Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?

This question hangs heavy as we approach this particular annual celebration of the birth of the one particular child whose birth signals the Incarnation. Wendell Berry’s poem,”Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” asks this question in a larger four line statement:

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied by bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

I have no idea what Mary might think of all the goings on in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion these days. I am, however, more and more taken up with Wendell’s question, one that relates directly to Mary, mother of Jesus, and taken up too with the small child sleeping in the next room, Lily, age 18 months, with eight teeth, a dozen or so recognizable words, and eyes to die for. Will what I do satisfy?

Will the wrestling with the snarly mess of things satisfy the Holy Mother and a child of such promise? Might we all better spend our time giving attention to the birthing of promise in a dark time?

So much of what is going on is the arguing over the old, the often revered old, the sometimes simply moldy old, and fighting over the bones of old old arguments and practices. And the arguments are by a widely differentiated collection of people who hold very little in common except a belief that birthing a child is participation in a desperate hope – the hope that new life is good and God’s graciousness is present there – and that in Mary’s child, Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

About much of what we are doing I suspect Mother Mary would simply smile slowly and say a more biblically appropriate form of "well, you've got to do what you've got to do," and then would turn her attention, as we all must at some point, to Jesus, knowing what tha birth would come to, mean, and ultimately reveal. Lily does not yet have enough words to try to sepearate out people on the abstract grounds of orthodoxy, much less sexual orientation, identity, etc. She knows something about loving kindness and I suspect she would turn away from all our conflicts and look for someone to read her a book, an barring that someplace to play blocks.

There is a lot going on in the large slow moving conflict in the Episcopal Church. Not much of it is satisfying, I think, to anyone concerned with new birth or with renewed promise. Still, there are edifying moments –

I find myself relieved that people dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church feel they can vote to leave and to continue as a congregation in another context. While I wish they would stay I can understand why they might not. Oddly, after the votes in Virginia this last week I felt lighter, as if life in the Episcopal Church was not quite as heavy as before.

The difficulties of congregations leaving also present an opportunity – to do mission that is unencumbered by great internal dissents. It also offers the opportunity to reaffirm that indeed The Episcopal Church is present now as in the past in the buildings and using the resources that have always been understood to be those of The Episcopal Church. However the property disputes work out they already have given rise to the reassertion of continued missionary efforts on the part of the Church.

We have a witness to make as the Episcopal Church and now is the time to get on with it.

It is edifying to realize that there is new life possible, even after many have abandoned our common effort, and that hope remains our constant companion.

It is edifying to know that the Episcopal Church continues to need to understand itself as a domestic and foreign missionary society. We will find new uses for old ideas – for missionary bishops, for domestic mission. When we are not being chewed apart from within perhaps we can make a better case for a church that is both orthodox and inclusive, where right belief and right practice are both judged against the needs for renewal and the rebirth of wonder in a broken world.

What will satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Let’s work on that.

It’s time to go and bring our gifts, our lives, to the Child who is the greatest gift of all, and our gifts to the children, who are themselves a great gift.

I will be making fewer entries to this blog in the next week or so… The Holy Family and the little circle of folk who are Holy Family for me have my attention.

I hope you take in or are taken in by others. it is time to find a satisfying moment, and then it is time to see all things as they are – new and open for promise.


  1. revlois keen22/12/06 8:37 AM

    Merry Christmas, Mark - this post is a wonderful gift, not only in your words, but visually and poetically. Thank you.

    And to all of you out there who participate in the community of this "blog", a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
    Lois Keen

  2. grandma&nan22/12/06 11:37 AM

    Have a wonderful Christmas week.
    Mark, you are a gift that keeps on giving


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