The Shelter of God

By Berry, Malinda Elizabeth | Sojourners Magazine, March 2007 | Go to article overview

The Shelter of God


Berry, Malinda Elizabeth, Sojourners Magazine


In the United States, March is dedicated to preserving and raising awareness of women's history--or "herstory." This celebration dates back to the early 20th century, when socialists declared March 8 to be International Women's Day. Connected to labor rights activity throughout the world in its early decades, IWD has become much like Mother's Day in some places and stays closely linked-to its activist roots in other contexts.

But what does this have to do with Lent? Lent is the season in which we are invited to follow Jesus into the wilderness. Taking that path helps us see with clarify what we need to survive and thrive. The weeks of Lenten wandering "are a time for probing consideration of our human condition," Laurence Stookey observes in Calendar: Christ's Time for the Church. The life stories of women have the power to teach us important lessons about the human condition.

In Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer, an Richardson brings-into focus the stories of biblical and contemporary women. "In this season of reflection and repentance, we remember women whose dreams, hopes, and in many cases, lives were offered by others as unholy sacrifices toward their own ends." She continues, "In these stories we encounter women whom history has dis-membered more often than re-membered." This month gives us the opportunity to "heal our memories" by honoring women's prophetic voices through re-membering. It's like Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones; by retelling our her-story we are giving new life to wise ones who help us understand what it means to follow Jesus in this time and place.

MARCH 4

Shelter for All

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

In the gospel reading, Jesus laments the emotional state of affairs in Jerusalem: "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34). All too often we resist the utopian vision of unity--it is simply unrealistic to cultivate sustainable common ground amid global diversity. On the other hand, we cannot survive if we ensconce ourselves on our own little islands. The question, then, is how we build community that gives us healthy amounts of space and intimate connections that give us the shelter Jesus describes. As I consider this question in my own life, I think of women who have understood the relationship between public and private spheres, women such as Shirley Chisholm.

There has been a rebirth of interest in Chisholm since her death in January 2005, just before the premier of Shola Lynch's documentary about Chisholm's presidential candidacy: Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed. In 1964, she began her political career as a member of the New York State Assembly. Four years later, she represented New York's 12th district in Congress. Writing in her 1970 autobiography, Chisholm observed, "In the 91st Congress [1969], I am a sponsor of the perennial Equal Rights Amendment, which has been before every Congress for the last 40 years but has never passed the House. It would outlaw any discrimination on the basis of sex. Men and women would be completely equal before the law. But laws will not solve deep-seated problems overnight. Their use is to provide shelter for those who are most abused, and to begin an evolutionary process by compelling the insensitive majority to re-examine its unconscious attitudes."

I am drawn to her vision, which I find echoes Jesus' desire for Jerusalem. Gathering the marginalized, the dispossessed, the rich, the powerful, women, and men as one human family requires legislation and compassion. Chisholm is right--what doesn't need shelter is discrimination and bigotry; what does is the human soul.

MARCH 11

Death by Chocolate

Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

Food is a theme that links this week's readings, whether it's the bread, wine, and milk of Isaiah, the psalmist's rich feast, or Jesus' parable of the fig tree.

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