21 August 2016 Womens month
Sermon by Margie Visser
Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman GOSPEL Luke 13:10-17
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.’ 15 But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, to be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’ 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
May these words be spoken through the love of God our creator Jesus our saviour and the Holy Spirit our counsellor Amen.
As you can see by our pew leaflet we are doing a preaching series focused around women. Mo has asked me to share about some of my experiences as a woman, a wife and a mother and also what I’ve learned through my experiences as a counsellor of children, teens and adults especially in terms of relationships.
The purpose of Women’s month is really to bring about a greater understanding and awareness of the system within society referred to as patriarchy or the rule of the fathers that keeps certain people- especially women ‘bent over’ and prevented from standing up straight and reaching
their full potential in life- a picture similar to the woman Jesus healed and helped to straighten up in today’s gospel story. Last week Yvette explained to you what feminism is- a movement that desires to bring about gender equality.
Jesus was and is a feminist- a leader who shows us how to live without bias, stereotypes and selfish agendas. The kingdom is all about equality and covenant relationships- a covenant relationship is a loving relationship that has both parties best interests at heart.
We are also mindful that today is theological education Sunday- a day which certainly involves reminding ourselves of the values that Jesus stood for and wants us as his church to stand for. Jesus focused on issues of power, prestige and possessions and how they have the potential to ruin loving covenant relationships. The love of power, prestige and possessions – these are often at the core of relational breakdown and at the root of abusive behaviour. It is these issues that often prevent people from becoming all that God created them to be.
So today I will be speaking about contemporary or current forms of these issues that continue to affect the lives of women mainly- issues within the home, the workplace and the church which have the potential to emotionally and psychologically cripple women and hold them back from living lives using their full God- gifting potential. But before I go there I’d like to praise and thank all those people who do help those who have been hurt by the legacy of patriarchy and sexism and those who believe in and practise gender equality. Thank God for you.
Theological education- where do we first hear or learn about God? Probably in the home- perhaps from our grandparents or parents. They as our first authority figures – are representatives of what we imagine God to be like. If the voices of our role models –particularly the male- authority figures in our homes- are harsh and hard we tend to imagine Gods voice to be like that too. The words, the tone, the kind of voice with which we speak to our children becomes their inner voice.
As parents or grandparents it is often our personal relationship with God that influences the children in our families- it is their window into their first understanding of God. Our beliefs, words, actions and attitudes pass on a legacy. If we as women were treated badly we often carry hurts and baggage. This reality can make us defensive depressed even angry. Often our children and spouses get the brunt of this - the anger and frustration is sometimes taken out on those around us.
Verbal or emotional abuse- like name calling and negative put downs can damage self-esteem, it can cause people to doubt themselves and their worth. Sometimes this is not visible on the outside but rather in the mind and heart of the person affected. It causes them to become bent over, held back psychologically. Jesus sees this- It is not a secret that can be forever hidden. We are all doing our best but if we find ourselves taking out our issues on our children we need to get some help to find other ways of coping with our stress levels.
The home should be the safest place to be, a place where we find comfort, support and affirmation but very often home is not like this at all. It is common knowledge that domestic violence is rife within our society. Often the person who earns the most is the one who calls the shots in the home. Power is linked to earning ability. However, oppressive power attitudes can cause emotional and psychological damage to those we live with.
How can this be changed? The best rules for a happy home are love, respect and responsibility- all the house rules boil down to that in essence. If you did not grow up in a home that modelled these values for you and you find yourself oppressed or oppressing others at home remember you as the adult are responsible for your actions- don’t blame others – seek change.
What is happening to women economically in the workplace? How do we prepare our children for what they’ll find there?
Do we give our daughters less pocket money than our sons to prepare them for the reality they’ll probably face one day in terms of pay gaps between males and females fulfilling the same job description? You wouldn’t dream of giving your daughter less pocket money than your son – yet that is precisely what happens in many workplace environments.
