice can emerge into smaller faith-filled communities that strive to act as Jesus did.
We continue to sing this song amidst the reminder of abuses and systems that tolerate, perpetuate, and maintain the scandal of the cross.
Something which we have known,
something we've touched, what we have seen with our eyes:
this we have heard, life giving Word.
We turn to Jesus, like Mary Magdalene did -- not once (John 20:14), but twice (John 20:16). She turned to look for Jesus, then she turned to come to know Jesus in relationship as her teacher.
He chose to give of himself, became our bread.
Broken that we might live. Love beyond love, pain for our pain.
May our experience of Jesus illumine our choices. May our relationship with Jesus be deep and real. We have come to know him and now his movement. We must trust in the way.
We are in the presence of God. This is our call.
Now to become bread and wine: food for the hungry life for the weary,
for to live with the Lord, we must die with the Lord.
This may sound cliché, but what must we be dying to now in order for God's reign to live on?
For as much as we have labored to create a system of traffic rules and roads that work for cars, trucks, motorists and bicyclists, we are left wanting a safer passage, maybe perhaps a road meant for each. So to it is with the church. We have evolved to open wide our doors only to have them slammed back upon us. Perhaps we can take the risk of looking for Jesus and coming to know Jesus in our very midst where church is not a building, but church is a way, a people along the way, serving, singing, sharing, loving.
Let us be church for it is us who remain.
[Jocelyn A. Sideco is a retreat leader, spiritual director and innovative minister who specializes in mission-centered ministry. She teaches bioethics, feminist theology, Christian sexuality, and Christian Scriptures at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. Visit her online ecumenical ministry, In Good Company, at contemplativecompanions.org. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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