“Easy to Pray” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
What a wonderful Sunday we shared last week. I am continually grateful for the ways we grow and support each other and our diverse passions. This community truly is a blessing. Keep an eye on The Park’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages to see what we are up to this week. We hope you will join us.
Each week I take a look at our text, I pray with it, use it to inspire my week, and then hopefully offer an insightful word that helps you in your life. That being said, some texts are exceptionally easier to work with than others. This week’s scripture is one of those easy texts for me and I hope it will be for you too.
But why is this text an easy one to pray for?
My answer is simple: this text is an honest reflection of our world today, and our world needs prayer. This text has been used for hundreds of years to justify the mistreatment of women. It has been used to uphold misogynistic ideologies and help to deeply embed sexist notions into our social relationship with God. It is a story of the divide of God’s people and casts women as a subordinate within her world and intimate partner relationships. As a woman, as a strong woman, as a woman called by God to lead and support God’s people. I can tell you in my experience, this story rings true on a daily basis. See if anything rings true for you as you read this story from Genesis.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Samuel teaches us how to listen and really hear what is being said. Listening to others is a part of life, but really hearing people is a key piece of community. Samuel listened to God but couldn’t really hear God, he couldn’t really understand the message God was telling him, until Eli shed light on God’s word for Samuel. Listening to God is only possible when we also listen to each other. Without each other we don’t get the whole part of God’s story, and it becomes harder to know the good news of God’s encompassing love and grace.
Did any of these relationships ring true for you? Eve is the obvious choice for many of us, but the surprising place I resonated with in the story, was with Adam. There have been times in my life when I have not been nice to women, and this deeply includes myself. As a young girl who was into sports and described herself as “just one of the boys,” I turned my back on the diversity of my sisters. And I don’t just mean cis-ters. We have elected leaders that treat women as less-than and use derogatory language toward people that is centered in the female body and experience. And I have been complicit in those actions at times in my life.
So, for me, this scripture is one that I find easy to use as a tool of prayer.
I pray for the women in this world. Women who have been the victims of shame, blame, and oppression for simply existing. I pray for the women in this world who are seen as less than in their jobs, their marriages and intimate partners relationships, and their family structures. I pray for the women who see themselves as less than. I pray that they know a God that loves them fully and completely and before anything else.
I pray for the men of this world. How they have systemically lifted Eve to the branch of the proverbial fruit, encouraged her to pick it, ate of the fruit as well, and then placed sole blame on her. I pray they know a God of justice, equality, and equity. I pray they follow Jesus’s example of deconstructing privilege and lifting up those that communities and societies have deemed less-than. I pray that they hold themselves and others accountable for their actions and participation in the oppression of women.
And I pray for all those who see it from both sides. Those whom God created so special that they encompass a space of identity well beyond the binaries of society. Those who have a special vision for creation and how we can move forward together.
Friends, this is a story that calls for prayer. This is a story that calls for justice. This is a story that we want to say does not resonate with us because we know a God that loves everyone equally. And God does. But we as God’s people do not. At least not yet. And in that “not yet,” is where I place my prayers for the community-to-come. A community that says without exception, “Eve, I see you. I hear you. I believe you. I love you.”