Wild Lectionary: Dear Elizabeth

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Art by Jonathan Dyck

Advent 4C

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.       
Luke 1:46-55

An excerpt from and urgent letter

By Kwok Pui-lan

Dear Elizabeth,

You may be surprised that I am writing you, since I don’t have much education and don’t often write. But I am so distraught and must ask your advice for you are much older and wiser than me…

When I saw the way that people mistreated you when you were barren—as they do so many other allegedly “unchaste” women—my heart sank. There’s been so much injustice inflicted upon women. Our lives are too hard. In my village, the widow Esther became so poor that she had to sell her body at the village gate, and Baruch’s wife has become ill from anxiety about how to feed her family (you might have heard that Baruch’s legs were broken when his fishing boat capsized in the stormy winds last summer.)

It’s obvious to all of us. The rich who live in the cities of Jerusalem and Jericho don’t really care about the oppressed in the countryside. Poor Ariel had to sell a potion of his land because he couldn’t afford to pay the heavy taxes. It’s unbelievable, all these taxes that we have to pay—imperial taxes, local taxes and temple taxes—and the amount keeps increasing each year! My father is deeply concerned about his vineyard. He wonders how long we might be able to keep the land Grandpa has passed onto us.

Life under empire is wearying. I dream of the day that God will deliver us from the Romans. As God protected our ancestors form the Egyptians and the Babylonians, God is able to deliver us from foreign rule now. We would no longer need to pay such brutal taxes. We wouldn’t need to be submissive and complain when the tax-collectors and imperial officials come around. We could have our own small portion of land, grow some olive trees, bake bread for our children and grandchildren, and watch them grow. I long for this simple life. It’s not too much to ask, is it?

With love,

Mary

 

Kwok Pui-Lan is Distinguished Visitin Professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta Georgia—the traditional home of Cherokee, Apalachicola, Chiaha, and other tribes. She is the author and editor f 20 books, including Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (2005) and Postcolonial Practice of Ministry: Leadership, Liturgy and Interfaith Engagement (2016).

Dear Elizabeth is excerpted from “An Urgent Letter,” Kwok Pui-lan’s contribution to Unsettling the World: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization (reviewed here), a Genesis to Revelation anthology by Indigenous and Settler collaborators that challenges colonial narratives in the text and in the contributors lived contexts.

Johathan Dyck, illustrator and designer of Unsettling the World, is a Settler based in Winnipeg, Manitoba—Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation. He works as the graphic designer of Mennonite Central Committee Canada and has illustrated for a variety of publications including The Walrus, Maisonneuve, the Literary Review of Canada, and GUTS Magazine.

Wild Lectionary, a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary, is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.

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