How are you reading this week’s texts?
Personally, I dreaded this week because of the Proverbs text. Not that I have a problem with it — okay, it’s been read and preached on at a few too many Women’s Day celebrations I’ve attended. And after doing all that she does and exhibiting all the qualities she exhibits, I’m tired for this sister! Is she another impossible ideal for women? And what of the implications of her example for men? RevGal Dr. Wil Gafney’s commentary on this reading over at Working Preacher might be particularly helpful to you as you prepare (or decide) to preach on this woman of valor.
Speaking of ideals and displays of valor, this week’s texts are full of those things. The Markan text continues with the “Messianic Secret” motif, and Jesus’ confounding teaching about himself. His disciples argue about who will be considered the greatest from among them, until he steps in and presents them with an ideal they’d perhaps not considered.
Our “weeping prophet” Jeremiah gives an opportunity to delve into the drama of broken covenants and the threat of personal violence, simply for operating in his calling. When sticking to your guns and holding onto your ideals puts you in harm’s way, what should you do? How should you feel? What should your posture be? Jeremiah’s is — defiant? Trusting? Valiant? It’s worth exploration, and would make for some great preaching.
The Psalm could have been Jeremiah’s feelings in that moment put to music. Except they are (traditionally) David’s feelings as he is trying to hide from a king and mentor who wants to kill him because his call and very existence pose a threat — not unlike Jeremiah. The psalmist’s conclusion is to trust in the valor of the LORD even as his life is in peril.
And in James, we see what valor is not. We are taught what not to do. We are taught what the exact opposite of valor is; greed, selfishness, and envy. The ideal is submission to God.
“…a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
“…for to you I have committed my cause.”
“But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.”
“Submit yourselves therefore to God.”
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
In all cases, our strength — our valor — is in our trust.
Where are you going with these text? In what directions are you leaning? I’ve decided that, for tackling these readings this week, you, preacher woman, are pretty darn valiant. So, with that, Eshet Chayil!