Many women now hold top job positions yet when they return home they are expected to cope with all the household chores and sometimes even be a subservient wife to their husband. Im delighted to say that this patriarchal ‘gendered roles in the home’ idea is shifting. The majority of couples receiving pre marriage counselling are now expressing egalitarian views- that is sharing of roles, chores and responsibilities within the home with full consideration for each others well-being.
What about the reality of human trafficking in today’s global world and how does this affect women?
Human trafficking is real and Africa has one of the highest incidences of human trafficking worldwide. Carte blanche aired a programme a few weeks ago about human trafficking- it is rife! People actually making money from marketing another person. It is inhumane and brutal. 80% of human trafficking involves girls and women from the age of 5-15 and it is most prevalent in Africa because of poverty that makes girls desperate so they get trapped into this cycle with less than 1% getting out of this way of life. Most of them die from drug use, suicide or infection. NGO’s are trying to help rehabilitate a few of these people- most never get help but remained 0ppressed and bent over like that woman in the gospel. they are abused because of someone’s greed and someone else’s lust.
Now- I wonder if Jesus would want us to be mindful and aware of the ways in which society keeps women bent over and in bondage in his church.
The church is a place where one would expect to find equality seeing as that is what Jesus preached. Yet I’ve personally experienced prejudice and spiritual abuse because of my gender in churches I’ve attended previous to the Anglican Church. I was denied ordination because I was a woman- a married woman. I was told my role was to be a helpmate for my husband and to be a homemaker. But God didn’t change the calling preordained for me and God directed me along another path. It cost me time, emotional and psychological heartache yet I’m happier here where things are more balanced in terms of gender equality and people are more open-minded theologically. In terms of that quote- my version would read more like- ‘a strong woman looks a challenge in the eye- cries a lot chooses a persevering attitude-develops resilience, decides to trust God and eventually gives the challenge a wink…!’ Just like I’m sure all of you have stories to share- I had challenges in the home I grew up in, I had challenges in the workplace- I worked in hospitals and clinics as a diagnostic radiographer- I continue to have challenges as a wife and a mother of three sons…We all have days when we feel bent out of shape but the circumstances around us.
So this bent woman referred to today could be symbolic of all people who are stunted and distorted whether by patriarchal ideas, ignorance, prejudice, anger or indifference.
Bent over people can only see only the dirt at their feet, the bad side of things. They are unable to look up and see the possibilities before them. They don’t have hope. Their situation can impact on those around them too. But the good thing is that today we can remember that Jesus cares and hears the cries of those who are oppressed by systems beyond their control. Just like Jesus heard my cries and changed my path, so Jesus can help you- if you reach out and you’re willing to embrace change.
Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant- the healer of minds that are full of sad oppressive memories that keep us bent over in pain. We have to make the effort to change and renew our thoughts – to clean up our mindsets… it’s a journey towards healing and equality..SO…
Let us speak out boldly against injustices. May God help us as individuals to do our part in bringing about the kingdom Jesus spoke of- one that has equality, love and respect for all people- rich and poor, young and old, healthy and disabled. A kingdom that cannot be shaken where no one is considered a second class citizen. Where no one is used for the pleasure of someone else without regard for person themselves. People are God’s treasure- do we see them and treat them as such? SO the Challenge is to consider and examine ourselves in terms of our words and behaviour that may be causing people to be bent over in our homes or the workplace or the church?
Let us consider the ways in which we view and treat others in our homes, in our places of work, in our community, in our church- are we able to freely give words of praise to those around us or do we battle to do that because we have never been given those words ourselves? Are we able to notice and comment when others shine and are we able to affirm them without feeling resentful? We all need to be people who help others to stand up straighter after an encounter with us. If this is not something you can identify with, then perhaps take the time today to ask God to heal you and affirm you. Reach out for help so that you can make some changes that will benefit your outlook on life. Instead of living from a bent over position ask God to help you live from an upstanding position. Make a decision today to start learning how to be more affirming and supportive of others who need encouragement to fulfil their potential and walk upright in the fullness of all that Jesus has purposed for them… Amen.