Good morning and welcome to St. Matthews on this beautiful sunny day. Thank you Carolin for inviting me out this morning to attend this important gathering.
Where would the church be without Women of Faith? For an egalitarian religion, there sure does seem to be a considerable gender disparity woven into the fabric of the church and church based societies. The Lutheran church has done well to combat that disparity, allowing women to be leaders, allowing clergy to have families, same-sex marriages etc. But any woman in a leadership role, whether it is in here or out there, will tell you how much harder it is for them to achieve professional or social equality with their male peers. Men typically do not really know what a glass ceiling looks or feels like. Women often say they have to work twice as hard as men to attain the same professional rank or pay.
But the very Church itself was built on the backs of women; their enduring strength, sacrifices and hard work. Where would we be? What would the Church look like today had Christianity not been subjected to so many patriarchal filters over the last two thousand years? Patriarchal theology, history and spirituality etc. have all influenced the traditions and culture we have inherited, it has shaped how we read and hear the Gospels, I was at a funeral this past week and the Reverend referred to a woman as little lady with such condescension that my skin began to crawl.
The Good News is that the inherent respect for women in Jesus’ ministry is still there, calling out to us on occasions such as this to lift up our women and girls, to level the playing field.
Throughout the history of Christianity, women have been overlooked, stereotyped, their stories changed, or even erased altogether. As such, women in general are not afforded the same level of respect in the home, the work place or in the church as men. Certainly this is not unique to Western Christianity but this is our context. This is not an indictment on men either, because they contribute a lot to home, work and church life too; many great men support and lift up the women and girls in their lives, but inequality persists. How long did our former government resist an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women?
Canada has come a long way in some respects, for example, our present government installed a cabinet that boasts gender parity, because it was “2015.” Many were outraged and I won’t repeat those arguments here, But what does that mean for 2016, where too many half-measures continue to perpetuate a culture of glass ceilings.
We all see that inequality with regard to domestic violence, we all see the discrepancy with regard to pay inequality. We still see the inequality when it comes to respect in general, the little moments throughout the day. Here at St. Matthews there is but one female board member. Why is that?
I believe that the church has a vital role to play in the empowerment of women in our society. If we look to scripture and the Way that Jesus taught us for guidance, we can only conclude that we must do so.
The teachings of Jesus contain no instances of the belittlement, disgrace, reproach, or stereotypes against women. The lone contentious text, Jesus’ interaction with the Syrophonecian Woman illustrates Jesus’ willingness to allow a woman to teach him something about God! Most of Jesus’ interactions with women would have been very controversial in the patriarchal society in which he was raised. Talking with women in public, for example was a big no-no, how revolutionary was it then to intervene in the stoning of a woman? Jesus doesn’t ever seem to have any quarrels with women in the Gospels. It is mainly with men he speaks or acts against.
Many scholars believe that Jesus’ disciples included women, and others are convinced that many prominent women characters have had their names changed to men. Time and time again, women of faith in the Bible show us how it was done. Can you imagine the outrage and character assassination that would occur if a woman denied Jesus three times? A man does it and he’s praised up and down.
When Jesus was crucified on the cross, it was the women who stayed at the foot and bore witness, bearing that weight on behalf of their community. When the Sabbath was over, it was the women who bought spices to anoint the body and later discovered the empty tomb. According to Mark 16 verse 9 it was to Mary Magdalene whom Jesus first appeared.
And speaking of Mary Magdalene, she is often portrayed as the most horrible female caricature. If a woman wrote Mary’s story, how different might it be? This often happens to women in scripture. As women, how do you hear such passages?
Our church communities need your voice on important decisions, after all, Divine Wisdom in Hebrew Scripture is feminine. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is the Divine Feminine at work in each and every one of our souls. As we gather here today in faith, in the name of the one who seeks gender equality, I ask you to meditate on these important questions. Amen