Proper 20, Year B
If there were a list of “scriptures I would never preach,” Proverbs 31 would be on that list.
I suppose I really have never heard Proverbs 31 preached, anyway. I have heard it time and time again in two different venues: every year on Mother’s Day and then at funerals (mostly of grandmotherly types). I have heard it read, always from the King James Version (because it’s traditional) but never really preached.
After several years of hearing it read in worship on Mother’s Day in either a stenorous or sappy voice, I tuned it out. Then it started to rub me the wrong way, rather like this article which makes the rounds on the internet quite often. (Click on the picture to read the full article.)
However, I heard this with fresh ears at a funeral recently that I participated in with Joanna Adams. I hadn’t the foggiest idea who she was at the time, but hearing a woman read this, gracefully and well, from something other than KJV was ear and eye opening.
I was listening and it struck me — this passage is more about the nature of wisdom than the oppression of women. When read with the other lections this week, it becomes clearer and more vivid.
Last week the lectionary included Proverbs 1 which starts with a description of “wisdom crying in the streets and in the square she raises her voice.” Wisdom is a woman! When searching for that “perfect wife” what humankind should be looking for is wisdom — wisdom that is more precious than jewels, that buys and provides nourishment for her family, that girds herself with strength, that works long and hard for the necessities of life, that reaches out to the poor and the needy.
How else can we read this passage? How else the idea of wisdom be seen?