Long before the chairman of the Republican National Convention compared every women to caterpillars, I found this strange piece of artwork that I’d never seen before. This was before the pope reminded us that Jesus only called as men to be disciples, so only men should be ordained. This was before my sense of being a woman was squashed like, well… a caterpillar.
Upon finding this piece of artwork by the Italian fresco artist Fra Angelico, I learned that there is a tradition around these women. It’s the story we will hear tonight as so many other Christian communities will remember how the disciples couldn’t stay awake as Jesus asked them to do. They were tired. They were sad. They were so many things — but this tradition offers a twist where the women stayed awake.
Outside of Gethsemane, just beyond the gates, the women watched and prayed. Fra Angelico wanted to be sure you knew who these women were so he offers their names just above their heads. Martha holds her hands in prayer while Mary reads.I found this story here. I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due but my mind races with questions about what the women knew and how the women felt and what courage they garnered to stay awake while the others slept.
This is what we will ponder tonight when we gather for worship. What is it that the women saw? How did the women feel? What did they do that the men couldn’t imagine? We’ll remember the woman that anointed Jesus’ feet. We’ll remember that the women were there when Jesus invited the disciples into communion. We’ll remember the women that stayed awake outside the gates. While others might declare war on women, we know that there is something rare and precious about every person created by God. We know that there is something mysterious in the stories we share — and the ones that have not yet been told. Tonight, we’ll try to make room for the things we haven’t given voice to before. We’ll try to remember that everyone feels left out, ignored or trampled upon. We’ll make space for every one of those people because Jesus commanded us to love one another. Even caterpillars need to remember that they are loved. So do I. And so do you.