• Rev. Izzy Harbin

2 Then Joshua, son of Nun, sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So, they went and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and spent the night there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” 4 But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5 And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went, I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 6 She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. 7 So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.


When I was putting this series together on women, a friend of mine asked me why I chose to preach on Rahab, the prostitute, as if preaching about prostitutes are somehow a horrid thing to do. To inject a little humor, I told my friend about the TV show Lucifer, a show about the Devil retiring to LA, and being asked if prostitutes are in hell, and he said with a straight face, “No, actually, they aren’t because they are some of the most honest people you will meet.”


This passage challenges our thinking about who God can use and for what purpose. I think her profession is actually quite irrelevant to the discussion, but we must ask, why did the writers include that detail in the story? Does it matter that she was a prostitute?

In verse one of this passage, it tells us that the spies spent the night, but it doesn’t say anything about why they chose Rahab or how they knew. In this moment, I imagine they were trusting their instincts—or trusting God—on where to go and with whom to associate. What is made clear is that Rahab was willing to help protect them. She had heard of the Israelite God and found that God to be the true God, unlike the gods of Canaan.


When soldiers inquired about the men who had visited Rahab, she lied to protect them, and we are told later in the story that she was blessed by God for aiding them in their efforts. What we don’t know about Rahab, though, until the Book of Matthew, is that Rahab ends up marrying a Hebrew man who is in the line of David, who is also in the line of Jesus.


At the heart of this story is Rahab’s willingness to do the unexpected when faced with a difficult choice. She could have turned the spies away or turned them in, but instead, she protected them. In so doing, she changed the course of her life. According to the text and how the writers understood Rahab’s actions, God was able to use her in this moment to further God’s plans for Israel. Through the intel that the spies were able to provide, the Israeli army was able to conquer Canaan.


As a way to protect Rahab, the spies instructed Rahab to gather all of her family into her home and to tie a red piece of cloth to her exterior window. This piece of cloth would protect Rahab and her family from the invading Israelites.


When thinking about this series, I wanted to pair a modern example of a woman or icon with the ancient one, and for Rahab’s counterpart, I chose Rosie the Riveter, the iconic woman who represented all the women who utilized their skills during WWII to aid in the war effort.


I did not choose Rosie the Riveter because of the war connection (that bit just worked out on its own), but rather what she represented in the world of women. The campaign to get women out of the home and into the workforce was driven by the war effort, but what women found once they made that transition was that they could be appreciated for their skills beyond cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children.


At the end of the war, we see an interesting division created among women. Some women were grateful to be returning to their homes and resuming their “wifely” duties. Other women, however, did not want to give up their new-found freedom. They enjoyed making their own money, enjoyed participating in the overall success of the economy, and liked being challenged by the work in which they were engaged. Even though many women were relegated to more “female” oriented professions like teaching and nursing, there were many women who pursued careers in the sciences; careers such as physicists, welders, mechanics, military personnel, and the like.


During the Rosie the Riveter days, women were finding new ways to express themselves and be a part of something bigger than themselves.


I cannot say whether God was pleased with how women found their way into an everchanging workforce, or whether God was pleased with the help that women provided toward a war effort, but what I can say is that God is always pleased when we use the gifts that we have been given.


What stands out to me most in both the story of Rahab and that of the icon of Rosie the Riveter is that they represent the willingness to use the gifts God has provided for the betterment of the whole, however that is defined at the moment. Often, we are quick to dismiss our gifts as not being good enough, useless toward a particular effort, and having less value than others. What stands out, especially during WWII is that women had to step up and use what they had, there really wasn’t any other option.


Without the gifts that the women brought to the table, the American economy would have collapsed in the midst of war, and most likely the American troops would have suffered worse hardships than they already experienced. War is never something that we want to glorify. In fact, we pray that one day we can all know peace. But we can value the contributions of women and how their contributions changed the American landscape forever.


