Singular Women

Proverbs 31:10-31 – The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 23, 2012

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

Women made me who I am.

Which is likely the case for you unless you’re a test-tube baby! So, thanks Mom. And I have two sisters, one older, one younger. Growing up, I got it coming and going as the middle child and only boy.

In hundreds, if not thousands, of church meetings I’ve attended, often only one male participated . . . me. Once, as a new pastor serving a rural congregation in Wisconsin, we needed money—now!—to replace a furnace. Near the swishing tail of a Holstein hooked to a milking apparatus, a taciturn dairy farmer suggested, “Better talk to the women. They’ve got the money.” He meant the United Methodist Women in that isolated church. The frugal farm wives had raised and saved money for where it was needed:  overseas missions, projects to help the local needy and, on occasion, a large chunk of change for an expensive furnace.

In a paean to a wife and women, the Old Testament book of Proverbs (31:26-27) extols . . .

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Generally speaking, in our sacred scripture, women weren’t highlighted. Old or New Testament, women were property, second-class citizens. (Or maybe third class, if compared to a mob of sheep or crop of wheat as part of your “manly” wealth.)

After reading Proverb 31’s ode to a “capable wife,” I dredged up faded, fractured childhood Sunday school memories about Biblical women. Old Testament-wise, I might’ve only identified Eve and Delilah. Eve—because she appeared early in the story, and railroaded gullible Adam into nibbling fruit. (See, fractured memories.). And Delilah—darn clever for that sneaky babe to trim Samson’s hair and scissor him down to size. (And I’d seen the movie!) Only later in seminary, would I ponder the theological gifts of a Sarah, Ruth, Hagar and others.

As a tyke or a seminarian, I knew the New Testament women better. And yet, even in the much briefer and later Christian scriptures, the exploits of men far outnumbered women. In any list of Jesus’ disciples it’s all men, all the time.

But on my path to and through ministry, women mattered. Continue reading →