Sermon Podcast - December 11

In a sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent Laurence reflects on the good and troubling news that God calls whom God will call, God chooses whomever God needs, and God speaks through human voices (usually voices people don't expect to hear from). Readings are Isaiah 61 and Luke 4:16-21. He reads a poem, "Said the Lord", by Moira Burgess.

Said the Lord

And the Lord said:
I shall send my child to earth
to be a teacher and a comforter
and my child shall have wisdom
and shall love and nurture and save the children of men.
So shall it be, said the Lord.

And down came the Holy Spirit
and a virgin bore a daughter
who was the daughter of God.

A girl? people said.
Better luck next time.

And the child grew and ran about in Galilee
and told her cousins stories about God. For a while.

Bring in the goats!
Mix the porridge! Sew on that sandal strap!
What’s the matter with you? people said.

And the day of her womanhood came upon her
and she rejoiced. Life ahead,
and her family rejoiced –
soon she’d be off their hands.

But I want to put people right about God, she said.
Nobody likes a lippy girl, they replied.

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, she said.

You’re odd enough already, her family said,
don’t you want a husband or what?
as they beat her and married her off rather quickly
to a nice young fellow with his own flock of goats
so that was all right.

And she lay with her husband, of course.

And she bore him a son so everybody was pleased
and a daughter, well, can’t be helped
and two more sons and another daughter,
and another son
(not counting those who died)
the spirit of the Lord on a back burner
for fifteen years and more.

Wouldn’t have been without them. Heavens, no.

And when the children were grown
she said to her husband:
The spirit of the Lord is upon me.

Who’s going to make my supper?
her husband enquired.

He didn’t beat her. Didn’t need to
begot another son instead, who died.

So she went to milk the goats
and make the porridge
and the Lord came to her in the tent.

Why don’t you begin your mission, my daughter,
said the Lord, rise and go about Galilee
with twelve disciples
as my spirit may command?

I have tried, you know,
said the daughter of God.

And the Lord looked at her, at her stretch-marks,
her dishpan hands, the snaggly teeth
the place where the goat bit her
and he knew that it was so.
They are a stiff-necked people,
the children of men, said the Lord.

That’s one way of putting it,
said the daughter of God.

And the Lord sighed.

You are an idea, my daughter, said the Lord,
whose time has not yet come.
A thousand years from now
still no chance.
Two thousand years? Not really.
How are you on flower-arranging? said the Lord.

It’s never been my forte,
said the daughter of God.

And being weary she closed her eyes
and was gathered to Abraham’s bosom,
or Sarah’s bosom, perhaps, let’s hope,
a bit more empathy there.

I think I’ll try again next year,
said the Lord,
but this time I’ll make it a boy.

And it was even so.

Moira Burgess (c. 2003) is a Scottish novelist and historian who sometimes writes verse... She says she wrote this poem while she was “musing on misogyny in organised religion… The particular trigger [she says] was one of the reasons given by… [her] Church – for not allowing women into the priesthood: it’s impossible because the priest is the representative of Christ on earth, and Christ was a man.”