"The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast," we heard him say, "that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."
Judith put her hands to her mouth and actually giggled.
"What's so funny?" I wondered.
"Don't you know, Mary? The rabbis consider yeast unclean. Only women handle it. Who but our Jesus would dare to compare it to the Kingdom of God!"
Many times I witnessed the gap-toothed grins of old women, and the clapping and dancing of younger ones as they recognized themselves and their lives in the stories: the persistent widow demanding justice, the woman throwing a party when she finds the lost coin. They needed no explanation. They understood: the Bridegroom was here in their midst. They were invited to the feast." pp 414-415
First, the obvious things that I like about this passage:
1) Jesus speaks directly to women's lives - rather than overlooking us or lumping us into stories where men are normative & primary.
2) Jesus says and does the things that are vitally different from the conventions of his time & place and through that conveys the heart of his message.
3) Jesus used stories about people's real lives to share that message and to welcome & cultivate a community who got the message.
Now, maybe more subtly, how this passage applies to me.
In the last few weeks, my little family took a pause from our church attendance. We need more time as a family, interacting with each other, doing fun stuff, chatting, chasing & getting chased by Baby N.... When we go to church we feel like we give the best hours of the day (before N's nap) to an event that doesn't give us much room to interact with each other. It felt like a loss. Plus, I tend to come home all riled up.
But in the course of Sunday night's June moon ritual, something came to me. I need to go back to church:
1) Because it's good for me to hear other people's ideas about Christianity. Some of the folks in this congregation have powerful love and commitment to Jesus. They tell stories of their experiences of the presence of Christ in their lives.
2) Because I want to do good work in my community and this church does that all day, every day. They are sharing "the feast" in tangible ways (rent, food, recovery groups, access to medical care...). I will be a lot more effective as part of this community than I will be on my own.
3) It's good for me to get riled up. Maybe not every Sunday, & certainly not to the point where I get bitter & dried up, but enough to point me to something vitally different as illuminated by Jesus & to prompt me in how I'm going to live that.
4) [bonus!] This is a congregation of quirky loving folks that I enjoy. They love my son. They welcomed my family from minute 1. (They shared "the feast" even with us?) Churches like this are rare. People like this are to be held onto.
So, this Sunday, Baby N and I will be heading around the corner to church. Instead of family time, L will get a morning to himself - to play bass or read philosophy or take a long bath. All the good refreshing restorative things that a stay-at-home parent rarely gets to do for himself. And we'll work it out, like all families do. We'll keep moving so that each of us is growing and challenged, nurtured and celebrated. And I hope we'll bring a little bit more into our time together from this kind of time apart.
Cunningham, Elizabeth. The Passion of Mary Magdalen. New York: Monkfish. 2006.