Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pondering Wisdom

The lectionary passages for this coming Sunday all revolve around the theme of wisdom (or at the very least nod in that direction). I will be preaching on the alternate Hebrew Scripture reading:

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
“You that are simple, turn in here!”
To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”

~ Proverbs 9:1-6

I am struck by the gender-bendedness of this passage. "Lady" Wisdom (the word is in the feminine in both Hebrew and Greek) has hewn pillars and slaughtered animals... decidedly not the traditional actions of a woman in the ancient Near East. In fact, the slaughtering issue... the utter (traditional) inappropriateness of woman to the task of slaughtering (i.e., Temple sacrifice) ... is one of the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic refusal to consider women "proper matter" for ordination. Since the mass is a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Jesus... you follow the logic.

So. Here is Lady Wisdom, and watch out when she has a knife in her hands! Or a... hewing tool, whatever on earth that might be. A Xena-like figure begins to materialize in my head. This is one buff Lady. She is strong, capable, not exactly waiting around for a man to rescue the little woman from whatever needs to be done.

And, she is setting the table, mixing wine, and dispatching her serving girls. She is pulling people out of their tubs and off their bar stools and whatever other places they are holed up in. She has set the table for them, and what she is serving, she is sure they will want. They will need. Wisdom.

Lay aside immaturity, she says. And live. Live. Walk in the way of insight, understanding.

Wisdom seems to be a blend of the strengths we often attribute to one sex or the other, whether we do so consciously or not. Strong and domestic and smart and capable... none of which adjectives are the exclusive province of people with one kind of plumbing or another. That's wisdom. When we finally get that through our skulls (and hearts). That's wisdom.


Mary Sue said...

Hewing Tools. Not for the faint of heart or the unskilled.

SCG said...

We use the alternate track where I worship and I will be most interested to hear how Wisdom and the Gospel reading from John get put together. Probably won't happen.

Choralgirl said...

I can just hear the members of your congregation now..."Oh, sure--she comes out and right away, Zena shows up!"


frdougal said...

Thanks for this: it made much more sense to me than the slightly academic effort I got this morning. Bread for the hungry!