Women and Jesus

There are many feminists who reject everything about Christianity. They cite that it is patriarchic and oppressive to women.  They point out that the Christian church has minimized the voices and experiences of women, most notably by not allowing women to be pastors or leaders until very recently (if at all).  I agree with these assessments.  But I also think it is important to read what Jesus said about women and see how he interacted with them.  The Church would do well to follow Jesus’ example.   

Note: the Gospel verses are from the Condensed Gospel, copyright 2015 by Betsy Nelson. They are a rendering of the Gospels as one book, in order, with no repetition. Each line in boldface is the title of one unique story.

The angel Gabriel predicts Jesus’ birth 

Six months after John was conceived, God sent the angel Gabriel to a village in Galilee called Nazareth to visit a woman named Mary.  She was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of King David.

The angel said “Rejoice! The Lord is with you! You are blessed and favored among women!”

Mary was perplexed by his words and wondered what he meant by this greeting. The angel continued, saying “Have no fear Mary, for God has chosen you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of God, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor King David. He will reign over the house of Israel forever and his kingdom will have no end!”

Mary asked the angel, “How is this possible since I have never been with a man?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. Therefore this child will be completely holy and God will be his father. Consider this – your relative Elizabeth who was barren and elderly has conceived and is six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God!”

“I am a servant of the Lord,” said Mary. “May everything happen to me that you have said.” Then the angel left.

LK 1:26-38

Jesus and the Samaritan woman

Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee when he learned that the Pharisees heard he was baptizing and making more disciples than John. Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples did. On his way he traveled to a town in Samaria called Sychar, which is near the piece of land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there and around 6 in the evening Jesus sat down near it because he was exhausted from his journey. A Samaritan woman came near to draw water from the well. Jesus asked her to give him a drink. His disciples had traveled ahead into town to buy food.

She replied “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews normally did not associate with Samaritans.

Jesus answered, “If you understood the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would be asking him, and he would give you living water.”

“Sir,” she said, “the well is deep and you don’t even have a bucket with you. How and where are you going to get this ‘living water’? You aren’t more powerful than Jacob, our father, are you? He is the one who gave us this well.  He, his sons, and their livestock all drank from it.”

Jesus said “Anyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I offer will never ever become thirsty again! In fact, the water I offer will become like a spring of water, flowing from within that person for eternal life.”

“Sir,” she said, “let me have some of this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to come all this way to draw water here again.”

“Go get your husband and come back here,” he told her.

“I am unmarried,” she replied.

“You are correct in saying ‘I am unmarried,’ because you’ve been divorced five times and the man you are with now is not your husband. You have spoken the truth,” Jesus countered.

“Sir, it is obvious to me that you are a prophet,” the woman replied.  “The Samaritans worshipped here on this mountain in years past, yet you Jews believe that Jerusalem is where people should worship.”

Jesus said “Believe me; the time is coming when you won’t need to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you don’t know, while we Jews know what we worship, because salvation comes into the world through us.  However, it is now the time when true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth.  God wants this kind of worship from us.  Since God is spirit, God should be worshipped in spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman said “I know that the time is coming when the Messiah will arrive” (the One who is called Christ). “He will explain everything to us when he comes.”

“I am the One who is speaking to you.” Jesus told her.

His disciples arrived at this point and they were surprised he was talking with a woman.  But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking to her.

Then the Samaritan woman got up, left her water jar there, and went back to town.  She told the men “Come with me and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Is it possible this is the Messiah?” They left the town and went straight to where Jesus was.

Meanwhile, the disciples kept urging him to eat something.  But he said “I have food that you are unaware of.”  The disciples began to wonder among themselves, saying “Could someone else have brought him something?”

Jesus told them “My food is to do God’s will and to finish God’s work. Isn’t it common to say ‘There are four more months before the time for the harvest’? Listen clearly – raise your eyes and look at the fields – they are ripe for the harvest! Right now the reaper is being paid and gathering the harvest for eternal life, so those who sow and those who reap can celebrate together.  Here the saying is true – ‘One sows the seed and another reaps the harvest.’ I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work for.  Others have worked and you have benefitted from their work.”

Many people from the Samaritan town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony when she said “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” Because of this, they asked him to stay with them when they came out to see him at the well.  Jesus stayed there for two days.  Many more people came to believe because of his word.  Then they told the woman “We don’t believe just because of your testimony. We have heard him for ourselves and we know that he truly is the Savior of the world.”

