Leading up to the Special Council on Human Sexuality in April, the Reformed Church in America has published a series of 21 devotionals to help the denomination and participants prepare. We encourage all Room for All supporters to sign up to receive these devotionals via email and follow along as we pray for the church and particularly those LGBTQ people who are participating.
In addition, Room for All has commissioned a series of 21 Inclusive Prayers and Devotionals written by supporters and friends of Room for All to coincide with and complement the RCA’s series. We will publish those here on OUTsights over the next 21 days.
These readings and prayers are solely the words and opinions of each guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Room for All, their staff, or the board.
A Reflection in 3 parts from Marilyn Paarlberg
One of my favorite Easter-season texts is Luke’s story about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Vulnerable and unsure of the way forward, they’re struggling to make sense of their past, fathom their future and the impossible possibility that Jesus may still be there to guide them toward it. They encounter him on the road, but recognize neither him nor what he’s trying to help them understand. All they know is that they’re stirred when he shows them the Scriptures through a new frame. Drawn to this mysterious stranger and with nothing else to hang onto, they implore him to stay with them through the night. Finally, when Jesus breaks bread with them, they realize who he is and why their hearts had “burned within them” at his words.
A few years ago, my own heart “burned within” in a new way when I considered this story. I had read a powerful poem by the newly-appointed U.S Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway, the title of which is also the title of this painting that I knew nothing about. An internet search set me out on a multi-directional journey with implications that I’m still discovering. Lately, I wonder if there are intersections with the matters facing the RCA’s “Special Council” around the church’s response to same-gender attracted Christians. I plan to unpack all of this in the next two posts, but here’s a beginning.
The painting, by the Spanish artist, Diego Velàzquez (1599 – 1660), has two titles because two versions exist; therein lies a fascinating story. For today, I simply invite you to meditate on the Emmaus story in Luke 24: 13-35, on Tretheway’s accompanying poem, and, if you’re still with me after that, on this recording of a prayerful anthem, “Stay With Us.”
Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata
—after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619
She is the vessels on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar
and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled
in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls
and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung
by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled
in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand.
She’s the stain on the wall the size of her shadow—
the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo
of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her:
his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans
into what she knows. Light falls on half her face.