Historical setting: 564 C.E. A Small Village in Southeastern Gaul
Stopping at a small village church, the stone woman in the oxcart captures the imaginations of villagers who are now demanding the priest retell the Genesis story they’ve heard before – the one where Lot’s wife turned back while running from the mayhem. Maybe it is that we placed the statue in the cart with the mother facing backwards, or maybe it’s just that people like to hear stories of smashing, flaming, punitive, holy justice instead of a promise of a simple mother’s love.
The priest begins his sermon likening the Genesis dialogue with God and Abraham to the Matthew visitation of an angel to Joseph. How is it a worthy comparison?
He explains, “Like that Genesis story this begins when God comes, as God does come as an angel or a dream to speak of love beyond justice. In the Matthew story God sends Gabriel in a dream to the carpenter, descendant of that Genesis man Abraham.”
“No. Tell us the other story! The one where the mob begs to rape the angels!”
“Tell the story where Lot offers the raging men his own daughters!”
“Tell us again, how God’s judgment came down on Sodom and Gomorrah as molten rock and ashes crashing down from heaven!”
“Tell us how Lot’s family ran away but Lot’s wife looked backwards to her old life burning behind her and she was turned to a pillar of salt.”
The priest answers, “This story begins where God speaks to the earthly father with possibility for reconciliation for those whom the human measure would judge as evil. The human voice of judgment calls for Joseph to break his betrothal to Mary, because she is already pregnant. But God’s question is the same one God asked of Abraham. ‘Who is worthy of rescue’? We remember in this that God loves even the outcast.” The villagers know they have heard a sermon.
Besides the small size of the oratory space inside the church, the other unusual feature of this place was the very large and accommodating stable welcoming travelers more than it is a display holy artifacts as in a wealthy city’s basilica.
Nic and August missed this sermon because they were in the stable behind the church putting the animals in for the night. But I was listening.