In our present day we are still called to be a part of God’s unfolding kingdom. We are being asked to continue to order chaos and to make things better for the whole of humanity. We can do this by sharing our gifts and talents. God has given to each of us a unique set of abilities that are to be shared. In the sharing of our gifts, we honor God and each other.

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  • Rev. Izzy Harbin

2 Samuel 13:16, 20b

“No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”


(b) And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.


Quotes: Tarana Burke

'Me Too' became the way to succinctly, and powerfully, connect with other people and give people permission to start their journey to heal. ~Tarana Burke

The work is more than just about the amplification of survivors and quantifying their numbers. The work is really about survivors talking to each other and saying, 'I see you. I support you. I get it.' ~Tarana Burke


Two simple words, “Me Too,” that started an international uprising that has shined a much-needed light on sexual violence and assault. When I was choosing the women for this series, I knew immediately that I wanted to do something around Tamar and Tarana Burke. This is a topic that we whisper about, but rarely discuss in church settings. It feels as though everyone is super uncomfortable talking about sexual violence and assault, and rightly so. Everything associated with sexual crimes has been shrouded in silence for so long that we don’t know how to respond.


In truth, sexual violence and assault happens more frequently than we want to admit; it just isn’t something that we talk about, especially in church. Although, the trend is changing. Many historically black churches have started groups called, “The Friends of Tamar” which clearly identifies the group as a survivor’s group—those who have survived sexual violence or assault. The “MeToo” movement has helped these types of groups take shape as more and more individuals come forward and tell their stories.


As a trauma therapist who worked primarily in the substance use field, I encountered a lot of women who had experienced sexual violence and/or assault. Many were reliving that trauma daily whenever they would use their bodies as a way to support their habit, an added layer of trauma on top of the initial trauma. It was heartbreaking to see how so much violence had shaped their lives.


At the heart of this kind of trauma is shame, followed closely by fear and silence. In working with women through their trauma, what I discovered is that our stories have value, and that by telling our stories, we are able to release the shame, fear, and silence that binds us.

In the story of Tamar, she was raped by her ½ brother Amnon. In the ancient world, rape was frowned upon, BUT the definition of rape was not nearly as robust as it is today. Age of consent didn’t really exist. The way a man “married” a woman was by having sexual intercourse with her. In the ancient Hebrew world, they really didn’t have “wedding ceremonies” like we do today. Marriages could be arranged by families, but it was more of a promise from one family to another.


An odd fact, the biblical text talks about sexual violence more than it talks about homosexuality, but not as much as it talks about divorce. What we are willing to talk about in the church, though, is limited by our level of comfort. We think of church as the place we go to feel good about ourselves. But I don’t think that was Jesus’ original plan for churches, to only feel good about themselves. The early churches were tackling some of the most difficult social problems of the day. Jesus wanted the church to be at the forefront of standing up for the most marginalized in their society, which included women and the misuse of power and authority by the religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day.


What we discover in the story of Tamar is that the more offensive act was that Amnon dismisses her after he rapes her. It was not uncommon for “family” members to “marry” one another. In the Hebrew world, at the time of Tamar, polygamy was still practiced, and the various children produced by the many wives were not restricted from marrying within the family. What was uncommon, though, was for a man to have intercourse with a woman and then not see that union as binding. If a man dismissed a woman, it reduced her to prostitute status and left her with no options for future marriage. For a woman, this was tragic because this also meant there was no one to take care of her, and there would be no children, who often defined a woman’s status.


In our present day, women who have been raped often describe the sensation of having their very soul ripped from their body. It can be difficult for women to ever trust again, to be able to engage in healthy relationships, and to function in everyday society without mental health challenges. This is what Tarana Burke discovered working with young women in a youth development program in Alabama. She started the #metoo movement as a way for girls/women to finally acknowledge the hurt and the pain of being violated, and to recognize that they were not alone in their suffering. What no one expected was in one year, the hashtag “metoo” would be used 19 million times on Twitter alone. This movement shocked the world with its brutal honesty and paved the way for high profile abusers to finally be exposed and convicted of their long-time misuse of power.