JN 4:1-42

Much forgiveness, much love  

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with him at his home. He accepted the invitation, and as he was reclining at the dinner table, a woman from that town who was known as a sinner entered the home, carrying an alabaster flask filled with expensive perfume.  Weeping, she knelt behind him at his feet with her tears falling upon them. She wiped her tears from his feet with her hair and then began to kiss his feet and anoint them with the perfume.

When the Pharisee noticed what was happening, he thought to himself “If this man really were a prophet he would know that the woman who is touching him is a sinner!”

Jesus, knowing his host’s thoughts, said “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Jesus then told him a parable. “Say there is a man who loaned money to two people. To one he loaned $5000 and to the other he loaned $500. Neither one was able to pay him back, so he graciously canceled both their debts. Which one do you think loved him more?”

“I suppose the one who had the bigger debt,” Simon answered.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. Then he gestured towards the woman and said to Simon “Do you notice this woman here? When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me any water to wash the dust off my feet as most people do, but she has washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss as most people do, but she has not quit kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil as most people do, but she has anointed my feet with expensive perfume. Therefore, her many sins are forgiven because she loves me greatly, but the one who has a smaller debt of sin to forgive shows a small amount of love.”

Then, looking at the woman, he said “Your sins are forgiven.”

Those who were at the table with him said amongst themselves, “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. You may go in peace.”

LK 7:36-50

Many women support Jesus’ work

Jesus was traveling all over the region, preaching and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. His twelve disciples were with him, along with women he had healed. They included Mary Magdalene, (who had been freed from seven demons), Joanna the wife of Chuza (who was King Herod’s steward), Susanna, and many others who were supporting them and their ministry from their own personal resources.

LK 8:1-3

True blessedness 

While he was talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up and said “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and blessed is the one who nursed you!”

Jesus replied “Those who hear and keep the word of God are even more blessed!”

LK 11:27-28

The parable of the yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman mixed into 50 pounds of flour until the yeast spread through all of it, making it all leavened.”

MT 13:33, LK 13:20-21

A girl raised from the dead and a woman healed from bleeding 

A synagogue leader named Jairus fell down on his knees at Jesus’ feet, begging him to heal his child.  His only child, a 12 year old daughter, was near death.  He pleaded with Jesus to come to his house and lay his hands on her so she would live.  Immediately Jesus and his disciples followed him to his home.

While they were on their way, a crowd of people surrounded Jesus, almost crushing him.  In the crowd was a woman who had suffered from menstrual bleeding for 12 years.  She had given all of her money to doctors for a cure, and not only had they not healed her, she had gotten worse.  Approaching Jesus from behind, she touched the corner of his robe where his tzitzit were attached, thinking just doing that would be enough to heal her.  As soon as she touched his robe she could tell that she was completely healed.

Immediately Jesus felt power leave him, and he began to look around him, asking “Who touched me?” His disciples looked at him in amazement.  They wondered how they could possibly know who it was, as the crowd was very large and dense.  Since her plan to do this secretly was foiled, the woman threw herself at Jesus’ feet and confessed that she was the one who had touched him, and why.  He looked at her and said “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

Just then, a messenger from Jairus’ house came to say to him “Don’t bother the Teacher anymore – your daughter is dead.” When Jesus heard this he said “Don’t be afraid – just believe, and she will be healed.”

When Jesus got to the house, he saw a crowd of mourners had already arrived, making a lot of noise with their wails of grief.  He said “Why are you going on like this? She isn’t dead.  She’s just sleeping.” The crowd began to laugh at him.

Jesus got the crowd to leave the house. Going inside with just Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents, he went up to the girl, and taking her by the hand, he said “Talitha koum!” (Which means, “Little girl, get up!”) Immediately her soul returned to her and she began to walk.  Jesus told them to get her something to eat, and strongly told those present to not tell anyone about this.

MT 9:18-26, MK 5:21-43, LK 8:40-56

A Gentile mother’s faith

Jesus traveled to the area of Tyre and Sidon. A woman who wasn’t Jewish approached him and kept crying out to him “Have mercy on me Lord, son of David! My daughter is tormented by an unclean spirit.” Jesus didn’t reply to her, but his disciples approached him and asked him to make her go away because she kept following them and yelling for help.

