What are the challenges of serving overseas? What are the blessings?
Do you see yourself coming back to the United States?
What cultural pitfalls did you have to learn to avoid?
These thoughtful questions were put to me by NAPC’s steering committee member, Susan Barnes, when she asked me a couple months ago to reflect on my life in Glasgow, Scotland, where I, a PCUSA minister and grateful member of NAPC, serve as an interim-type pastor for the Church of Scotland. This newsletter, along with the Presbyterian Program Calendar – where Sundays are the first day of the week rather than Mondays as on British calendars – and my yearly report to the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area which annually grants me permission to serve “outside the jurisdiction of the church,” are very much Bread and Breath for me: they regularly sustain me with hope and affirmation and blow away the cobwebs of despair and fear.
The truth is, persons of every faith are currently being challenged to serve in what feels like the twilight zone of all twilight zones – actually and factually. Recent elections in the U.S. (where I am an Overseas Voter registered through my last residence in Minnesota) and here in the United Kingdom and Europe (where I am not eligible to vote) keep turning the world upside-down: I can never “come back” to the United States – because the United States I left fourteen years ago no longer exists. But I am not alone; wherever we serve God right now – be it in Glasgow, Scotland, or Glasgow, Kentucky – our job is to keep singing the LORD’s song, especially when we, like the Psalmist, find ourselves in the pit.
Thank God, we always share good company with the foremothers of Jesus, who remind us how they out-zoned their respective twilight zones of patriarchy, violence, dispossession, domestic abuse, and the unimaginable:
Like a date palm in the desert,
Tamar feeds us with her faith:
Bound to one and then his brother,
widowed by their sinful fates,
patriarchal power’s victim,
prostituted, she conceives
justice with almighty Wisdom,
generating our belief.
Like the Reed Sea in the desert
separating friend from foe,
Rahab gives God’s spies safe cover
from the king of Jericho.
Selling sex to make a living,
dwelling in the city wall,
she displays a crimson cord and
saves her family from the fall.
Like a dry spring in the desert,
Ruth, a widow, suffers loss.
To Naomi she’s a daughter,
“Where you go, there I will lodge.”
Gleaning in the fields of Boaz,
she is given a new life.
Uncovering all their love is,
they become husband and wife.
Like a ewe lamb in the desert
stolen from a poor man’s home;
pregnant by the king who rapes her,
she is made to bear his shame.
Ordered to the front of battle,
brave Uriah’s sent to die,
leaving her a nameless widow,
part of David’s royal lie.
Like God’s people in the desert
called to follow fearlessly,
thankful for the bitter water
suddenly becoming sweet,
Mary, by the Holy Spirit,
births a child, Emmanuel.
God was with each of these women;
God is with us even now.
This hymn, “Like a date palm in the desert,” is based on Genesis 38, Joshua 2 and 6:22-25, Ruth, 2 Samuel 11 and 12, and Matthew 1. It can be sung to the tune Hyfrydol. Feel free to change any words to reflect your experience.
For use in worship, please include this copyright acknowledgment: by Lindsay Louise Biddle © 2017. For all other uses, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.