Consent

Genesis 1, Luke 1
December 17, 2017
Kate Roberts

i.

In the beginning the earth was without form. In the beginning the darkness roamed and did not hide. The darkness covered. The darkness ruled. In the beginning, there was no light. In the beginning hope was formed with a breath that declared, “Let there be.” And in response to her own voice the earth shifted and moved, and God said “Yes, this is good.”

And then with anxious hunger—a bite—darkness crept back in, lurching in the shadows of trees. The light became dimmer. The light at times feels hard to see. Eyes strained to see it, mouths begging for the darkness to end. And the declaration that “yes, this is good,” became hidden in that darkness.

Years later, when the earth felt cold and the light felt lost an angel came to a young woman. And because this angel is from God, it came in the light as to not frighten her, as to not make more vulnerable her body.

And when this woman was afraid, as one would be when encountering the heavens, the Angel waited. The angle addressed her fear. And the Angel said God has come to create a new beginning.

And when this woman had questions, the Angel answered. Then Mary spoke, and with her breath she created. The gathered air in her lungs said “and it is good.” With her voice Mary said “yes.”

The yes that God did not assume. A yes that offered consent for which God asked and waited. A recreating creation narrative. This was not obedience to Divine Power. This is Divine Power asking for permission.

 

ii.

The news has been filled with discussions about consent. I remember learning about consent very clearly. I was taught consent in youth group. Consent was taught to me as a solid “no.” Every year my church would hold a purity retreat. Hundreds of girls across middle school and high school would join together for a giant slumber party to pledge they would save their holy bodies for holier matrimony. Some discount “I kissed dating goodbye” local writer or speaker would stand up and talk about the importance of our female “no.” The no that would protect my most holy and pure “gift.” The no that would shroud my sex in modest turtlenecks and a-line skirts, the no that taught me my attraction was both my gift and the stumbling block of my fellow co-ed. The no that was my responsibility to speak alone.

Oddly, I never remember learning how to say yes. No one taught me how to say yes. It was implied that “yes” was synonymous with the “I do.” But no one taught me that a “yes” could be just as holy. A no one taught me that a “yes” could be equally as important as a “no.”

And the boys? They went paint-balling.

And far from this beginning we sit in places with news cycles that do not speak of emphatic yeses. We hear of no’s being ignored and silenced. We hear of power being taken. We hear of bodies afraid and not being comforted. And somehow we are surprised.

But Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore, and whomever is the newly named public figure to enter the white noise, are just a really fancy ways of saying “my boss,” “the guy at the bar,” “co-worker,” “family member.” Harvey Weinstein is now just another way of saying “me too.” “Hollywood” and “Politics” are just catchy ways to say “every place my body can exist.” (And maybe the reason why my body can’t exist in other spaces)

 

iii.

Our passage today invited us to reflect upon the yes. What is the yes? What is the direction of Mary’s consent? What does it mean that God requires permission to create a new creation? And what does it mean that the consent comes in the form of prophetic protest? This is the space between the question and the answer. This is the waiting for the answer.

Mary’s yes is specific. Mary’s yes is precise—she is saying yes to participate in a creation of justice with a God who dismantles power. Mary says yes to participate in creation where hunger is satiated. Mary says yes to a God who remembers.

Mary’s consent to hold in her body the Christ Child reflects the respect she gives her own body. Mary’s consent is rooted in her value for herself, her body, and a trust that God will adhere and respect her created being. Mary’s consent is the response to God creating, where she claims “and this is good.”

Consent is not simply a sexual politic. Consent is not an intervention to decrease the incidence of violated no’s. Consent allows us to participate wholly and fully into a life of possibility where words like justice and respect and salvation are created in flourishing life.

We are at a new beginning. Advent is the welcoming of a new year, initiated and invited by waiting. We kind of get to cheat the story, we’ve read the conclusion (hint: the baby is born). But our passage today invites us to sit in the silence between the question and the answer. To ask what it means to create spaces that not just values, but practices consent.

Our passage today invites us to listen closely, to ask what our yes is for. Our passage invites us to sit and wait for the answers. Advent is an invitation to revisit and long for the ways God asks us, and we ask each other to participate in life of recreating creation. Advent invites us to learn how to give and wait for the “yes.”

God’s request of Mary blurs the lines of divine power and human agency. God’s request of Mary and Mary’s subsequent response infers that a response is required. That nothing more could happen without her voice.

 

iv.

So, in the beginning the earth was without form. In the beginning the darkness roamed and did not hide. In the beginning hope was formed with a breath that declared, “Let there be,” and God said, “Yes, this is good.”

And shortly after the beginning there was corruption. Shortly after the beginning we learned the language of violation. And the declaration that “yes, this is good,” became hidden in the darkness.

But a new beginning opened the possibility for infinite new beginnings. When a God set down power though approaching a woman and asking her to participate. And when she spoke, she made possible our ability to hear the question and wait. To offer our own answers. To ask our own questions. To demand that our “yes” be heard and our “no’s” be respected.

And so today, in this beginning we take faith that to respect the yes is to sometimes saying “no.” To respect the “yes,” is to ask you to wait for it, to not assume it, to wonder with me what does “yes” mean. To offer new space for a new life to find beginning through our own invaluable consent.

To not just teach our children, our daughters, how to say no, but our children, our daughters what it means to say yes, to teach our children, our sons how to hear, how to ask—how to wait.

Years later, when the earth felt cold and the light felt lost, an angel came to a young woman. And because this angel is from God, it came in the light as to not frighten her, as to not make more vulnerable her body. And when this woman was afraid, as one would be when encountering the heavens, the Angel waited. The angle addressed her fear. And the Angel said God has come to create a new beginning. And when this woman had questions, the Angel answered. And Mary spoke, and with her breath she created. The gathered air in her lungs said “and it is good.” And with her voice Mary said “yes.” The yes that God did not assume. A yes that offered consent for which God asked and waited. A recreating creation narrative. This was not obedience to Divine Power. This Divine Power asked for permission.

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