started last night. Today is Maundy Thursday. For the first
time in close to 20 years I had to check my datebook to find
out when each was happeningsometimes they are close
together, sometimes farther apart.
first time in almost 20 years I will not lead the Maundy Thursday
service. I guess it was always my favorite servicemaybe
because it was all about food. It commemorated the last dinner
that Jesus ate with his closest friends. Theres not
much information in the gospels about what kind of sauce was
on the fish, whether the bread was made from stone-ground
grains or not (though, you know, given the technology, it
probably was) or if it was key lime pie or raspberry pavlova
that rounded out the meal. The point is, fill in the blanks.
pointthough I think a menu is terribly importantwas
that this was a meal designed to be about remembering it.
The Last Supper means its a remembered supper. Its
not tonights supper or a supper next week. Its
all about what happened and would not happen againbut
was still far too significant to simply forget.
respect the Maundy Thursday observance of the final supper
Jesus had with friends and the Passover Seder have much in
The Seder, too, is a meal designed around the theme or remembrance.
The text read and the actions indicated in the text comprise
the Haggadah. And though there are many different versions
of it, all of them pivot on the act of looking backward with
gratitude to God who righted misfortune and brought deliverance
couple of years I participated in a Seder where we followed
a womens Haggadah. We commemorated our foremothers and
our daughters and the kinds of imprisonment that have been
historically characteristic of womens lives. I remember
bringing my daughters with me. We each had to name our mothers,
grandmothers, etc, as far back as we could. On the Grae side
I could name Norma, my mother, and Jennie, her mother, who
had died the month before my mother married.
Page side the only woman I could name was Sophie Wilomena,
my fathers mother. Maybe
because I know nothing about the lives of the women who are
my forebears it is easy not to be too curioustheres
no way to find out anything about them since they were working
class Danes and Germans who came to this country and didnt
own property, didnt hold office. Basically, they didnt
leave a paper trail, which is the only way to knowor
provethat anyone existed. So if I dont know their
names, this is not surprising.
its precisely because there is a paper trail for so
many of the women in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures that
their namelessness incenses me. And when I think of our collectively
remembering the exodus from Egypt in the Passover Seder or
Jesus gathered around the table of the Last Supper in Maundy
Thursday services, I want to saythis is not dayenu:
Its not sufficient to remember only the first-born sons
or the 12 disciples or the fearless warriors or David or Jesus
or Moses or Elijah unless we also rememberand remember
to namethe women who carried them, bore them, shaped
them. And even that is not enough. It is not dayenunot
sufficientto only remember these women as mothers. And
thats because their tragic portrayal in both Hebrew
and Greek scripture is as far more than mothers and far less
largely unnamed. Do we remember their stories? Could we name
these women? Of course not. They slip between the lines of
scripture. Their stories are unsettling, not the kind of thing
to tell the children in their religious education classes.
all, who wants to tell the story of the Levites concubine?
That poor upstart whose father and husband condoned her gang
rape by the men of the town in order to spare her husbands
own hide? Outraged that she has been raped, abused and killed,
her husband dismembers her body and sends it to warlords all
over Israel in order to get the fighting started. And, of
course, he is successful.
to tell the story of Lots wife? Yeah, we all know she
was turned to a pillar of salt because she disobeyed and turned
back to look at the home she was fleeing. By why is her sin
more egregious than that of Lots himself when he offered
to whore out his virgin daughters in order to spare the man-flesh
of his divine visitors?
about Jephthahs daughter, poor girl? Her father, the
insecure but reliably victorious warrior tells God hell
slay the first person he sees on his arrival home if he could
gain yet another victory. Well, he does. And the first person
he sees on his arrival is his daughter, dancing and singing
as she comes out to welcome him home.
might fare better in some of the stories in Greek scripture,
but they still dont earn themselves names. The stories
are great, gripping. In one, a woman with serious fibroid
problems grips Jesus hem and her bleeding stops; he
knows and commends her for her faithfulness.
In a couple
of other stories, women who are members of a long-hated rival
religious sect encounter Jesus. In one instance, Jesus gives
her grief on the number of husbands she has had. In another
he insults the woman who begs him to heal her daughter, though
he does, indeed, act as if she has persuaded him that his
narrow view of who was worthy of being healed was a wrong-headed
another storyand such a poignant storya woman
washes his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair.
This pisses off the disciples mightily. But Jesus says Truly
I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole
world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.
Would that that were true, but it isnt. We have no name
by which we can remember her.
we gather at Passover Seders and Maundy Thursday services
with the express purpose of remembrance. Then we leave these
solemn observances blithely unaware of who we dont know.
Without their names, these women are not even significant
enough to forget.