Witnesses by Peggy Morrison

This morning we enjoyed an beautiful Easter sunrise service next to the lake on the campus of Guilford College. We had a bonfire going, read the Gospel of John’s account of the resurrection, enjoyed singing together, and shared in some silence as well. We had students, staff, faculty and members of the surrounding community join us. I found the time to be quite enriching. For the service, I asked a student if she’d be willing to read this passage from Peggy Morrison’s book, La Flambeau: School of Driving, called Witnesses. It’s powerful and worth sharing in its entirety here (with permission).

Witnesses by Peggy Senger Morrison

There are some things I was taught as a child to understand literally that I no longer understand that way. I do not think Noah got polar bears onto a boat. I do not think that all this magnificent Creation around us was made in just seven, 24-hour days. But some things –some very important things –I do still understand that way.

I do believe that He was resurrected. Bodily, on the third day. I will always believe this. For many reasons-but foundationally, fundamentally, deal-breakingly, because I will not betray the women.

All the Gospels say that Magdalene and a few other women were the first witnesses. Mark, the first writer, says that they were not believed. Matthew leaves that little shame out. John inserts Peter, and most likely himself, into the story; he does not mention incredulity.

Luke tries to make amends. Luke is interesting. Tradition says he was a physician in Antioch. Tradition says that Antioch is where Mary, His mother, fled. Luke has stories, like the birth story, that are women’s stories. Luke says this: “Their words seemed like non-sense (idle tales) and they believed them not.” They were not legal witnesses –no woman was. What a betrayal that must have seemed! –Or maybe they were just used to it. The eleven must have felt embarrassed a short time later. I hope they apologized.

Well, I guess some of them did. Mark put it into the story. Matthew and John seemed to want to forget –it would have been so easy to forget, to erase. But Luke was not letting them get away with it. He put the radical, ground-shaking witnesses in the story, and he documented the shame of their brothers. If you were cleaning up a myth to make people look good, you would take that bit out. The fact that Luke leaves it in, rings true. It is making amends, which always comes out of a place of truth.

Others could have erased it later. But no one did. Not the first tellers of the “story, or the first writers, or the successive copiers. The Nicene Council Patriarchs all –chose to believe the women, and document their witness and leave in the shame. For two millennia, no Pope or Patriarch, no potentate or preacher, no man has been able to wipe those women out of the story. No one has had the nerve. Until lately. It has become fashionable to doubt miracles. But to do so, you must discredit the reporters of the miraculous.

I will not discredit the voice of Magdalene, nor her spiritual mothers and sisters. I will not stand with the unbelieving brothers, the skeptics. I will not turn them into metaphor, or allegory, or hagiography. I will not let my modernist sensibilities blackball their words in shadow –less than other words, even the words of the Master. I won’t make them smaller. Their part has been shrunk enough already. I won’t discount them; they are already a bargain.

I know what it is like to not be believed when telling the Gospel Truth. I also know what it is like to create metaphor, and allegory, and hagiography. I have told tales and sold nonsense. I, a story teller, know the difference.

These women told the most important truth ever told. And if their witness is discounted in my presence, I will not be silent.

Because I believe them. Quite literally.

Purchase Peggy’s Book “Le Flambeau” here.

Originally posted to her blog: http://sillypoorgospel.blogspot.com/2013/03/witnesses.html

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.