The lowcontrib stays for the rest of the service and appears to listen intently to Peter’s sermon, which he has titled The Delicate Balance Between God’s Loving Mercy and His Just Wrath. She does not join the Christworshippers in receiving the bread and wine. After the dismissal, they warily turn to speak with the stranger. She converses amiably with both the women and the men, asking their names and inquiring about their experiences. Peter changes in the vesting room and then comes over to talk with the lowcontrib as the Christworshippers begin to file outdoors to the courtyard to share refreshments. Junia is speaking with her.
“—so tragic,” Junia says. “He retired just last year. He used to joke that he was such a youngster compared to the rest of us.”
“You’re telling her about Matthias,” Peter says.
Junia nods and says to the lowcontrib, “I need to go put these muffins out on the table for our fellowship time. You’ll be joining us?”
“I am. At least for a while, if your bishop doesn’t mind.”
“Of course, I don’t mind,” Peter says.
Junia nods and heads out to the courtyard, leaving Peter with the lowcontrib.
“Your reading was powerful, albeit—unexpected,” Peter says. “In any event, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t ask for your name when we spoke a few days ago. That was rude of me.”
“I forgive you, Bishop Peter. I have told the others my name, but they did not understand.”
She gazes at him steadily. In the silence, Peter begins to feel the throbbing of his own pulse.
She lifts her chin slightly and says, “I am Sophia.”
Peter’s eyes widen as the pieces click together in his mind: her earlier question about the property, her reading, the archaic name she’s given him. Despite its obscurity, Peter recognizes sophia as the Greek word for “wisdom”—but also more than that. “Sophia” is a name that was used for millennia to denote God’s presence. Ancient books such as the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus portray “Sophia” as a feminine image of God’s Holy Wisdom, as a name for the Divine manifest in the here and now. According to the gospels, Jesus Himself referred to her.
Peter has realized, in other words, that this lowcontrib thinks she’s . . . God.
Holy hell, he thinks to himself.
“Sophia” gazes calmly at Peter as he works this out. After several moments, he says, “Sophia. That is an—an evocative name. Where does it come from?”
“The Father gave it to me.”
Not “my father.” The Father.
Felipe is the only one still inside, and he’s following Bede through the exit to the courtyard—out of earshot, fortunately. Peter’s eyes cautiously meet the woman’s once more. “I take it you, uh, have some familiarity with the Christian religion. Can you tell me more about yourself?”
After a few heartbeats, she says, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” Her smile radiates the iron assurance of a disturbed mind.
Praise for I Am Sophia
“Beautiful, poignant, and theologically insightful, I Am Sophia grapples with the Christian church’s sins and shortcomings and points toward possibilities for its future. As with important literature in all faith traditions, it uncovers eternal truths by engaging with real life in all its grittiness.”
—Mary Gray-Reeves, bishop in The Episcopal Church and managing director of The College for Bishops
“Alexander combines the gifts of a compelling storyteller, religious scholar, and visionary. Many theological books, hymns, and litanies have celebrated the biblical divine image of Sophia, but this is the first novel. With vivid descriptions and character portrayals, it invites seekers on a suspense-filled quest for her sacred wisdom.”
—Jann Aldredge-Clanton, author of In Search of the Christ-Sophia and Breaking Free: The Story of a Feminist Baptist Minister
“Captivating from the first moment, I Am Sophia takes you on an expansive journey across time and space.”
—Lakshmi Karan, space entrepreneur and cofounder of the Future Frontiers Institute
“A mind-bending vision of the near future which traces the outcomes of runaway climate change, income inequality, political collapse, and the decline of religion, I Am Sophia is ultimately a novel offering hope in the possibility of renewal, a gift for us at this time.”
—Marc Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal diocese of California and co-author (with Matthew Fox) of Stations of the Cosmic Christ
About the Author
J. F. Alexander is writer-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in San Jose, California. Raised in the Texas panhandle, he earned degrees at Austin College, Tufts University’s Fletcher School, and Stanford Law School and was a Newbigin fellow in theology. He has worked in law, business, and NASA’s human spaceflight program.