Is Deborah’s naming of the people who stayed, sat still, settled in, a sweeping up of all the people into the victory that is the whole nation’s together? What one or two do is for all?
Commentators are curious about the second half of the portion I told for this project, from ‘Among the clans of Reuben’ to ‘settled down with his landings’.
What is Deborah singing here? Scorn or disappointment for the clans who did not rush with them into the valley against the mighty?
As I told these verses, it seemed a possibility to me that she could be celebrating the victory, and expressing gratitude for those who led them to victory. She also may be resisting the urge to elevate one group above the whole. She may (and I stress may) draw in the whole nation to share in the victory.
In which case, is there a prayerfulness about the ‘great searchings of heart’? Is Gilead not remaining apart, but holding the defences across the Jordan, and Dan and Asher doing the same on the coast of the sea?
I don’t know.
If she is positively naming the role each played, or generously (and perhaps with some forgiveness) drawing the absent into ownership of this victory, then Deborah is remembering all her people, and re-membering them into a whole.
I remember my people.
We are in lockdown again, with the virulence of the Delta strain of Covid-19. I have resumed my practice of sending a weekly pastoral letter to the congregation. In these letters, I seek to offer my voice to all the congregation members, the ministry team a focal point for the people, scattered and unable to gather in person. I seek to reflect back to the people some of the stories I hear, or the kinds of stories I am hearing, of how the people are connecting with and caring for each other; to invite them to consider their practices of care, self-care, as we hope to remain healthy as whole beings through this difficult time.
In the pastoral letters, I am remembering my people – speaking directly to them in my voice as their leader. I am reminding the people to remember each other. Thus I seek to re-member my people, by holding them together, keeping them whole.
To lead is to remember the people, to give thanks as it is due, and to hold the community together.