Tamar’s Robe, the original devotion courtesy of mennoniteusa.org

c8fac-taThis is the original devotion credited to mennoniteusa.org and its brilliant writers. It is the second devotion in the set titled, “Do You See This Woman? Undoing Patriarchy and Moving Towards Right Relationships” which can be found here: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/DoYouSeeThisWoman_print.pdf

I suggest everyone who enjoys this project check it out. It has been such an inspiration to me.

Acknowledging Our Pain

Focus statement

The story of Tamar is a painful and realistic telling of violence that women
faced during biblical times. Since violence against women remains a taboo
subject today, listening to this story provides us with an opportunity to
pause and lament over the continued oppression of and violence against
women. Tamar’s story calls us to listen and lament with ears that hear, eyes
that see, and hearts that know compassion.

Call to worship
Many times when we come to worship we come to express gratitude, joy, and
praise. Today we set aside this time for sacred lament. We are here to lament
violence and oppression that target women and oppose God’s vision of justice,
wholeness, and reconciliation for all. In the words of the psalmist we pray,
Rescue us from our enemies, O God.
Protect us from those who attack.
Rescue us from the ones who love violence
and save us from the powers of evil.
—Inspired by Psalm 59:1-2

Come near as we move into a space of vulnerability. Whether we have experienced
violence or oppression, perpetrated violence or oppression, or are just
beginning to learn of its pain, hold us fast and keep us safe. In you, we put our
trust. Amen.
Confession & assurance

Designate one person to begin this segment by beating a drum, or ringing
tones on a bell or chimes, one beat per second. Do this for one minute.

Listen to the sound of the drum (or bell).
Let the rhythm of the drum echo the beating of your heart, the beating of our
hearts.
Let the rhythm of the drum connect us to our Creator, our Mother, our Father.
Let the rhythm of the drum connect us to each other, gathered here today.
Let the rhythm of the drum connect us to sisters around the world.
As we gather in strength, we acknowledge brokenness.
We bring our wholeness to this circle.
We bring our brokenness and the brokenness of this world.
For all is not well.
All are not whole.
(Pause.)
Today we remember Tamar, a violated woman.
We hold her story.
We hold our own.
We hold each other. Amen.

Scripture
Second Samuel 13:1-20: Before the Scripture is read, ask those gathered to
consider the following questions. If possible, gather responses.
• What does it mean to hold a story?
• What stories do we have permission to tell?
• What stories are we most likely to tell?
Explain that the text for today follows the story of David and Bathsheba:
After noticing and desiring the beautiful Bathsheba, David summons her
and she becomes pregnant. David orders the husband of Bathsheba to the
front lines of battle, where he is killed, and David marries Bathsheba. Their
son is born, but dies soon after birth. After mourning their son, David
and Bathsheba have other children—Solomon (who eventually succeeds
David’s throne), Absalom, and Tamar. Amnon is David’s son from another
wife, thus a half-sibling of Tamar.
Choose two or three people to read the biblical text as described. Allow
for moments of silence as indicated:
• Verses 1-3
• Silence
• Verses 4-6
• Silence
• Verses 7-9
• Silence
• Verses 10-11
• Silence
• Verses 12-14
• Silence
• Verses 15-17
• Silence
• Verses 18-20
• Silence

Studying the Word & sharing our stories

Every two minutes, a woman or girl in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Nearly
half of the victims are under age of 18, and over half of these assaults are
never reported. Most of the assaults are committed by someone who is
known by, and is close to, the victim. For one week during each school year, clotheslines festooned with colorful
T-shirts are displayed on college campuses around the country as part
of a national movement called The Clothesline Project. From a distance
the shirts—colorful and bright—look celebratory. The shirts wave in the
air like flags announcing a festival. Upon closer inspection, these shirts tell
a different story. They are the narratives of women who have been sexually
assaulted. The T-shirts are emblazoned with words, quotes, and images
from survivors of violence. Some shirts bear the words of friends, partners,
and allies who tell the story for those who cannot speak, or those who did
not survive. “I was just a little girl.” “No means No!” “You were supposed
to protect her.” “I am strong and beautiful. I am a survivor.”
In today’s text, Tamar is introduced as Absalom’s beautiful sister.
Hebrew narrative is characteristically very sparing. No detail is meant to
go unnoticed, and so it seems significant that she is described, from the
moment we meet her, as beautiful. She is also a virgin. Her beauty “tormented”
her brother Amnon. Amnon’s friend Jonadab helps Amnon hatch
a plan to help trick Tamar into his bedroom.