Jesus said “I am called to help only the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman came and knelt before him, begging him to drive the demon out of her daughter.

He said “Let the children have their fill first, because it isn’t right to take their bread and throw it to the dogs.”

But she replied “Yes, but even the dogs under the table eat the crumbs that fall.”

Jesus answered “Your faith is great, woman. Because of how you answered, you will receive what you have asked for.” Her daughter was free of the demon that very hour.

MT 15:21-28, MK 7:24-30

An adulteress is forgiven

Jesus went to the Temple complex at dawn. A large crowd gathered around him.  He began to teach them after he sat down.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman into the center of the gathering.  She had been caught committing adultery.

They said “Teacher, this woman was caught committing adultery. The Law of Moses says that we should stone her for this.  What do you say we should do?” They said this because they wanted to corner him into breaking the Law so they would have a crime to charge him with.

Jesus leaned over and began writing in the dirt with his finger.  They kept questioning him, so he stood up and said “Whichever one of you who has led a sinless life should throw the first stone at her.”

He crouched back down and started writing on the ground again.  Having heard this, the scribes and Pharisees started leaving, with the older men leaving first.  Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left, with her standing in the center.

Jesus stood up and said “Woman, where are they? Is no one here to condemn you?”

“There is no one, Lord,” she answered.

“I do not condemn you either,” he said. “Go, and don’t sin again.”

JN 8:2-11

Martha and Mary

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling they arrived at a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening while he taught.

Martha was anxious about everything that she had to do to prepare for these unexpected guests. She said “Lord, do you think that it is fair that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to give me a hand.”

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing matters. Mary has made the right choice, and I won’t take it away from her.”

LK 10:38-42

Healing a daughter of Abraham 

Jesus noticed a woman who was disabled by a spirit while he was teaching in the synagogue one Sabbath. She was bent over and could not completely straighten up, and had been this way for eighteen years. Jesus called to her and said “Woman, you are released from your disability!” He laid his hands on her and she was instantly restored to health and began to praise God.

The local synagogue leader was indignant because Jesus had worked on the Sabbath. He said to the crowd “There are six days in which people are allowed to work – therefore come to be healed on one of those days and not on the Sabbath!”

The Lord answered him, saying “Hypocrites! You all work on the Sabbath! Don’t you untie your ox or donkey and lead it to water on the Sabbath? Satan has tied this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years. Shouldn’t she too be released on the Sabbath day?”

All of his adversaries were humiliated when he said this, and the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the amazing things he was doing.

LK 13:10-17

The parable of the lost coin

“What woman doesn’t light a lamp and thoroughly search the house from top to bottom if she loses a single silver coin out of the ten she has? She will call together her female friends and neighbors when she finds it, saying ‘Let’s celebrate, because I’ve found my lost coin!’ Truly, the angels before God are just as joyful when one sinner repents.”

LK 15:8-10

The parable of the persistent widow 

One day Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they needed to not get discouraged but to pray constantly instead.

“There once was a judge who didn’t fear anyone – God or man. A widow kept coming to him to obtain justice for herself against her adversary. He put her off for a long time. But after a while, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear anybody, there is something about the fact that this woman keeps pestering me that gets to me. I will rule in her favor so she doesn’t beat me up with her incessant demands.’

Jesus said “Look! Even this hardhearted judge will give in to someone who constantly asks for relief. Don’t you think that God (who is good) will grant relief to those who respect God if they keep asking? Of course God will, and God will help them quickly. In spite of all this, when the Son of Man comes again how many will be found who have faith and are praying?”

LK 18:1-8

The widow’s gift   

Jesus was sitting across from the tithe box at the Temple. He saw all the people dropping their money into it. The rich were putting in a lot. A poor widow came along and put in just two tiny coins, barely enough to buy a loaf of bread. Jesus called his disciples to notice this and said “Truly, this poor widow has donated far more than anyone else. They had given out of their excess, but she has given out of her lack. She has given everything that she has to live on.”

MK 12:41-44, LK 21:1-4

The anointing at Bethany  

Jesus was staying in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had a serious skin disease. They gave a dinner in honor of him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus, the one Jesus had raised the dead, was reclining at the table with him. Mary, Martha’s sister, approached Jesus with an alabaster jar filled with a pound of pure and expensive fragrant oil called nard.

