Epiphany

“Home By Another Road,” Brenda Huber

Welcome to my one-stop “thank you tour!” After attending NCC for 20 years, I’ve elected to become a member! I’m so grateful to each of you who have made this community a community.

In the last month or two our boys have been binge watching old Star Trek episodes, and there’s one episode that really stuck with me… the Starship Enterprise gets stuck in “groundhog day” experience… some sort of time warp that is causing them to relive the same incident over and over. After a few repetitions they start to become aware of what is happening and plant clues for themselves so that next time around they recognize these messages and take a different course of action that ultimately saves them. I’ve been intrigued with this idea… thinking that the synchronicities and epiphanies in my life… moments of extreme clarity, might be messages or guidance to myself about my own soul’s journey.

Quote from Bible for Epiphany Sunday: Matthew 2:11-13 & 16

On coming to the house, they (the three wise men) saw the Child (Jesus) with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him… And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up!” he said. “Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him… When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Today, I’m going to share a bit about taking another way home…

I was raised in the Apostolic Christian Church, where the focus all day every day was on pleasing God now so that when we stood before him on judgment day we would not be found wanting. I was the only daughter of decent parents who had no idea how to parent a female child in a community that would have been more comfortable erasing them. Women in the church were not allowed to select a hymn or even make an announcement. My father said things to me like, “Honey, you can sweep up when we’re done.” When I was an adolescent, after learning in school that I was pretty capable, I asked him, “What if the wife is better at things than her husband?” He gave what he probably thought was a pretty progressive answer, “Oh, it’s okay if she does them, she should just make it look like her husband did.” We were raised to be supporting actors in the stories of our own lives. I was taught women only mattered to the extent that they helped or pleased men. I really wanted to understand things, and do things right… so I asked a lot of questions. In turn, I was repeatedly told, “You think too much.” In my 20’s I started taking classes from Moody Bible Institute hoping to find answers to some of my questions on how to sufficiently please God. One of my first classes was on the inerrancy of the scripture and I was required to write a paper declaring that the Holy Bible is complete in that it is the entirety of what God wished to communicate to man. I struggled with this and finally got up the courage to call my instructor. I said, “I’m really having a hard time with my paper… if the Bible is everything that’s important to God, where are the women? It seems to be a book by men, for men, and about men.” He said, “Hmmm… I think you can still write your paper.” In other words, “You think too much.” Indeed, I wrote my paper, but I also decided I was done with God. I said, “Forget it! I give up. I am incapable of pleasing you.”

A couple of years later I came to NCC… where people openly admitted they didn’t have answers but they relished the asking! I marveled at this. I met with Dick Watts and poured out my questions. He taught me to view the Bible through completely different eyes, and I understood that it didn’t mean what I had been taught it meant. More importantly, though, the person he was completely transformed my understanding of God. The idea of a judging, angry, jealous God became increasingly implausible until one day I said to myself, “I don’t buy it.” The powerful influence of the concept of hell and a devil deflated like a balloon. Next collapsed the idea that I was inherently sinful and in need of redemption, “I asked myself, if I’m so bad, why have I tried my whole life to do good?” And it dawned on me that I was no further away from God and no more displeasing than before I turned my back on him… It may have been Marcus Borg who introduced me to the idea that God is the water and we are fish. I could relax into the idea that God is in me and through me and around me.

Shortly after I began attending NCC, a woman named Julie was ordained… this filled me with a child-like wonder; I felt like we should whisper. Then, we had a women’s retreat and there were no men there to pray or lead the reflection. Again, it was beautiful and delicious but I felt like we should keep it on the down low. I was asked to do a reflection one Sunday, and the morning of, I felt trepidation as if something catastrophic, maybe lightning bolts, would appear… Shouldn’t I at least be wearing my head covering?

After Bob & Susan came to NCC, they did a book group at their house and we read, A God Who Looks Like Me. With curiosity I imagined the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in female form! I experimented with calling God, “she.” This was mind blowing… The idea that God could be the source of feminine power. All throughout history when a woman and power were in the same sentence, someone was getting burned at the stake. The only feminine power that the AC church had acknowledged was that of Eve, to be corrupt and then to seduce others into their destruction.

When Sister Simone spoke on Wesleyan’s stage, she spoke of the nuns as change-agents within the church and activists in D.C. I was mesmerized and empowered by her courage and perseverance. I realized, though I’d found success as a woman in leadership in my career, I continued to have my spiritual life compartmentalized and with a tight lid on it. I began coming to the Thursday meditation group, adult ed book groups, and on-line courses to nurture and develop that part of me.

During the recent presidential campaign and election, I watched as men and women alike grappled with our own internalized terror at the prospect of a woman being the most powerful leader of the world. I recognized it because it is a narrative that has played out over and over on a smaller scale in my life… people becoming completely irrational with fears that I am a pied piper casting a spell that will lure away their followers with my magic. It seems, like Herod, voters were willing to inflict untold damage on all we hold dear, voting for literally anyone, to avoid what felt to them so frightening and wrong. On a personal level, I too have been manipulated by this unspoken fear; I’ve tried to smother, contain, and crush the power of the divine feminine within me with extra pounds.

All of these clues, moments, messages have painstakingly led me to the conclusion that the next chapter in my life is about dispelling the fear of power in the shape of a woman, of the divine feminine energy in myself, in one another… with ripples into our culture and the rest of the world. Modern day prophets suggest that it is time for us as a species to do so…

Jimmy Carter stated, “My decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains… This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries. The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths… The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of… the great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Dalai Lama has stated that the world will be saved by the Western Woman.

Deepok Chopra prophesied that we need “the incarnation of the divine feminine… Imagine a government with a cabinet like this,” he said. “We could dream a new world into actuality, a more sustainable, kind, nurturing world.”

Muriel Rukeyser, an American poet and activist, wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”

Are you ready to join me… to tell your story of another way home?

The Sunday after the election, I sat with Betty Rademacher during the service. I held her hand and we welled up with tears. In that moment I realized three things: 1) during the 20 years that I’ve been bumbling along trying to find my path, my NCC patriarchs and matriarchs have been aging too, 2) NCC is my Egypt, my safe place to grow and face my fears… and 3) this year I’m turning 50. It’s time to come out of hiding. I was reminded of NCC’s beautiful mission statement, that our community will continue in our time what Jesus began in his. As I looked into Betty’s eyes, I felt myself commit to her to continue in my time what she has begun in hers.