Tamar’s story is not far-fetched at all. For many women, it is perilously
close to their own experiences. Women and girls are socialized to believe
that physical beauty is our most important attribute. When a woman is
assaulted, she bears the risk of being blamed for the assault because of how
she was dressed, because she “came on” to the assailant, or because she had
a relationship with him before. The myth of being raped by the stranger
in the bushes is just that—a myth. Women and children who experience
sexual assault and rape are far more likely to be victimized by someone
they know well—a trusted family friend, a teacher or counselor, a relative.
When the assault is at the hands of someone known to and trusted by the
victim and her friends or family, it makes it that much harder for the victim
to tell—and to be believed.

In Tamar’s case, she is believed, but she is not immediately vindicated.
King David does not punish Amnon because “he loved him, for he was his
firstborn.” Amnon’s privilege as a male, and as a son of the king, allows him
to do whatever he wants, even rape his sister.

For more on the reality of sexualized violence in the lives of Mennonites
in particular, visit Our Stories Untold at OurStoriesUntold.com.

Reflecting & responding
Large or small group: Gather slips of colored paper, several pens, a basket,
pins, and a piece of cloth, approximately 2 x 3 ft. Have “Tamar’s robe”
written on the cloth. Have the cloth draped on a table. If possible, arrange
your worship space in a circle, and put the cloth and table in the middle.
Or, arrange the cloth and table at the front your worship space.
Invite participants to take a pen and several slips of colored paper as
they enter the worship space at the beginning of the service and then share
in the following litany and exercise as a response to the message.

Leader: Naming is important. To be named is to be known and identified,
to take one’s place. To be named is to have dignity. By naming
women past, present, and future, we invite women and their stories
into this space. By writing these names we honor all women’s stories,
their joys as well as their pains.

On your papers, write the names of women: biblical women, women
you know, women you know of, or women you don’t know. In a
moment you will be invited to pin these names onto this cloth, which
represents Tamar’s robe.

(Explain that these names don’t necessarily have to be women whose
stories of abuse and violence we know. The name of any woman
is welcome, regardless of that woman’s particular story. The goal is
simply to acknowledge the stories of the women who are named,
whatever those stories may be.)

In silence, write names.

Leader: We acknowledge that too often women’s pain is buried, denied,
and hidden. This pain becomes a source of shame. By writing these
names, we acknowledge pain. We do this not to glorify pain and
brokenness, but to honor it. We name our pain and the pain of our
sisters as a step toward ending violence against women and girls.
Today we remember, honor, and name the mothers, sisters, daughters,
and friends who have experienced sexual assault and domestic
violence. We also name and honor those who have not experienced
this particular pain but carry the stories of others. We name and
stand with all women, knowing that one in four will experience
violence at some point in their lives. As we speak names, if you are
more comfortable holding the name of a woman in silence, you are
welcome to do that.

Let us name women and give voice to their stories. Now is the time
to call the names of the women who came before us, our ancestors.

People: We call your names, and we hold your stories, all of them.
Allow space for names to be called out.

Leader: Now is the time to call the names of the women who are with us:
our mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, daughters.

People: We call your names, and we hold your stories, all of them.
Allow space for names to be called out.

Leader: Now is the time to call the names of the women who will follow
us: our daughters, granddaughters, students, friends.

People: We call your names, and we hold your stories, all of them.
Allow space for names to be called out; invite participants to come forward and
pin the names on the fabric.

Leader: As we gather before these names, hear the words of the prophet:
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Creator has comforted her people,
and will have compassion on her suffering ones.
We have said, “The Creator has forsaken me,
the Holy One has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
—Inspired by Isaiah 49:13-16

Sending blessing

May you feel the weight of Tamar’s story. May you not be crushed under its
burden. May you be filled with righteous indignation at powers of violence and
oppression that target women today. May you accept God’s invitation to support
justice, healing, and reconciliation for women and for all people.

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