She broke the jar open and poured the oil on his head and feet while he was reclining at the table, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the oil’s fragrance.

The disciples were indignant about this. Judas Iscariot, the one who was going to betray him, spoke up to scold Mary, saying “Why wasn’t this expensive perfume sold and the money given to the poor, rather than being wasted like this?”

Jesus said “Why are you bothering her? What she has done for me is very noble. She has saved this oil for the day of my burial, which she has now prepared me for by anointing my body. The poor will always be with you for you to take care of, but I won’t. I assure you, what this woman has done for me will be told in memory of her wherever the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world.”

MT 26:6-13, MK 14:3-9, JN 12:1-8

On the way to the cross  115

There was a Cyrenian man named Simon who was coming in from the country. He was the father of Rufus and Alexander. He was passing by as the soldiers were taking Jesus to the crucifixion site. They grabbed him and forced him to carry Jesus’ cross by laying it across him.

MT 27:32, MK 15:21, LK 23:26

There were many women wailing with grief in the large crowd that was following Jesus.  He turned to them and said “Don’t weep for me, daughters of Jerusalem. Weep for yourselves and for your children. The days are coming when people will say that those who never bore children are fortunate. They will call out to the mountains, saying ‘Fall on us!’, and begging the hills to bury them. For if they do things like this when the tree is green, what will they do when it is dry?”

LK 23:27-31

Jesus’ provision for his mother

Jesus’ mother, along with Mary Magdalene and his aunt Mary (who was the wife of Clopas), were standing by his cross. When Jesus noticed his mother standing with the disciple he loved, he said “Woman, here is your son.” To the disciple he said, “Here is your mother.” From that point on the disciple made her a part of his family.

JN 19:25-27

Women with him 

Many women were there who had followed and helped Jesus from when he was in Galilee.  They were watching the crucifixion from a distance. They included Mary Magdalene, Mary who was James and Joseph’s mother, Salome, and the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee).  Many other women had traveled with him up to Jerusalem.

MT 27:55-56, MK 15:40-41, LK 23:49

Resurrection morning  

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Joanna, and Salome went to the tomb while it was still dark on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had ended. They brought the spices and perfumes they had prepared to anoint the body. They were wondering among themselves how they would roll back the stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb.

An angel of the Lord suddenly descended from heaven, causing the earth to shake. He rolled back the stone door and then sat upon it. He shone with a brilliant light and his robe was snow-white.  The guards were paralyzed with fear when they saw him.  The women bowed down to the ground, amazed and terrified.

The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  Why are you looking among the dead for the living? He is not here – he has been resurrected! Remember how he told you when he was in Galilee that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and will rise on the third day?”  Then they remembered that Jesus had said this.

The angel continued, saying “Come and see where they put him. Go quickly and tell his disciples ‘He has been raised from the dead.  He is going ahead to Galilee – you will see him there, just as he said.’ Make sure you tell them this.”

The women, trembling with amazement and alarm, ran from the tomb to tell the other disciples the news.

MT 28:1-8, MK 16:1-8, LK 24:1-8, JN 20:1

Mary Magdalene and the other women see Jesus 

Mary saw a man in the garden not far from the tomb.  She assumed he was the gardener. He was Jesus, but she did not recognize him. When he said “Mary”, she instantly knew who he was.

“Teacher!” she exclaimed, reaching for him. 

He cautioned her, saying “Don’t hold on to me, because I haven’t yet gone up to my Father.  But go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to our Father – mine and yours. I am leaving for Galilee, have them meet me there.”

The other women saw him as well, and they held his feet and worshipped him.

The women reported to the disciples on all that had happened and relayed the message from the angel and Jesus to travel to Galilee, yet they didn’t believe them.  The disciples thought they were making up the story.

