In the Lectionary of the American Episcopal Church today is the feast of the agnostic Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Quaker Amelia Bloomer, once a Millerite, later a spiritualist, and later still associated with the Free Thought movement, although she might best be described as an independent Christian seeker Sojourner Truth, and Methodist Harriet Tubman.
Among the assigned readings for the observance is the 146th Psalm. I suspect my Anglican friends won’t mind my citing a version by the Zen priest and poet Norman Fischer.
My soul brims with gratitude for you
Whom I’ll praise all my life –
As long as I am I’ll sing your songs
Don’t put your trust in the powerful
Mere people who can hold but never save
When their breath leaves them
They return to the earth they’re made of
And on that day
All their hopes end
But happy is the one
Who trusts you for help
Whose hope rests with you
Who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all it
Whose truth is endless
Who brings justice to the oppressed
Bread to the hungry
Who frees the bound
Teaches the blind to see
Lifts up the bent over
Who loves the upright
Guards the stranger
Protects the orphan and widow
And provides the heedless with the trouble they need
You whose way is right forever
Zion’s guide for all the generations –
Praise is yours
I love that the bringers of this message of praise are such a mixed bag of women of various and no faiths.
But, it does beg the question, who is the “you” in the psalm, from the perspective of that collection of radical women?
What can we discern in the outline of these women taken together? What is the greater that they represent?
Is there a greater that they stand for, stand in witness of?
Even as an agnostic with a heavy atheist tilt, I have to say yes.
The agnostic, the atheist is about ascribing human characteristics to the whole. But that whole nonetheless deserves language of ecstasy and faith.
I would say it is the mystery we touch when we turn our gaze inward, when we allow the world to come to us in that still place.
Here we find the other in our own hearts.
Here we see the connections.
Here we see the human face of the divine.
And here we find the voice calling us to justice.
And of that I sing praises…
And of these women who stood as witness to what that might look like,
Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, & Harriet
And those whose names remain unsung
I sing their praises, as well…