Despite living two millennia ago, Mary, the mother of Jesus, experienced many of the same political and social issues that we are experiencing today. Rev. Rachael Weasley reflects on how Mary, along with Elizabeth, bring forth new life amid suffering and injustice, but continue to sing out to God and against oppression.
Rev. Rachael Weasley (she/her), pastor and church planter at Community of Hope Mennonite Church, lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her partner, Davi (they/them), their kiddo, Zeke (he/him), and their cat, Rutabaga. She studied music at Oberlin College and received her MDiv from Chicago Theological Seminary. She pastors a queer-centered Mennonite church that worships over Zoom on first Mondays, with members across North America. In person, the community gathers monthly outdoors for Wild Church. She is passionate about ritual design, cooperatives and community organizing. Rachel is also a songwriter, whose work can be found in the Voices Together Hymnal. Her most recent album is on Bandcamp: https://rachaelweasley.bandcamp.com.
As I write this, a list of ballot boxes in my town is serving as a bookmark in my Bible, marking the first chapter of Luke. On the ballot this year were initiatives to protect renters and low-income workers who are struggling in our town. Our local food bank is seeing record numbers of visitors.
I am also mulling over the pastoral care I just offered to a local activist, who attends my church’s Wild Church services and has been working hard to stop the violence in Palestine. The two of us took a moment of silence to grieve the many children who have died in Gaza at the hands of weapons funded by our tax dollars.
As I reflect upon Mary carrying a vulnerable child within her, while singing out against oppression, I think about how our current times would be no stranger to her. She speaks out against empire, proclaiming the lifting up of the lowly and good nourishment with food for the hungry. I imagine her here, right next to me, grieving these children and mothers who are dying so near to where Mary’s own bones are laid.
Amid death and occupation, amid violence and heteropatriarchy, our God of angels, our God of women singing, brings forth new life.
What does it mean to live now, during climate change, witnessing genocide, struggling under inflation? What does it mean to hear Mary sing these prophecies in a world that seems full of suffering and injustice — when the rich are full and the poor sent away empty?
Each year, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Each year, we gather and sing about peace, no matter which war is raging. Mary isn’t singing about what will happen. She’s singing about who God is. God is not the one sending weapons across the Atlantic; God is not the CEO, accumulating wealth, while employees struggle; God is not profiting from carbon emissions. Each year, we hear Mary testify to her profoundly intimate experience of the Inner Divine, reminding us that God is in the streets, blocking traffic, to draw attention to the need for ceasefire. God is calling her representatives. God is in the line for the food bank. God is spending weekends on the picket lines. God is collaborating for climate justice. God is relying on others for sustenance and survival.
I love the story of Mary in Luke 1, of her rushing to the house of her cousin for a visit that spans Elizabeth’s entire third trimester of pregnancy. In the hill country of Judah, far from the urban centers of power, these two women can relate to one another’s experiences of bearing children who have been prophesied to them by angels. These cousins are both anticipating the major life change of parenthood — the physical, relational and societal transition from being childless to suddenly and unexpectedly anticipating the raising of children.
In a time when their people have been under occupation by the violent Roman Empire, Mary and Elizabeth sing and cry out to one another about the movement of their babies in the womb, about deliverance, about reversals of power. They sing about their pregnancies as reversals of power.
I wonder who in your life the angel Gabriel would invite you to visit? What kinsperson can connect with what you’re going through right now, whether a blood family member or a member of your family of choice? When Gabriel delivers the challenging, life-altering news to Mary, he also makes sure she has someone she can reach out to. She does more than reach out: She hurries to Elizabeth’s house and moves in, presumably for the first nauseating and exhausting weeks of pregnancy, while Elizabeth gets nearer and nearer to giving birth. Who else could have been such apt companions to these women, whose bodies bore the prophecies of angels and who were gestating the deliverance of their people? Pregnancy and parenting include such a blend of waiting and not-doing, with immediacy and activeness. I wonder what you are being invited to give birth to and whom the divine is inviting you share the experience with.
What profound wisdom and joyful music might break forth when you and your co-conspirer bear witness to one another? Our Mysterious Beloved Divine, grieving and inflaming the hearts of those working for justice, is constantly bringing forth new life. May each of us find our ways to be a part of it. Amen.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.
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