As we reel at the horror of yet another school shooting, and the obscenity of self-described Christians insisting on the right to carry semi-automatic weapons, it is clear that the sacrifice of children to idols is not a quaint Biblical problem. Instead, it’s a contemporary outrage which causes intense grief to God. But how do we speak, and thus think, of this God?
In rabbinic practice, God’s Name is never spelled out or pronounced. Instead, diverse forms of reverence are used which speak of God more obliquely. Most common are ‘Adonai’ (the Lord) and ‘HaShem’ (the Name). Following this practice and drawing on the immediate context of the psalm, the translation of Psalm 8 by womanist scholar Wilda Gafney uses different Biblical forms of reverence to remind us of God’s ‘genderfull’ nature (Gen. 1) and the goodness of all human flesh, including that of women and children.
In light of current events, I invite you to sink into this powerful psalm, rest in the Womb, and let her shape your life, your priorities, and your politics.
1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.
2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.
Womb of Life, our Sovereign,
how exalted is your Name in all the earth!
Out of the mouths of children and nursing babes
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
You have founded a stronghold against your adversaries,
to put an end to the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have established,
What are we that you should be mindful of us?
the woman-born that you should attend to them?
You have made us a little lower than God;
you adorn us with glory and honor;
You give us mastery over the works of your hands;
you put all things under our feet;
All sheep and oxen,
even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
Womb of Life, our Sovereign,
how exalted is your Name in all the earth! (Psalm 8, Gafney)
3. REFLECT: Allow a word, phrase or single image to speak to you. What do you notice? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.
4. RELATE: Now wonder: What does this translation suggest to you about God, people young and old, or the earth? Does it uphold, upend, challenge or enrich your image of God? What adjectives for God spring to mind? What stance does it imply? How might you / we exalt her Name?
5. RESPOND: Do you have any sense of invitation, comfort, challenge, or lament? Pray about this, and tell God about anything which is emerging. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you the next step.
6. REST: When you feel ‘done’, rest awhile. Savour the conversation you are having with God, and God’s loving presence. Close with a gesture of thanks: perhaps a simple bow. As you prepare to leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you. Or if nothing in particular arises, remember this:
- Womb of life, our Sovereign …
Emailed to Sanctuary 15 June 2022 © Sanctuary, 2022, quoting a translation by Wilda C. Gafney. A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church. Year A. New York: Church Publishing Company, 2021. (Unsolicited plug: IT’S WONDERFUL!!! BUY IT!!!) Image shows Psalm 139 by Rachel Peters. Rachel is a member of our congregation, and we are lucky enough to have this painting hanging on the church wall. Thanks, Rachel!
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