MT 28:9-10, MK 16:9-11, LK 24:9-11, JN 20:14-18

Defeating evil

I was hoping to see something like this. The only way we will make things better is when each one of us stands up against bullies and we do what we know to be right. I have had relatives and managers who have used their charisma and power to try to get me to do things that were wrong, and it took a lot of energy to stand up to them. But going along with a bully (out of fear, out of concern for losing a job) is how Hitler rose to power, and how 45 is getting away with whatever he wants. It isn’t the “leaders” I blame – it is all the followers. The followers do what the leaders say without question. We all know that these are strange times, and we know things aren’t right. Complaining about it won’t fix it – and actually adds to the sense of helplessness and anxiety in your audience (your friends). What are you, as an individual, willing to do to throw a cog in the machine that threatens to stop us from being automatons? What concrete actions will you do to say “no” to bullies and “yes” to life?

For instance, there is a library policy that books that aren’t circulated in two years are culled from the stacks. They are sent to be sold, for pennies on the dollar. This is a huge waste of taxpayer’s money, and especially concerning when every year there was a budget crisis where employees weren’t sure they’d have a job. I protested this and was ignored. So I simply refused to do this task. The more of us who don’t participate in doing what we know to be wrong, the better.

What does “brother” mean?

When Jesus says “brother” – does he mean your actual brother?

Matthew 18:15-17

15 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.

Remember, we are to forgive people:

Matthew 18:21-22

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.

But does he mean actual blood-relation brother? What does Jesus say about family relations?

Matthew 10:34-36

34 “Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 A man’s foes will be those of his own household.

This refers back to a message in the Hebrew Scriptures –

Micah 7:5-7

Don’t trust in a neighbor.
    Don’t put confidence in a friend.
    With the woman lying in your embrace,
    be careful of the words of your mouth!
For the son dishonors the father,
    the daughter rises up against her mother,
    the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
    a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
But as for me, I will look to Yahweh.
    I will wait for the God of my salvation.
    My God will hear me.

We are to trust in God alone – not our family of origin. If they too are following the word of God, that makes it easier, but we are to still follow God, not people just because they are related to us by blood. What they do matters more than who they are.

Matthew 10:11-15

11 Into whatever city or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you go on. 12 As you enter into the household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 Whoever doesn’t receive you or hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

What does Jesus say about brothers?

Matthew 5:21-24

21 “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment. Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ will be in danger of the council. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna. 23 “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

It is important to note that “brother” in this passage is the Greek word “adelphos”, meaning fellow disciple.  It doesn’t refer to blood kin at all, but someone who you are in a committed, covenanted relationship with. 

In this passage, Jesus lets us know that actions are thicker than blood:

Matthew 12:46-50

46 While he was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, seeking to speak to him. 47 One said to him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers stand outside, seeking to speak to you.” 48 But he answered him who spoke to him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 He stretched out his hand toward his disciples, and said, “Behold, my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

So, if your actual brother is evil to you, you are to forgive him, but you are not obligated to endure his abuse. He is not in a committed relationship with you. He made no promises to be kind to you. Actions speak louder than words. If he is abusive, let him know how his actions make you feel. If he changes, great. If not, he has chosen to not be a real “brother” to you. This is his loss, and reflects poorly on him, not you.

(All Bible translations are World English Bible, public domain.)

Jesus does not punish.

I’m not sure why the Christian church has gotten into the sin-punishment business, because that was never what Jesus did. Penance isn’t the plan. He never judged anyone, so neither should Christians.

Jesus comes to save the lost – not berate them or make them feel bad.

Matthew 18:11

11 For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost”

His disciples get angry when a Samaritan town rejects Jesus, and they want to call down the wrath of God to destroy the town. Jesus rebukes them because he is about saving lives, not destroying them.

Luke 9:51-56

51 It came to pass, when the days were near that he should be taken up, he intently set his face to go to Jerusalem 52 and sent messengers before his face. They went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, so as to prepare for him. 53 They didn’t receive him, because he was traveling with his face set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from the sky and destroy them, just as Elijah did?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them, “You don’t know of what kind of spirit you are. 56 For the Son of Man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” They went to another village. 

Jesus was not sent to judge us at all.

John 3:17

17 For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.

Jesus teaches us what to do if a fellow-believer (what the term “brother” means) has done something harmful to you.  

Matthew 18:15-17

15 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.

You are to stop associating with him.  There is nothing in there about punishment or penance.  The brother has proven through his actions that he isn’t interested in following the same rules as the group. He has chosen through his actions not to belong. You don’t need to do anything.

