There is an old riddle that goes something like this:
Once, a man and his young son were returning home from an out of state fishing trip. As they entered their hometown, they were involved in a serious traffic accident; so serious that the father was killed instantly. The son was immediately rushed by ambulance to the town’s hospital where he was evaluated and sent straight through to surgery. Upon entering the operating room, the trauma surgeon looked at the patient and exclaimed, “I can’t operate on this patient, he is my son!”
The riddle is this:
How can this boy be the son of both the trauma surgeon AND the man who died in the accident?
I think I first encountered this riddle in grade school in the late 1960s. People would answer that perhaps the surgeon was a step-father, or was mistaken about the boy’s identity. There were often more fanciful explanations offered as well. The simplest answer in 1968, of course, would be that the surgeon was the boy’s mother. As I said, it is old story. Maybe fifty or sixty years further on we are less likely to assume that the doctor was a man. Today, we might even offer that the boy came from a two-father family. Times change and our understandings can change, but only if we are willing to question our assumptions.
Long before 1968, the stories in the Bible were committed to writing. Most of the stories came into being even longer ago than that. The Bible’s writings overwhelmingly favor the stories of men while often failing to even name the women who enter those stories. Often the women in Bible stories are referred to as a man’s wife, mother, sister, or servant as if her presence and her name is not of any importance. This October, I have consciously chosen several stories of Old Testament women for my preaching texts. You can see their names below this column. For too long, the voices, stories, and perspectives of women have been ignored or minimized by male leadership in the church, the academy, and society. We need to continue to challenge our older ways of speaking and thinking because 50 years after I heard the riddle above, the riddle still tricks more people than it should. Faithful people of God understand that our faithfulness isn’t static; it is something we work on all the time. Let’s remember to read and tell the stories of those whose stories get pushed aside. Let’s remember to stay on the path of Jesus, welcoming and including everyone whom God loves –
no matter who they are, or where they are on their journey.
PS- Remember, there is an epidemic of loneliness in America. Call and check in on a friend,
a neighbor, a family member. Have a visit; drink some tea and have a cookie
together. The loneliness that you help to drive away might be your own.