Listening to a 14 year old, black, female Jesus
On Saturday evening, the Hillbrow Theatre enacted a localized walk-about-Hillbrow-edition of the Passion play with some rather creative adapted parables and accounts of the life and death of Jesus. The story was tailored to reflect the struggles of the most vulnerable in our community. A brilliant scene was a recreation of the story of the woman caught in adultery. In this adapted scene, a local Hillbrow brothel (complete with young under-age girls, scantily dressed, drinking lots of liquor and accompanied by loudness) had been recreated. It was very realistic and somewhat disturbing, so much so that I found it difficult to watch. The jeering crowd’s judgmentalism was challenged by love as Jesus, mischievously played by a 14 year old black girl, brought restoration and redemption to one of the girls. What struck me was how the little girl struggled to calm the crowds who were taunting at the girls at the brothel and make herself heard. It was as if no one really wanted to listen to her…
Then later in the weekend, as part of the easter celebrations, I also attended a Quaker meeting (a first for me). Quakers sit in silence and wait for God to speak. They create a space to intentionally listen in a world where we are constantly bombarded with external deafening messages. Sometimes we need to stop those voices and the loudness just to listen. As we sat in silence, I was aware of how difficult it was to listen for the voice of God due to the inner noises of my own personal struggles at the time. I was reminded of the account in 1 Kings 19 where God speaks to Elijah, not in the strong wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire, but in a still small voice. I was very aware that we were both intentionally in a place of listening and deliberately becoming attentive to the still small voice of God. Slowly I calmed my spirit so that I could hear God speak.
I reflected on the little black girl playing Jesus in the play and how the crowds did not want to listen to her. I thought about her vulnerability in the context of power relations in my community and how hard it is generally to listen to the still small voice of the weak and vulnerable around us. We often adopt judgemental postures assigning blame on the vulnerable for their vulnerability. The noise of consumerism and individualism and self-interest also shuts out their voice. Our busyness means we do not have time to listen and our physical separation from “them” means we are often too far away to hear their soft cries of desperation.
In order to listen to those on the margins, we too need to firstly position ourselves in the right places and secondly adopt an attentive posture to listen. After all, Jesus is often reflected in the most vulnerable and invites us to meet Him in them (I was hungry… I was in prison… I was naked… I was a stranger – Mat 25). The challenge for us is to regularly leave our comfortable lifestyles, neighbourhoods and busy rhythms and go to places where we can pay attention to His still small voice heard in their still small voice.
And the take home question from all of this for me was… “I wonder what our loving Father is going to invite us into as we position ourselves, adopting a listening posture, while waiting for God to speak in the still small voice of the weak and vulnerable?”