Friday, 29 July 2011

Either/or? Both

The Feast of St Martha
GospelMatthew 13:54-58 

Coming to his home town, Jesus taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters, too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?’ And they would not accept him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house’, and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Fishing boat at Wells next the Sea

To avoid manual labour 
is to participate in the cultivation 
of a classist or racist or sexist society - 
in which some of us 
do the really significant things of life
and others of us 
do the physical work the rest of us think
we are too important 
to do.

(Joan Chittister - The Monastery of the Heart p106)

I would be the first to admit that my ministry and understanding of faith has been guided by a haphazard and serendipitous approach to study. I have judged books by their cover, took courses because they were on the 'right' day, filled journals (from the back to the front) with random thoughts and sat with saints in fields, on cliffs and ruined cottages. I have loved every minute, being a hedgerow scholar fits in with what some people regard as an alternative view of faith. But a woman's spiritual ministry is difficult to support in the church - if you are not a religious; not authorised; not qualified - then eventually you will be asked 'Who do you think you are?'

For a number of years I have thought about doing a Masters degree in Theology through a distance learning programme supported by our Diocese. There were always reasons -  personal, family and work reasons- to defer it for another year. Finally, eighteen months ago,  I actually felt the time had come to fill in the forms and thankfully, after all this time, was accepted.

We were due to begin last September, then April, then this September and now January.  I am beginning to feel jinxed - or maybe I was meant to wait until I had the right approach.

After all, I have spent a lot of years and prayers walking the path discovering who I am - who I am in God's eyes - to be defined by the letters after your name (even if you have earned the letters) doesn't sit very well. They cannot be a badge or a mask to hide behind to make up for inadequacies of self or to point out inadequacies in others.

And you cannot forget where you came from. Otherwise you are not on a journey at all.

Jesus will always be a carpenter's son; his mother's son; a child of dubious parentage who should know his place

Martha will always be a busybody of woman with a sharp tongue unwilling to be overshadowed by her sister

But this is not all they are. We do not have to be practical or spiritual; masculine or feminine; brain or brawn; prosaic or poetic.

But we are asked to be all we can be.


1 comment:

claire said...

I see Martha bad-mouthed by Luke. In fact, when I read John's gospel I see her, like Peter in the synoptic gospels, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah... This is a big deal - to some of us.

Yes, she is so much more than what Luke says she is.

She is said to have mastered a dragon after she moved to France...

I hope some day there will be enough women preaching from the pulpit to bring out other aspects of Martha than the ones we have grown to take for granted...

Thank you, Word.