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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Emerging Voices to Prophetically Re-Imagine Biblical Stories?
The ‘voices’ are women’s voices. The ‘re-imagining’ is from a text by Walter Brueggeman who argues for new prophetic voices needing to arise and come forth, speaking into the postmodern culture in which the Church finds herself. The ‘stories’ I’m looking at are the biblical stories in which females play a role but have been traditionally sidelined, minimalized and spiritually stereotyped.

An example: I suggest that emerging women could re-imagine Hagar’s story for the benefit of ministering/serving/witnessing in a very real way to people, especially women of the 21st century. In Hagar’s story are the stories; of women kicked out of the house by a competing, favored woman, of women who are abandoned by the father of their child, of women who find themselves homeless with a child to care for, of homeless women with a child that find themselves in the desert of social systems not designed for any long-term help, of women who have married into families of different ethnicity and find themselves being treated as second best, of women globally who are still bargained with and used sexually to meet the political/social needs of others, of women who must rebuild their lives with no help from any family …. Others?

Not many sermons/teachings/Sunday School lessons that I’ve heard in my 40 years of experience through Lutheran, Wesleyan, independent charismatic, Word of Faith, Nazarene, Pentacostal, Evangelical seeker-driven, or Methodist tell Hagar’s story with any of these relevant, theological critical views so that women can find their story in hers and meet God there. However, I suggest that emerging women have an opportunity to seize the day and prophetically re-imagine, building on the foundations of generous orthodoxy that the “emergents” are establishing …

Hagar Anyone?

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posted by From the Margins at 9:25 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/29/2006 10:02:00 AM, Blogger mizliz

    I've been blessed by one such sermon in 1997 from a Presbyterian [woman] preacher. One sermon in 47 years times 52 weeks (minus a few years in absentia). May the future hold a higher frequency. Grace

  • At 8/29/2006 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    What a very thought provoking post. I just purchased a book - Women of the Bible - a study of 52 women of the bible. I will be keeping your message in mind as I go along. It also prompts me to keep my eyes open for the stories of the women around me, the stories of women today. As I said - VERY thought provoking.

  • At 8/29/2006 11:42:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    I really like this idea.

    Did you want us to post other names and stories as we find them in the bible?

  • At 8/29/2006 11:50:00 AM, Blogger caz

    I usually skip over the books about women in the Bible. I seem to live from the (jaded) assumption that those books will leave me feeling like God's afterthought (Hagar) or completely lacking (Psalm 31).

    But, I did read the book Lost Women last year by Caroline Custis James. Though she is not necessarily postmodern, she is certainly an intelligent and compelling woman's voice regarding the stories of the Bible. She relays the stories of women that are skipped over or ignored because men just don't know what to do with them (i.e. Tamar)!

    In regards to Hagar, James points out something I never knew. Hagar, the deserted and abused slave/minority/mother is the only person in the Bible to give a name to God - El Roi, the God Who Sees.

    Another author who has impacted me in her treatment of the issue of women in leadership is Sarah Sumner.

  • At 8/29/2006 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Hagar WHO? Just kidding. I honestly can't say that I have heard many lessons about women in general. I think even as a kid all I heard about was Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Mary and Martha. There are so many others, but to be honest, they weren't talked about enough, for me to really know their stories. I need to get into those more.
    I do the lessons for the preschool program at my church. We are trying to revamp how stories of the Bible are presented or have been. Ironically, I bought a bunch of books at Barnes and Noble to use this Fall. We had an old version of the Beginner's Bible so I compared it to the newest one. I was plesantly surprised to see a few mild changes. Ex. The old version of Adam and Eve had the title "Adam's Helper" the new one was called "Adam and Eve". I don't remember the exact words, but the old had Eve as a "helper" the new version had them "loving each other and taking care of the garden together". I am hoping to find more of those positive changes and bring more of the women into our teaching!

  • At 8/29/2006 03:45:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Mizliz ... hahahaha! What a hoot that you remember the year! How funny, how sad!

    lydia ... I'm glad you liked this idea. I reread the description of this blog on the home page and the words 'practice your theology' jumped out at me.

    caz ... yup, and she's probably the only person to be labeled both 'islamic and jewish' too! The Islamic label you probably have heard but we then have Paul doing some kind of hermenutical (sp?)spiritual gymnastices with her to present her as 1st covenant Jewish (in Galatians!) hahaha...what we ALL won't go through in a sermon to make our point! God must chuckle!

    M. - What of Hagar's story could be taught to children where they could meet God? I'm interested.

  • At 8/29/2006 06:18:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Response to Hagar...I don't know, maybe nothing. I do know that I want to learn more about the women in the Bible and include those women in teaching whatever ways I can. I guess I better get to studying! Again, I know they are there, I just haven't studied many. I know that in a women's Bible study a few years ago, they were going to do a study "Bad Girls of the Bible" we didn't end up doing it, so I don't know what the connotation meant. Do they have a study "Bad Boys of the Bible"? Enough sarcasm...I will work on my studying, but would love to hear ideas.

  • At 8/29/2006 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Shoshana

    A few years ago my church group did a study on "Mad Mary." This was before the whole Davinci Code uproar and focused more on Mary Magdelene being an apostle on par with any of the twelve. (I was a bit dissapointed in the book itself, not as much scholarship as I had hoped for. Time magazine had a feature article around that time that basically had the same information.)

    The commonly held belief that she had been a prostitute is NOT supported by scripture. She is first mentioned shortly after a reference to a "woman who had given herself over to pleasure," but the syntax of the original greek in regards to Mary's introduction is that of a new character, not the naming of a previously mentioned person. Also, one of the Avignon pope's gave an Easter sermon mentioning Mary Magdelene and the "woman of pleasure." Since then the two have been traditionally linked.

