The Core Sunday Gathering

October 15, 2011

Series: The Sexes
Week 4: Token Heroine

-Two weeks ago we explored and dug into the real meaning of masculinity

        -It’s a shame I didn’t have these photos at the time… because here are some REAL MEN

        -[SLIDES – MEN IN FEMININE POSES]

        -Question: Why is this so funny? Why is it uncomfortable to look at?

                -Is it because these photos mock our stereotypes?

                -Maybe our stereotypes need their butt kicked from time to time.

-There’s another stereotype worth exploring, about successful men and their significant others

-What’s the saying? Behind every successful man is….

        -[SLIDE] A supportive wife?

        -[SLIDE] An adoring mother?

        -[SLIDE] A shocked mother in law?

-Here’s the Old Testament version: Behind every Patriarch is a powerful Matriarch

        -Who seems to actually be the one pulling the strings

        -It’s true that every biblical lineage is patriarchal. Hebrew society is patriarchal

                -But it’s also more matriarchal than we give it credit for

                -Abraham’s oldest child was not the son of promise. He had to be Sarah’s boy.

                -Isaac’s oldest (and favored) child was not favored by God… it was Rebekah’s favorite son.

        -Old Testament Men may have made the decisions about faith, livelihood and relocation

                -But women were the often the ones setting the tone for the future of the family

                1. Sarah’s big idea produces Ishmael

                2. Rebecca’s scheme gives Jacob the edge over Esau

                3. Rachel & Leah’s rivalry produce the 12 tribes of Israel

        -So Despite the patriarchal nature of Hebrew culture, its women could be highly influential

                -If Genesis were a chess game, the male king would be the central figure

                        -But the female queen would make most of the moves. She seems to run the game.

                        -And it all unfolds within the scope of God’s plan for Israel.

        -Unfortunately, a lot of the matriarchs influence turned out a little sour.

        -Thankfully there are more good examples than bad… and these are the HEROINES I’m talking about

                -Question: What were some heroic deeds of Biblical women?

                1. Ruth keeps the faith and becomes a Matriarch of Israel even though she’s not an Israelite

                2. Esther risks her life to save the entire Jewish race from genocide

                3. Rahab betrays her wicked city, and takes God’s side in the defeat of Jericho

                4. Deborah is the only recorded judge of Israel, and leads the army to victory

                5. Mary, of course, gives birth to the God-man, and raises him to adulthood

        -But even when we have all this, it seems like a pittance compared to the male heroes

                -As if women have been given a token… a consolation prize. “Oh yeah, and the women too.”

                -Do you ladies ever feel that way in your religious experiences?

                        -Salvation comes to every man…and woman who blah blah…”

                        -Blessed is he… or she who blah blah”

                        -Kind of an afterthought, perhaps? Not just in the Church but in the Bible itself.

        -To the contrary, regard for women was actually at a high point at the end of the OT,

                -before the writings of a misogynist Rabbi named Ben Sirach, who  taught and wrote 150 years before Jesus

        -Rabbinical Judaism picked up on these writings, and ushered in a new era of chauvinism

                -This is where we get prayers like “Thank God I’m not a Gentile, slave or WOMAN.”

                -And Jesus was not a fan, by the way. We’re going to take two weeks on that.

-So the question remains: What are we supposed to learn about Femininity from the Bible?

        -What is God’s idea of a REAL WOMAN?

        -To hear the conventional wisdom, you’d think it was a combination of:

        1. Learning in quietness and submission,  always maintaining a passive role

        2. Obeying your husband or father and never having a will of your own

        3. Exercising your faith only through the men in your life

        4. Avoiding any semblance of ambition, pleasure,  or individuality

        -Question: Would our Hebrew Heroines buy in to this kind of femininity?

Pass out: Proverbs 31:10-31 – Here’s a chapter that many woman have become afraid of

        -As if men would read it and set the bar way too high for you… just another form of sexism

        -But rather than being intimidating, it should be liberating and motivating

                -To show us that the Bible BELIEVES IN YOU.

        -Read it in groups, and underline all the ways the passage compliments, and thinks highly of women

11 – Husband values a competent individual much more than a subservient wallflower

13&14 – Not a homebody… but a savvy broker

15 – She is considered a provider as much as her husband

16 – Invests in real estate, starts a business

17 – Good upper-body strength

18 – Active and Successful in commerce, an important participant in the marketplace

20 – Not only a successful business woman, but a philanthropist

22 – Her wealth is earned from her productivity, not “married into”

23 – She’s proud to make her husband look good

25&26 – “Strength,  dignity and wisdom”  very masculine virtues

29 – She may be the best, but she is not the only impressive woman

30 – Her virtue is unrelated to physical beauty or charm

31 – She is not overlooked for reward, because of her gender

-Obviously I can’t say this from experience, but I can from observation

                -It’s difficult to be a woman in any age, in any culture. Even when the expectations are clear

                -But in our age and our culture, the expectations are extremely fuzzy.

                        -It seems like you have to balance your parents’ idea of femininity against your friends’

                        -And balance your husband or boyfriend’s idea of femininity against your faith, and the Scriptures

                -You’d like to just be who you were born to be, without being compromised by these warring expectations

                        -As if to be a real woman you have to innately understand cooking or baking or sewing or childcare

                        -To be a real woman you have to be able to find a man, please a man, submit to a man

                        -To be a real woman you have to have ambition and talent to compete against men in a man’s world

                        -To be a real woman you have to have this kind of face and this kind of hair and this kind of body

                -And the worst part is that the Bible doesn’t seem to come to the rescue, either. And the Church even less.

                        -I don’t know if I can defend the Church or not

                        -But if I’ve tried to accomplish anything with all these examples of women in the Bible

                        -And especially in Proverbs 31, it’s that the Scriptures are not against you.

                        -They are challenging at many points, but they do far more to highlight the individuality of women

                                -And the value of each of them in God’s ultimate plan

                        -Than they do to box in femininity and limit you to any cultural stereotype and expectation.

        -God has blown the doors wide open for you, if you will take care to see it.

                -Not for cultural conquest, like the feminist movement often claims, but for significance in God’s purpose

                -The highest calling any man or woman can receive, is to obey God, and to follow Jesus

                -That is the true source of significance in life. To reflect the face of the Father, in the footsteps of the Son.

        -Jesus did much more to open these doors to women than he gets credit for

                -And that’s what we’ll be talking about the next two weeks.