Today Tarana Burke continues her work with women as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equality in Brooklyn, NY. Just like Tamar, Tarana found a way to be known to the world, and to stand up for what is right and just in a society that has for too long devalued women’s bodies and overlooked their minds.


As we continue our study of women, we stand with those who have experienced sexual violence and assault, and where possible, we join in the chorus of the #metoo movement, once again shining a light into dark spaces so that we rip the cover off of shame, fear, and silence. We stand ready to listen to the stories of those who have been impacted by violence, and we become allies of the highest order—those who can listen without judgment, and who can offer love and support without shame.


#metoo

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  • Rev. Izzy Harbin

“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued—when they can give and receive without judgment.” Brené Brown.


When I was a child, I wanted so desperately to be seen, heard, and valued by the adults in my life, by my peers, and even by strangers. I was looking for a way to fit into a world that didn’t make sense to me. I knew I was different, but I didn’t have the language to articulate how I was different. And I could sense that these differences were keeping me from feeling connected, but again, I didn’t know how to be what I wasn’t, nor how to fix what I could not name.


Brené Brown tells us that we are “hardwired for connection.” Unfortunately, most of us are taught that connection is either too risky because we might get hurt, or that we must connect with everyone regardless of boundaries. I was taught both. I tried to hold these in tension, but this only created more confusion. A lack of boundaries makes for unhealthy relationship, and when we are too afraid to risk getting hurt, we also keep ourselves from knowing true belonging.


As we continue our series on women from the bible and their modern-day counterparts, we see this theme play out in the lives of Jochebed and Sara Cunningham. In Jochebed’s case, she was willing to risk everything for the sake of her child. She willingly gave him up in hopes of saving his life. In the end, she was called upon to nurse the child, which not only gave her a connection to her own child, but also to the Pharoah’s daughter. By taking a risk, she created expansion in her life. At the same time, she also created some clear boundaries for herself. She was willing to nurse her own son, but she was not willing to sell her soul to Pharoah or his daughter.


Sara Cunningham brings the need for connection into the present day, in the most tangible of ways, by providing hugs to those who have lost connection. When Sara’s son came out as gay, it was a huge adjustment for Sara. She valued the connection with her son so much, though, that she was willing to risk her own comfort in order to remain connected with her child. What she found on the other side of this equation were a whole group of people who are often ostracized by their families and friends and who have few people in their lives who show genuine care and love for them.


Through the Free Mom Hugs program, she provided a safe and effective way for folks to have their need for connection to be met without violating boundaries. Sara provides the perfect vehicle with which to see, hear, and value those who are often dismissed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The importance of creating safe space for people was more important than her own comfort, and worth the risk. Thousands of LGBT individuals have been embraced by individuals who genuinely care about the lives and welfare of those in the LGBT community.


What can we do in our own lives to show others that we are not risk adverse and that we want to make healthy connections?


As a church community, we are often seen as the last place that LGBT folks would look for care and comfort, which means that we have to be intentional with our gestures of welcome. When we call ourselves open and affirming, it places the burden of proof on us to show that we are both open AND affirming. To open the door to create genuine connection while at the same time withdrawing support would only damage our message of inclusion. Intentionally creating safe spaces for those who are maligned and marginalized by society should be an integral part of our identity.


Jesus made a point of inviting the last, the lost, and the least. He didn’t hesitate to dine with tax collectors or to touch lepers so that they may be healed. He talked with women and encouraged them to be more than what society projected for them. If we follow Jesus’ example, he made the effort to see others for who they really were, to hear the pain and cries of the brokenhearted, and to value their contributions to God’s kingdom, regardless of what they had to offer, but especially when what they offered was themselves.


May we all be fortunate enough to see God’s kingdom through the eyes of Jesus, to know what it means to love with our whole hearts, and to reach beyond our comfort zones to see, hear, and value those around us.


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