"Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it on a rock for herself, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell on them from the heavens; she did not allow the birds of the air to come on the bodies by day, or the wild animals by night." - 2 Samuel 21:10
What do we know about Rizpah the daughter of Aiah?
We know that Rizpah is the mother of sons. We know that Rizpah's sons grew to manhood, only to be slaughtered by men of power in a political exchange that had nothing to do with her, with her children. Rizpah could not bring her sons back to life, but she could make sure that the men of power did not forget them. So Rizpah lay herself down on a rock near her son's bodies, never sleeping, never leaving even to eat. Rizpah kept vigil until the bodies of her sons, turned to bones by then, were buried properly and mourned respectfully.
Who stood with Rizpah? Who brought her water to drink? Who urged her to rest? Who mourned with her? Who carried her message to the halls of power? Who wrote her name down and slid it into this story of kings and armies, of negotiations and violence? Who remembered her name at all?
There is a woman you do not yet know. A woman made sonless or daughterless by the machinations of the powerful, by violence that has nothing to do with her or with her children. Will you stand with her? Will you bring her water to drink? Will you urge her to rest? Will you mourn with her? Will you carry her message to powerful places? Will you remember her name?
Name Above Names: We remember Rizpah. We mourn her children. We vow never to forget. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.