A Community of Women
It had been quite a week for the women. First, they had followed Jesus from Galilee wishing to serve his needs. Then they had followed the others as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, surrounded by throngs of jubilant crowds. There was much rejoicing. Palm branches waved, welcoming Jesus amid voices raised in praise as the parade made its way into Jerusalem. It was a joyful time!
But in a matter of a few days, life would change forever for those faithful followers. Again, the women must have been witnesses as Jesus was accused by religious leaders and questioned by the governor. Hour by hour, life as the women knew it began to unravel, as the crowd turned against Jesus, demanding that he be nailed to a cross. Then he was whipped, handed over for crucifixion, and walked the path to Golgotha.
I can't even begin to imagine how these women must have felt. Some had given up everything—home, family and belongings—to follow this man who had ministered to them, giving them unbelievable hope, teaching them about a love they had never known and helping them understand that they had sacred worth. Utter disappointment must have filled their whole beings as these events unfolded. Finally, they witnessed Jesus' agonizing death on the cross. The women, who had loved and cared for Jesus' every need, were now helpless to do anything. They were not only deeply troubled but confused and grief stricken. Was it all over?
In the scriptures we read, "Many women were also there, looking onfrom a distance." Can you imagine on that bleak day filled with sadness and sorrow what must have gone through the minds of these women? But rather than retreating to a place of quiet, away from this horrific scene, they chose to stay together, in community, to hug one another, to shed tears of sadness, to share feelings and to watch, no matter how hopeless they must have felt. There was nothing the women could do to serve their beloved teacher and friend but to wait and watch in disbelief. To these women, being together must have given them the ability to help cope with the disappointment and despair of the tragedy they had just experienced.
It is on this day, this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, that I truly understand the significance of United Methodist Women and what this bond of community means in my life. Like those women who gazed on Jesus' broken body and the tomb where he was placed, we all have known disappointment and despair in our lives. Even though we may not have not suffered the same circumstances, of having everything that we believed and valued in our lives taken from us, we still experience true brokenheartedness and despair that comes from loss.
Think about the times that the United Methodist Women members in our lives have helped to pick up the pieces, with God's help, when we have lost a beloved spouse, child or friend. When we have suffered through a cancer scare or a miscarriage did our sister's come to our aid? When we experienced the trauma of a natural disaster—earthquake, flood, fire, tornado—who reached out with supplies and prayers? When we were living alone or going through a divorce, living away from family and friends, who surrounded us with fellowship? Who has given us the opportunity to care for people around the world, whom God calls us to feed, nurture and love? When we hear of persons displaced by war or terror, who sends relief supplies to care for them? Who has nurtured and empowered each one of us to be the whole person that God calls each of us to be?
There are many more questions like these that could be asked. United Methodist Women is a community whose members follow Jesus' teachings, cry and laugh together, study and learn together and encourage every woman to reach her dreams. We confront and talk about the big issues, planning and working together to make the world a better place for all God's people. And we choose to do it together in community.
We are Easter people, who already know what tomorrow brings, but, for today, just today, let each of us reflect on what it would mean if all we have come to depend on and cherish about our walk with Jesus were taken away forever. And think about how we, as a community of women, can honor those faithful women who watched in the distance so long ago.
God, help me today as your Spirit guides me on my journey. For women who have made a faithful witness to your love I thank you. For women who continue the journey today, guide us to fully appreciate Jesus' gift to us, and be grateful for the marvel of your Grace. Amen