Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday Five: For All the Saints!

I haven't played Friday Five in recent months - too busy, I guess. But here's a fun one. If you like, feel free to copy the questions and play.

"Thursday marked the feast of All Saints, observed by many throughout the Christian world. And many of us will observe this feast in our churches come Sunday. As a Catholic schoolgirl, I certainly had one very specific idea of what constituted a 'saint.' As a woman in her prime (ahem!) who also happens to be a Presbyterian minister... I have other thoughts!

How about you? Let's talk today about saints, how we have understood them throughout our lives. Who inspires us? Who challenges us? Whose lives have stirred us to greater discipleship? Who just has the best story we've ever heard? Try to answer these questions in each of the following categories:

1. Saints of the Bible.

2. Saints from Church History/ World History.

3. Saints from Our Own Lives.

4. Saints from Pop Culture

5. Saints Absolutely No One Else in the World Would Ever Call Saints."

!. Saints from the Bible? Here's an odd one, but it works for me: Deborah the Judge. I have a mixed feeling about this woman. Wayyyyy back in Clinical Pastoral Education there was a somewhat thorny woman in my training group who decided very early on that I was not her favorite person. We were asked at one point to link each person in the group to someone in the Bible who seemed to represent the person. The thorny colleague said, "Mary? I guess I'd say Deborah. She was sort of bossy and obnoxious, but she got done what needed to get done, and there is sometimes a need for persons like that." At the moment, it felt like a slap across the face...was the subtext that I was some sort of pain-in-the-butt beatch?  No, not a subtext at all. It was what she thought of me. Turned out I reminded her of her own mother, with whom she had a difficult relationship. It was about her projection of her problems, but I didn't understand that at the time, and it hurt a bit. But here's the funny thing: I think she was right. I do get things done. I can be pushy and bossy when necessary (although I've mellowed with age) and I am not everyone's cup of tea. I've made peace with my inner and outer Deborah. We need Deborahs in this world, be they Hilary Clinton, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Sharon Osbourne, or Bishop Barbara Harris (more about her later in this post). Everyone doesn't have to like me all the time, but I have to be comfortable with who I am. Thanks, Adrienne, for naming it. I couldn't accept it when you said it, but now I do.

2. Saints from Church History/World History? I've got two. The first is St. Brigid of Ireland, she who once wrote "I'd like to give a lake of beer to God. I'd love the Heavenly Host to be tippling there for all eternity." She was a gifted leader who built monasteries and abbeys, a teacher and healer, and she had a wonderful sense of hospitality and a lively sense of humor. The second is the aforementioned Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman Bishop in the Episcopal Church. This African-American woman served as suffragan bishop of Massachusetts, and even in retirement continues to be a powerful voice for the oppressed. She gave the commencement address at my graduation from seminary, and what a gift it was!

3. Saints from our own lives? First responders in moments of crisis like 9.11 and the hurricanes. They put their own lives at risk to help others. Doesn't get more saintly than that. A controversial one: my friend Imad Damaj, who heads up the Virginia Muslim Coalition, and Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center of Virginia. Virginia is not always the most welcoming place for followers of Islam, and Imad and Ammar have been  courageous voices for religious freedom and for interfaith cooperation and friendship, often at great personal risk.

4. Saints from Pop Culture. Sighing here, since so few public persons seem very saintly. I'm not much of a pop culture person, anyway. A few writers come to mind: Marilynne Robinson, she of "Gilead" and "Home," and the incredibly funny Rhoda Jantzen of "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress." Musicians? The late Eva Cassidy, whose voice was truly beyond compare, and the not-late Carrie Newcomer, whose music tells stories and offers a theology I respect. The German baritone Thomas Quasthoff, whose body, cruelly deformed by thalidomide, encases a brilliant mind and an exquisite voice.

5. Saints absolutely no one else would ever call a saint: well, maybe some folks would: Rep. Barney Frank. This Democrat congressman is prickly, brilliant, not one to suffer fools in silence. He has fought for the guy on the street. He has been a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community, as an out-of-the-closet gay man. He is retiring from the US Congress now, and we are all the poorer for it.


river song said...

"fierce Deborah!!!" I love Brigid, too--I appreciate everyone on your list of saints. thanks for playing; blessed All Saints Sunday!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Brigid quote. I can picture God now--at the beach, sitting in a lounge chair, long straw linking her lips to that lake of beer.

Wendy said...

I've never felt anything but completely positive about Deborah. I think she's fabulous.