    The point of the ramble being that the stories of women in the Bible have been heavily influenced by the historically male dominated church. I think it is long overdue for a new look at the books included in the bible and the way that they are translated for gender bias. (Keeping in mind that the apostles were probably men of their time and place, and women just weren't as important as men to them.)

  • At 8/29/2006 09:38:00 PM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    wlWhen you were listing the different ways women could relate to Hagar--as amarginalized person--I immediately thought of all the women who are currently being raped in the world as an act of war. The stories are horrendous. Sure, I have the fear of walking to my car at night in a dark parking lot, but can you imagine the constant fear and even probability that you will be kidnapped and raped and you have absolutely no where to go and no way to protect yourself.

    Since I read that book by Zainab Salib and visitng the website women for women, I have been really thinking a lot about how I might get involved. I think you can sponsor a women--I'm going to go back and check it out again. Wouldn't it be cool if we could just help one woman? Wouldn't it be cool to make a difference in the life of one Hagar?

  • At 8/30/2006 03:22:00 AM, Blogger Christy

    I would highly recommend WomanWord: A feminist lectionary and psalter, Women of the New Testament by Miriam Therese Winter.

    I hadn't read the Bible regularly in years when I picked this book up - too much baggage. But this book was very healing for me. She's got one on the O.T. women as well.

    I think you can get it through Amazon.


  • At 8/30/2006 08:57:00 AM, Blogger mizliz

    Don't know if y'all ever heard the conversations about the NT apostle Junia/Junias. Seems when they were editing (redacting) it (Romans 16:7), when 'they' came upon Junia (a feminine name by ending indicator) they determined that it must be a scribal error because everybody knew that only men were apostles because all the names were masculine so they changed the ending to a masculine name (Junias), thus creating the reality that supported their criterion. Just sharing some of the fruit of $75,000 worth of seminary tuition . . .! Grace.

  • At 8/30/2006 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks for the mention, I will have to check out that book.

    I just read about that in (I think?) "Missing the Point" and found that very interesting. Definately worth mentioning. I know that in the churches I was raised in, I had never been told about that. I have had many instances where I thought, "What else do I think I know about the Bible that is skewed?"

  • At 8/30/2006 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    In Colossians Remixed by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat there is an interesting telling of the story of Nympha who led the church in her house. In the telling they have her contempleting how the words sent to the Colossians about the slave Philemon also apply to women. Its a great book.

    This week my husband and I are preaching about Mary and Martha. Instead of the typical interpretation of the dangers of busyness and the blessing of following christ, we are focusing on the fact that Mary was a women sitting at a rabbi's feet which meant she was in training to become a teacher as well. Instead of being held back by the restraints of society, she followed christs call.

    anyway, I love the idea of reexaming the women of scripture. so often they are painted in a negative light (Rahab, Tamar, the women at the well), but just a bit of study can reveal the systems of oppression (patriarchy, economics, customs...) that make one see those women in a whole new light.

  • At 8/30/2006 04:14:00 PM, Blogger A Women's Kavura

    M: Bad Girls and Bad Boys, both exists ... personally don't recommend either book.

    For some good scholarship and perspective I recommend: "Hagar, Sarah and Their Children" Editors: Trible and Russell.

    Nice take on Mary, Julie. An image out of Plato/Aristotle Greek culture ... to sit at the feet of a particular teacher was the hallmark of the person being called 'their disciple.'

    Sylvia ... I'm checking out the site. Yes - this is worthy of our support. (Issues of rape deserves it's own post! Many of them! go for it!)

    Hagar - consensual sex with Abram? Sarai owned Hagar's sexuality? Part of the slavery package? Brings to mind today's issues of mother's selling their daughters into the sex trade!

    How about woman to woman issues... who often thwarts a woman's desires for self-determination and autonomy than another woman? There's an issue worth a sermon from Hagar's story.

    I find God's silent voice in this early part of the story to be very LOUD. :-)

    And, how DID Sarai get Hagar? From her 2 stints as Abram's 'sister' trick in Egypt? 10 years of service, Hagar gives Sarai her all - including her womb, and Sarai turns on her! Go figure.

  • At 8/31/2006 05:16:00 PM, Blogger caz

    I totally agree. The Abraham/Sarah/Hagar stories are always triumphed, but reading the details of the stories is completely disheartening. That family was a total mess, which I know leads into the spiritual platitude that God uses messy people...but really!

    In a Bible study where we first discussed Sarah, we then moved on to Abigail(in 1 Samuel 25). Her story is amazing when held up against Sarah's demoralizing story. Abigail had a foolish husband who offended King David, but Abigail was discerning and intelligent, and she resolved the dispute and basically saved her husband's business (their "household"). It is also interesting that the story alludes to the idea that she used her female sensuality (not sexuality) in her dealings with David which probably secured her the position of one of his wives once her husband died (obviously not a good deal today, but in that culture very wise).

    A very redemptive story. Where Sarah gave in to Abe's horrific ineptitude and everyone experienced abuse, Abigail chose to engage in the situations her husband created with authority, but also without ever disrespecting him...pretty amazing.

  • At 9/01/2006 11:14:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    Caz .. Yup! I concur. Great intertexual observations, in my opinion.

    I'll finally add: Hagar is able to enjoy seeing her son marry, has a hand in choosing his wife. On the other hand, Sarah dies (probably) alone, her voice is never heard again after ordering Hagar out, she and Abraham finish their days seperated - never together again after Abraham/Ishmael sacrifice event, she never sees Ishmael marry and her husband only returns to bury her. All that wealth and so much struggle! (I don't think her half-brother/husband could ever make the Focus on the Family Hall of Fame!) Not a happy family!

    Thanks everyone for a great conversation here!


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