Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Psalm 51 by Mary Sidney

Psalm LI : Miserere mei, Deus

(The Psalmes of David, 1599)

O Lord, whose grace no limits comprehend,
Sweet Lord, whose mercies stand from measure free;
To me that grace, to me that mercy send,
And wipe, O Lord, my sins from sinful me;
O cleanse, O wash my foule iniquity;
Cleanse still my spots, still wash away my stainings,
Till stains and spots in me leave no remainings.

For I, alas, acknowledging, do know
My filthy fault, my faulty filthiness,
To my soul's eye incessantly doth show;
Which done to thee, to thee I do confess,
Just Judge, true witness; that for righteousness
Thy doom may pass, against my guilt awarded,
Thy evidence for truth may be regarded.

My mother, lo! when I began to be,
Conceiving me, with me did sin conceive;
And, as with living heat she cherish'd me,
Corruption did like cherishing receive;
But lo, thy love to purest good doth cleave,
And inward truth, which, hardly else discerned,
My truant soul in thy hid school hath learned.

Then )as thy self to lepers hast assign'd)
With hyssop, Lord, with hyssop purge me so,
And that shall cleanse the leapry of my mind;
Make over me thy mercy's streams to flow,
So shall my whiteness scorn the whitest snow;
To ear and heart send sounds and thoughts of gladness,
That bruised bones may leave away their sadness.

Thy ill-pleas'd eye from my misdeeds avert;
Cancel the registers my sins contain;
Create in me a clean, pure, spotless heart;
Inspire a spirit where love of right may reign,
And cast me not from thee; take not again
Thy breathing grace; again thy comfort send me,
And let the guard of thy free Spirit attend me.

So I to them a guiding hand will be,
Whose faulty feet have wandered from thy way,
And, turn'd from sin, will make return to thee,
Whom, turn'd from thee, sin erst had turn'd astray.
O God, God of my health, O do away
My bloody crime: so shall my tongue be raised
To praise thy truth, enough cannot be praised.

Unlock my lips, shut up with sinful shame,
Then shall my mouth, O Lord, thy honour sing;
For bleeding fuel for thy altars flame,
To gain thy grace what boots it me to bring?
Burnt offerings are to thee no pleasant thing;
The sacrifice that God will holde respected
Is the heart-broken soul, the spirit dejected.

Lastly, O Lord, how so I stand, or fall,
Leave not thy loved Sion to embrace;
But with thy favour build up Salem's wall,
And still in peace maintain that peaceful place;
Then shalt thou turn a well-accepted face
To sacred fires, with offer'd gifts perfumed,
Till even whole calves on altars be consumed.

No end of nonsense on the internet

I read this tonight on the internet,
    A head sacrifices his wants and needs to please and build up his partner (Ephesians 5:2ff.) Well, since this is also true of the wife (Ephesians 5:21 -"submit to one another," then what is the difference? A head only exercises authority to over-rule when he believes his spouse is doing something destructive to her or the family. In a marriage, where there are only two "votes", how will the stalemate be broken in cases where there is not just a difference in taste or preference, but in cases where both parties believe the other is seriously mistaken? There can be no unity unless one person has the right to cast the deciding "vote". That person knows that, along with this "right' comes the greatest accountability and responsibility.
Clearly a woman ought not to over-rule her husband when she feels that he is doing something destructive to himself or to the family. Does whoever who wrote this actually believe it? Ladies if you believe your husband is seriously mistaken, you don't get a vote. If you like peas instead of corn, no problem, you get a vote.

Who wrote this? Apparently Tim and Kathy Keller. Saints preserve us. Are these poor people entirely lacking in imagination? It seems so.

If I loved someone I would try to stop them from doing something destructive. I would want to protect that person.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Women and authorship

There was a comment recently asking if I really meant to say that Hannah's or Mary's prayer was "written by" a woman. The answer is "not exactly." My intent was to say that these passages were authored by women, although not necessarily by Hannah or Mary.

It seems to me that there was a community of women who participated in public liturgy, composing and reciting communal songs, keeping traditional women's prayers and songs alive. These texts come to the fore in the stories of Deborah and Jael, Hannah, and Mary and Elizabeth. We read of the participation of women in public worship in the stories of Miriam, Deborah, Jephthah's daughter, David's triumph and in Psalm 68.