Jesus came to be a servant, not to be served.  He has no desire to rule over anyone. This was illustrated in the story of the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John, two of his disciples) who wanted them to be specially honored –

Matthew 20:27-28

27 Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus repeats his mission in the story of Zaccheus –

Luke 19:10

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus doesn’t judge anyone – even if they don’t believe in what he says.

John 12:47

47 If anyone listens to my sayings, and doesn’t believe, I don’t judge him. For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

Jesus again refuses to judge.

Luke 12:13-14

13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”

Since Jesus doesn’t judge, neither should Christians.

(All Bible translations are from the World English Bible – public domain)

Super secret mantra

Here is my super secret mantra for how I get anything done.  

It is super secret.  

Are you sure you are ready for it? 

OK, here it is – 

“This shit doesn’t do itself.”

If you have a project that you want to do – that you know your soul needs to do – that you know if you don’t do it you will be super sad and maybe a little bit angry, then you HAVE to do it.  Nobody else is going to do that thing. That is your thing, and you have to do it. 

And sometimes that means reading books or watching videos about it until you can buy the equipment to do it. And sometimes it means learning a related craft/skill about it because the thing you want to do/make has never been done before by anybody and you don’t have a teacher or a guide. 

Sometimes you are the teacher / guide for someone else, and you just don’t know it yet. 

So you have to take little tiny baby steps towards the thing that you have to make/do/bring forth into the world because otherwise it will never be made. And the world will be that much lesser because of it. 

Dancing in the rain

It was tomorrow already and the rains had not come. They had chided her for wanting this house, more like a niche, all the way at the end of the alley at the lowest part of the city. The cobblestones directed the water this way, all of it, every last trip and drop. And then it ran, tumbling, gurgling, into the tiny alleyway beside her abode, rushing out to the sea which was the border of not only this city, but this state, this country. It might as well have been the border of the world for all she cared because she had no plans to venture out beyond it. Here is where she had been born and here was where she would die. There was no melancholy in it, no pathos. This was her fate and she was happy to accept it.

It hasn’t always been this way. The usual fits and starts occupied her in her youth, all that you would expect from a child. All of her classmates had wanderlust or itchy feet. All wanted to backpack in some foreign country on their summer breaks or find a way to get a spouse, get a job, get out of this fortress that was their home.

She had followed along, assumed that she was supposed to feel disappointed in her hometown, was supposed to want to leave as fast as possible, but that was what everyone else felt. It wasn’t really about her. It was all about them and what they felt.

It took a lot of her years and a little bit of therapy to understand the difference between her own feelings and those of everyone else. Perhaps she had enmeshed with the world because of her needy parents who had pushed their own anxieties and fears upon her while minimizing her own. Any pain she mentioned was overridden by their own hurts, both physical and psychological. They would tell stories of how it had been worse for them, making her pain small in comparison. And then they would tell her how they’d overcome it – always with a pill. Sometimes it was an aspirin, and sometimes a Xanax. Always legal, but never useful. It was a stroke of luck that pills never helped her or she would have become an addict like them. Every pill they offered her had a double effect, so much so that she started halving them on the sly. Then she just stopped taking them all together.

Which she really needed was love. Empathy would have healed her more than the “medicine” they offered. Meaningful connection, listening, anything other than what she had been given would have helped. It was a violence to her soul for them to say through their actions that her pain was meaningless, and to not teach her ways to heal that didn’t involve pills. But then again, you have to know better to do better. They were all dead now, or just dead to her. They would never learn from her hard-fought lessons.

So now she listened to her inner voice, the voice of her true Parent, the One who had created her and sustained her and brought her to this moment. Once she had started listening for that voice things had gotten a lot simpler.

Not necessarily better, mind you. Her parents hadn’t understood why she had quit college just a month into her sophomore year. Her mother had told her to ride it out, but her father – he understood. He too had been in that same situation decades earlier. Yet he had not been treated fairly or kindly then. In that moment, he knew he had a choice to treat his child now the way he wished he had been treated then.

Her brother had been the most unreasonable, telling her she caused shame to the family name. Meanwhile he was on marriage number three and had been discharged early from the military due to insubordination. But he, like their mother, had never been to college, so they didn’t know how alien it was, how foreign, how impossibly not human and artificial. It wasn’t for sensitive people, those who felt everything, all the time.

