Monday, 8 March 2010

Food for thought and food for life on International Women's Day

Our liturgy for international women's day this morning focused on daily bread and included recipes from the LWF's splendid Food for Life cookbook.
It was fun to have recipes as part of the liturgy, I wouldn't quite say that it had our mouths watering but it certainly gave our praying a more sensual quality, the prosaic words conjured up smells and flavours as well as the healing qualities of some food.
Fulata Mbano Moyo gave a very personal reflection entitled: Desperation created by systems of inequality as enemy to women’s dignity.
She spoke of her own experience losing and mourning her husband over a decade ago to look at how sytems of economic injustice and privation mean that when tragedy strikes it can often be the double tragedy for women of the loss of a loved-one and the loss of their livelihood. speaking of her own desperation she looked at the stories of two deperate women in the Bible. In 2Kings 4 the desperate widow in advised by Elisha to fill her own and her neighbours empty vessels with oil thus preventing the sale of her children into slavery. In Matthew 15 the Canaanite woman is desperate for her daughter, willing to humiliate herself like a puppy and be content even with mere crumbs from the master's table.

If you love somebody and that somebody is in ill-health, you are more prone to being desperate for the restoration of their health. The woman we meet in Matthew 15: 21-28, loved her daughter deeply and desperately sought her restoration to health –“rescue from the torment of the demon”. She would try anything that would bring that restoration. The question of dignity and respect was not a priority at this point. Observance of the rules for example keeping away from other ethnic groups as a “Canaanite” (a derogatory term) was not an option for her. If being compared to a dog ( an insult) would bring healing to her daughter –“even dogs eat crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Despite her own desperation, she still strategically challenged Jesus' own human bias and insensitivity – and he said “woman great is your faith”.

As we prayed for women and men throughout the world, as we sang John Bell's amazing hymn "there is a line of women, extending back to Eve" in celebration of biblical women, as we shared the blessing by holding out one hand upwards and the other downwards, we "went out with songs of resurrection" ... with much food for thought. And in the main lobby the men were serving coffee and juice and croissants, real food, real breakfast greeted us. Food for life.

There is a line of women, extending back to Eve
Whose role in shaping history God only could conceive
And though, through endless ages, their witness was repressed
God valued and encouraged then through whom the world was blessed.