Here are three Biblical reflections for the season of Eastertide. They are taken from the original book Gifts in Open Hands, rather than more recent writing, as many of these posts are. If you would like to purchase a copy of Gifts in Open Hands, please go here.
The first is a new appreciation of Thomas from a Pacific Rim perspective and the second looks at the twenty-third psalm experienced in India and may be a reflection for Good Shepherd Sunday April 21. The third is an understanding of the woman bent-oover by illness and her contemporary counterpart is in Honduras. This passage will not appear in the Revised Common Lectionary until August 25 but the scriptural woman’s response to healing surely is the most profound response that we all feel to Easter and our call to make it so now!
The Rehabilitation of Thomas John 20: 24-29 by Janet Marsh, Kiwi, written in Aotearoa. Part of the task of Pacific Rim theology is redefining who we are, and what we believe, as opposed to what was handed down to us from afar.
It need not be the paparazzi,
but a trusted colleague,
or a well-intentioned cousin.
Then ‘click!’ etched in a nano second:
an unbecoming portrait –
dutifully framed, wondrously displayed:
– yes, that was me.
Would you like to be a snapshot stilled in time,
sepia-ed in dullest, darkest doubts?
Developed in a dark room of anxiety –
and, dare I say, agony?
– for that was me.
Am I to be held in memorial
and daring to proclaim questions
which lay buried,
burdening my brothers’ hearts –
too charged with fear and shame
to be exposed to light?
– it would appear so.
Why not Doubting Martha, or Peter, or Judas?
for they too were carved with troublesome headstones.
But I alone bear the epitaph.
May I ask,
are you courageous enough to challenge and change?
May I request,
that with new century lenses
you re-capture me,
re-digitalise my image.
For I am –
the one who was unafraid to question ,
the one who exposed his fears
– and through them knew redemption.
May the blessing of ‘Honest Tom’
be your camera.
Reflection on Psalm 23 by Thandiwe Gobledale, written in India
“…my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6.
I stand under the shop awning awaiting the bus from Katpadi to Kasam. A motorbike stops in the street in front of me carrying an entire family. Two little kids straddle the front, their dad’s arms encircling them to hold the handle bars. Behind the dad, the mother, in her shimmering lavender sari edged in gold, sits sideways with her feet resting on the bar designed for this very purpose. On her lap sits yet another child whom she holds tightly.
An auto rickshaw pulls up, and I climb on. This small, three-wheeled vehicle seats five people comfortably. Today, we fit ten! The driver and two other men sit in the front, four of us women crowd into the back seat, another woman perches on the bar between the front and back seats, and two men rest in the luggage are at the far rear. Squeezed together as we are, I am grateful for this ride, as the wait for the bus can be long, and a seat can be hard to come by.
The Indian landscape rushes by: land piled with refuse – paper, plastic, organic waste and who knows what else. A stiff corpse of a dog, feet outstretched, looks as if it had frozen while standing upright and then simply toppled over, its limbs locked in position. A line of four water buffalo walk beside the rubbish pile. One stops and nibbles at something. At a bus stop a tiny black puppy, to which no one pays any heed, stands looking about, as though for someone or something, then trots between the legs of the men around it.
I smile at my favorite stretch of the journey where we cross the bridge between Katpadi and Vellore. The riverbed beneath the long bridge extends into the distance almost always completely dry. Today water has accumulated from the good rains that have fallen. Sometimes I catch sight of water buffalo meandering through the river bed, but not today. Today I see two men dressed in white dhotis, the cotton cloths men wrap around their waists and tuck into place. I wonder where they are going, but not for long because there is so much to see, so much to take in. People walk and cycle beneath the still beautiful but now crumbling arches of a second older bridge, perhaps once a train trestle. In the distance, beyond the clusters of houses and coconut palms, rise the hills, now monsoon-season-green. Their majestic fortress-like rock formations seem to call out, inviting me to visit and explore them. Perhaps someday.
“My cup overflows.” This verse from Psalm 23, which my father taught me when I was a little girl, runs through my mind. As these images of India flow past the open auto rickshaw in which I ride, I realize my own cup overflows. My time here in India brims to overflowing with growth, experience, and the beginnings of meaningful relationships. This verse also seems to be an apt description of India itself – a place full to overflowing of people, sights, smells, colors, sounds, and experiences. While my experience of India does include dirt, unpleasant odors, contact with disease and death, my impression of this place is of life in abundance, a cup overflowing.
God, open our eyes to see the life flowing abundantly around us. Help us to embrace it in all its richness and to meet it with gratitude and joy.
Luke 13: 10-17 by Janice L. Burns-Watson, written in Honduras
Bare, gnarled feet came into view, testifying that the owner must have spent most of her long life without shoes. However, I barely noticed this woman in my rush to enter. I had never had the opportunity to visit a cathedral before. I was not disappointed — the gilt and gold literally made the room glow. My eyes could not help but be drawn to the magnificent crucifix of Jesus above the altar. I paused at the back of the sanctuary full of awe and reverence. Sitting down in a pew I bowed my head in prayer, not because a service was being conducted, but as a natural response to what was before me.
After a brief period of meditation, I stood up and walked out of the cathedral. There were those feet again. Only this time I noticed the whole woman. She was nearly doubled over in agony. Due to her deformity, she could not stand up straight. Her hands were cupped together asking for alms. She was not alone, many others were begging, but none touched me as did the plight of this woman. Her situation was the epitome of being bent by the struggles of life. She was unable to look up the sky or even to see the beauty of the church building. She could not even look others in the eye to plead with them to give her a few coins.
Christ had pity on such a woman, saying: “Woman you are set free.” Today, how are we called to minister to those bent over and weighed down by life? How can we offer the hope to enable them to stand up straight and praise the Lord?
Prayer: God, open us to your stories, which cannot be trapped by the Bible’s covers but are alive all around us. Amen