So now, all these years later, she was living in a tiny room with just a few possessions and finally she was content. She didn’t need anything, and when well-meaning folks tried to give her more books or craft supplies or ideas, she politely but firmly refused and directed them to donate it to a local charity or take care of it themselves. She didn’t need their ideas for her stories. She had plenty of her own.

But the rain still needed to come. You see, she had chosen this home because of the water. She loved the sound of it. She loved to dance in the rain. It healed her. But the townspeople didn’t understand an adult frolicking in a rainstorm, so she did it in private. This house with its little alleyway provided just that.

What comes first?

What came first – being a member of The Wander Society or paying closer attention to things? Many of us in order to be part of this funny little club had to read Keri Smith’s book first. Then we had to be curious about the clues in the book. We had to go outside of the book to find out more.

We had to figure out that there was a request to make a stack of stones, take a photo of them, and email them to a special email address mentioned in the book. It is kind of like coming across a treasure hunt without planning to. Just reading the book was the start. But then you have to engage the message in the book to get anywhere.

Being curious, not taking things at face value, and being willing to think outside the box (not even seeing the box!) are all traits that we brought with us into this group. Perhaps the best part of being in this group is that we are now validated for our curiosity. We are in a like-minded society (albeit a virtual one) of other people who wonder and wander. When we see pictures posted by other members of beautiful mountain scenes we want to lace up our hiking boots and go. When we see macro photography from other members of tiny little things that we otherwise would not have noticed, we think “Hey, I wonder what else I am missing and I should pay closer attention to?”

So perhaps they both reinforce each other – being curious and being a Wanderer creates Wanderers who are even more curious. Perhaps it is not simply “Solved by walking”. Perhaps it is all about wandering.

Perhaps instead of being inoculated against the world, Wanderer’s hearts are even more open. Perhaps The Wander Society serves as inspiration to share our hearts – our tender beautiful tiny huge hearts – with other people who share the view that the world is an amazing and tender and wonderful place.

The strangers.

The door was at the end of a long cobblestone alleyway. There were other doorways along this narrow path, and other windows above. Each door, ornately decorated with carvings and inlay, had no peephole. It was seen as a distraction from the aesthetic of the whole, and was in line with the beliefs of the culture.

Most of the citizens lived on the second floor, so when caller rang the tiny bell by the door, they would peer out at who was below. If they were interested in company, they would saunter downstairs and admit the visitor. Strangers were rarely allowed inside, so there were no solicitors in this town. The faithful had to find other ways to lure people to their gatherings.

This town had been rebuilt of stone after the second flood a century ago. Sure, the members of the fledgling town could have read the signs and chosen to relocate, but they had come to love the easy access to water for their entertainment and cuisine. There was nothing like a day by the shore and a grilled halibut to make a life complete. They weren’t willing to give this life up, in spite of the risk that came with a town so close to water. Plus they enjoyed being able to travel on a “road” they didn’t have to build to see other cities and other cultures.

For you see, they were perfectly happy visiting strange exotic people who lived a few leagues away, but weren’t interested in having anyone strange come visit them. Strangers weren’t seen as dangerous, or even odd – just simply not like them. And that kind of person might cause more trouble than it was worth.

The townsfolk were too polite to explain the rules to strangers, and in many cases they might not even fully understand them. Rules and customs had the force of law here, and like laws they sometimes made no sense but people followed them anyway.

It served no purpose to explain their particular rules to strangers – they had no desire to allow them into their lives. Strangers were shunned to the extent that they weren’t even allowed to become members of the community by any means. You could not marry into the town, or seek to transfer citizenship, or even own property if you were a stranger.

But then there were others, people who were not born in the town, people who visited, who were welcome with open doors and open arms. What was the difference? Somehow they knew the rules. They were seen as part of the community simply because of how they acted. You either got it or you didn’t, and if you were in you were in for life without question.

Butterfly

Michelle knew today was the day for the big reveal. Her family and friends had suspected something was up for a while. They could see how hard it was for her to continue to pretend. This would be no surprise to them. But for her workplace, a busy advertising office with many prominent clients, this would come as a shock, if not a joke. It would be difficult for them to accept this new reality because there had been no signs. She had played her role well.

You see, Michelle knew down in her bones that she had been born into the wrong body. Now, it wasn’t a case of gender. She was sure she was a woman, whatever that meant. The roles and rules had shifted over the years in women’s favor and she could make do and make a life within these constraints.