Stories of the intimate actions of women are kept alive in the tales of Rachel, Tamar, Ruth and Naomi, Rahab and Mary and Elizabeth. These stories are centred around the theme of kindness and loyalty, a tenderness not only to those of the same sex, their sisters, in a metaphorical sense, as Ruth was to Naomi, but also to men, as we see in Rahab. Tamar demonstrates a commitment to seek justice for oneself.

I cannot say what lessons we should draw from these stories, but perhaps they speak to different people at different times in their lives. I find it hard not to hear the voice of women in these narratives, regardless of who actually took stylus in hand. We have little information on that account.

Another place that I see the authorship of women is in the story of Rebekah. She too, acts in kindness to Abraham's servant. Not that kindness cannot be attributed to men also. I don't mean that. However, kindness is a theme that runs alongside patriarchy, that undermines patriarchy. Its power - for women - comes from women in community or in their families, women needed by men in order to produce the family, women to whom God makes promises concerning family. Kindness is a strength, from God, from others, from oneself, and it is something that one has for the sole purpose of giving to others.

Another indication of female authorship, I believe, is that in the narratives of Rebekah and Ruth, as well as in the Song of Solomon, we read of the importance of "one's mother's house."
    And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things Gen. 24:28

    And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. Ruth 1:8

    It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. Song of Solomon 3:4
I can only say that it is hard for me to imagine that a man composed these lines as well as the lines of Song of Solomon 8:1-2,
    If only you were to me like a brother,
    who was nursed at my mother's breasts!
    Then, if I found you outside,
    I would kiss you,
    and no one would despise me.

    I would lead you
    and bring you to my mother's house—
    she who has taught me.
    I would give you spiced wine to drink,
    the nectar of my pomegranates.
A man usually does not want to be loved as a brother. But he misses the point of a love based on kindness and family feeling. The woman's voice betrays no lack of desire, but underlying it is the warmth of motherly or perhaps I should say, family affection.

These lines, these emotions, undermine the notion, in my eyes, that the scriptures were "written by" men. They seem to be rather the texts of a community of men and women, albeit men representing the majority of the narratives.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

True to your mom

Here is a tribute to my mother, written by my niece.
    In many ways, my mom’s mom was a thoroughly modern woman. She was one of a small group of females who graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1939. She played on the women’s hockey team, and was proud of the fact that never once in her life did she put on a pair of figure skates. At a time when none of her peers would ever opt for “menswear,” she donned pants for outdoor sports – considering skirts to be for sissies.

    But in the realm of her home, my grandmother was a bit old-fashioned. She resisted disposable containers of any kind (particularly plastic), went out of her way to get local ingredients and never let a piece of food, fabric, yarn or furniture go to waste. She could always make something with the scraps; recycling was a way of life for her.

    What Goes Around, Comes Around

    In the new millenium, my grandma would be considered modern – leading-edge even. While she shied away from new technologies, she stayed true to her personal style and her own way of thinking, regardless of the flavour of the moment. Her anti-synthetic mentality may have seemed anti-style in the ’70s, but these days, fashion is embracing natural materials, textures and, increasingly, manufacturing processes like never before. And as consumers, we are encouraged more and more – by social forces and necessity – to consider the sources of our food, our resources, and where and how our favourite goods are made.

    While there is still debate about the exact causes of global warming, I think we all agree that contributing to more waste and pollution is undesirable. We need to find newer, cleaner ways to enjoy the luxuries we’ve come to appreciate.

    In the meantime, things have changed considerably since I lost my grandmother. It’s hard to say whether or not I’ve turned out much like her. I never took to competitive sports (I chose figure skating over hockey) and I’ve never really felt I had the time to do canning or preserving (homemade preserves were a staple in her pantry), but I often choose comfort and practicality over “fashion” and try to be super-conscientious about what I consume. If my grandmother taught me anything, it was how to be true to myself.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mary's Prayer

46 And Mary said:

"My soul glorifies the Lord

47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful

55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors."

Luke 1

In Mary's prayer there are many of the same elements as in Hannah's. God lifts up the humble and feeds the hungry.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hannah's Prayer

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:

"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.

7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.

8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
on them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed."

1 Sam. 2

(I thought I would feature some scripture written by women for the next few days. It happens that this coincides with my homework on widows, orphans and other members of the class of the poor and oppressed.)