Reflection ~ Rev Dr Phil Wall
New Year’s Resolutions
Okay, so last week we were talking bottle episodes with Tamar. This week, it’s the Bechdel Test with Ruth – the fourth of the five women in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus.
For those of you who haven’t come across it before, The Bechdel Test is a measure of the representation of women in literature and the media. A film, tv show or book passes the test if it contains at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man – and if you pause and think about recent films you’ve seen or books you’ve read, it’s scandalous how many will fail this simple test.
When it comes to The Bible, of the sixty-six books in the widely accepted Protestant library, only three are said to comfortably pass the test …can you think of them? Well, congratulations if you said Mark, Luke or – the solo Hebrew Testament contender – Ruth.
Over to Catherine now who will read to us the opener to this remarkable book.
Reading: Ruth 1:1-18 – The Message
I wonder, when listening to that passage, what was your response to the female-dominated narrative. Perhaps you were moved by the depth of emotion and honest reflection on God’s place within human tragedy. Perhaps you were encouraged just to hear three named women share a conversation, and such compassion for each other, in scripture. Or perhaps you were disheartened by the fact that these women only get their time in the spotlight because all the men around them – those who would traditionally get the best, if not all the, lines – have died off. It’s true to say that, whilst the book of Ruth does pass the Bechdel test, hints of patriarchal abuse, gender violence and sexuality determining a woman’s worth, can still be found within its pages. Reading it during a week in which a report revealed that one in five offences recorded by police in England and Wales after the first lockdown involved domestic abuse might make us weep, lament and question how much progress has really been made.
And yet, I would want to say that whilst the book of Ruth doesn’t shy away from the hard realities of life for most women at the time it was written, it does point to a better world in which women empower one another; men act with compassion; foreigners are welcomed and stories which begin with death and despair can end with new life and hope. In the story or Ruth and Naomi, this world is only made possible through human solidarity and divine grace.
This first Sunday of advent then, we too refuse to shy away from the hard realities of life for most women today and the Amnesty International cases we’ll be looking at certainly reflect that. Yet we also want to declare that death and despair will not have the last word. That there is a light in the darkness that will never be put out. That – with human solidarity and divine grace – another world is not only possible but is on its way.
This wild year, in which a global pandemic has exacerbated gender and social inequality the world over whilst Amnesty International has declared that solidarity is on trial in Europe; we will stand by our sisters in foreign lands; we will demand welcome to the vulnerable in ours; we will point to God’s coming kingdom in which people of every gender and sexuality; ethnicity and nationality, will be empowered, included and loved. Welcome, again, to the new church year. Welcome, once more, to God’s new world. Amen.
 You could chase this argument down the rabbit hole of the internet if you fancy…but this article at Christianity Today would be a solid place to start/e/end such a venture – https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/october-web-only/women-leadership-bible-pass-bechdel-test.html
Amnesty Prayer – written by Carol Powell
Amnesty International was created to help fight abuses of human rights worldwide.
We try to bring torturers to justice and change oppressive laws. Let us pray…
We realise that we need organisations like Amnesty to be our eyes on the world today.
There are many countries which do not allow us to see behind locked frontiers.
We need journalists and investigators to have the courage to bring these atrocities to the world family.
Even last week we hear about the massacre in Northern Ethiopia.
We pray that people will talk to each other not fight.
People everywhere need to be able to live in a peaceful environment, a roof over their heads and a job to provide for their needs.
In whichever country we live we need to have people in power and government who do not use power for their own ends but for the good of the people. Please help us to treat others fairly.
Also we bring Nassima Al Sada, Popi Qwabe and Bangeka Phungula to you in prayer. We need their voices to be heard so that there can be justice.
LET US BE PROACTIVE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS.
IT IS BETTER TO LIGHT A CANDLE THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS.
We ask for the guidance of your Spirit as we hope to share your light today and, in a moment of stillness, we bring to you the people and situations known to each of us who are in need of the light of your love –
Living God, we bring all our prayers – both spoken and silent – together with the prayer that Jesus taught us, saying, in whichever language or version we choose…
Our Father in heaven; holy is your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sin, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Now and forevermore. Amen.
We believe in God:
A communion of Life,
A communion of Love,
A communion of Peace.
We celebrate the coming of God in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
We believe in his Gospel, The Good News, God’s message of peace.
Through Christ, we pray for peace;
With him, we work for peace.
In him, we live for peace:
The peace of all God’s children, to the glory of God. Amen!
The Song of Kingdom Come