Michelle‘s difference was that she was African, not Caucasian. She had always been drawn to the African culture and stories. She’d dated guys from Kenya and Egypt and Mali, despite concerns from her mother that it wasn’t safe. Her mother had said that others they would encounter when they were out together might cause trouble. Michelle was unfazed – her mother’s life was full of fear and imagined danger, and she was sure that fear would kill her mother before any stranger would harm herself. Michelle was determined to not adopt her viewpoint.

It wasn’t out of spite that she dismissed her mother’s concerns. She knew, deep down, that her mother’s version of reality was not her truth. Soon she started examining everything else in her life to see if it was valid. She didn’t want to live her life – her one, precious, beautiful life, – following someone else’s pattern. So everything she had been told and taught got questioned and challenged. Her parents and friends thought she was going through a rebellious phase but she knew better. The unexamined life was indeed not worth living.

So that Tuesday she called a meeting and told everyone that she had to speak her truth. She was, despite appearances to the contrary, African, and from henceforth she expected all of them to call her by the name Kipepeo, which was Swahili for “butterfly”. She would not answer to anything else. HR was consulted. The legal team was notified. She had no plans of going before a judge and legally changing her name. She cited men who were named Robert who insisted on being called Bob. She cited Native Americans who had gone on a vision quest and come back with a new name. And then she stopped explaining.

Kipepeo insisted that her employer print out new business cards for her, the same as if she had gotten married and changed her name. Except she hadn’t. She insisted that the nameplate on her office door be changed< as well as what was printed on her checks. She accused anyone who did not call her by her new name of creating a hostile work environment. She called it her true name.

At that, her employer started to look for ways to get her to leave. If anybody was creating a hostile work environment, it was her. They had gone along with her claim that she was actually African. It wasn’t something that affected the workplace. But his name thing was going too far.

Epiphany

Only once a year was this door opened, and that day was today. Many people loved the pomp and pageantry of Christmas, but for Elaine, it was Epiphany that took the cake. She celebrated all the usual observances her little village church offered, and a few extra. Opening this door was one of them, and this honor was now entrusted to her.

Elaine‘s family had been the keepers of the key since time and memory began – and perhaps longer. Every generation it was passed on to the second oldest daughter in a modest but meaningful ceremony upon her entering into cronehood. Of course they never used such words outside of the family, never even said menopause. It wasn’t anyone’s business how and when the key changed hands. If questions were asked, they were deftly and efficiently turned aside in such a way that the asker felt that his query had been satisfied and yet was none the wiser.

The door was a deep turquoise blue, the color of the domes of Santorini sanctuaries, of endless pools in long-abandoned quarries. There was an ornate metal scrollwork seemingly festooned with clusters of ripe grapes upon it. This was no mere feet of artistry – there were two purposes to these ornate bands. The first was obvious: it gave the wood a structure, like a skeleton, to ensure the door’s persistence. It would not do to have this door, of all doors, decay before it’s time. The second was hidden: never spoken aloud, never even hinted that. The guardian of the key invariably realized it soon after she was entrusted with her noble task. It was of no matter if she didn’t, however – early, late, or never, the truth was still there. It had no need to be passed down like an heirloom or a password. It was too precious to need to rely upon something as fallible and frail as human memory. The truth could go many generations before being realized again. It could wait.

So why Epiphany? That was a little murkier. All Elaine’s family tradition would comment was that the one year it wasn’t done, the cows ran away, the children were more difficult than usual, and the tractors wouldn’t start. And not just any Epiphany, but the one on January 19, the one of the Julian calendar. This made the tradition a little less obvious to the village, which wasn’t cosmopolitan enough to know that there were two different dates for the same event, just like with Christmas and Easter.

Not like it really mattered what day it was celebrated, because lightning never strikes twice in the same spot with the same day, but it was the principle of the thing, and a tradition was a tradition.

Elaine opened the door at sunrise as she has been taught. The door would remain open all day, letting the chapel inside soak up the sunlight from the sacred day. Then at sunset, the door would be locked again, sealed for another year. Perhaps the chapel was some sort of holy battery, solar powered, long-lived, and needed the light on just this day to keep the village running smoothly.

Just in case that was true, they kept the population of the village under 100 people to ensure the special energy would not be used up too soon.