Superwoman – Sermon on 21 September 2003

Yesterday, we had a wedding in church. I always enjoy getting to know people who want to get married. They have a lot of things to decide. What kind of music? What kind of service? What bible readings? I have never had anyone choose the first reading this morning (the wife of good character from Proverbs 31)


I?m going to start right in the middle of the readings this morning and work outwards. Firstly, looking at what James said about the devil ? and then looking at the description of superwoman that we have in Proverbs. And then lastly, thinking about what Jesus was doing when he put a small child right at the centre of things.
Firstly James. ?Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.?
James seems to divide the world in a very particular way. He seems to be seeing things very much as black or white. As good or evil. Aligned to God or aligned to the devil.

We have a great temptation to simplify things in this way. To split the world into opposites ? and the division of the world into good and evil is o­ne of the temptations that we face. For there are not two worlds out there, there is o­nly o­ne. And the God whom we know came not to divide things but to unite them. Indeed, Jesus seems to have come to annihilate the very idea of difference.

So, what are we to make of James?s words about God and the Devil. First of all, I want to be sure to say that these are not two sides of an equation. God and the Devil are not two equal realities who balance o­ne another o­n a metaphysical seesaw. It doesn?t seem like that to me. Indeed, whilst I may believe in the reality of God, I find it much more difficult to believe in the personhood of the Devil.

It is all too easy to believe in a figure who is outside us, who exists to trip us up and cause us to do things that we should not.

However, that really is to miss the point. If you look at what James is saying, you will find that he is speaking not about something outside of us, but about what comes out of us. And the balance is not really between God and the Devil fighting for our souls, but between peace, gentleness and righteousness o­n the o­ne side and disorder and wickedness o­n the other. But James is writing about the things that are inside us. He is writing not about God and the Devil as though they were egging us o­n, o­ne to do good and the other to do evil. No, James is talking about the things that we do and the things that we say. He is talking about our motives and the subtle things that make us behave the way that we do.

He is writing about the choices which we make and the way in which those choices affect other people. He his advice, is to draw near to God and so discover that God in God?s turn draws near to us.

And that, ultimately is what tips the balance for James towards goodness, peaceableness, gentleness, mercy and all the good fruits that come from a life lived with God.

What are we to make of the description of superwoman. Does she have anything to do with the kind of things that James is referring to? Is she really a role model to aspire to, or does this mean something else? I have a feeling that it means something else entirely.

To make sense of this book, we have to take it as a whole. Last week we heard something of the beginning of the book and this week we are right at the end. And female figures are very important. To understand this book, we need to remember that those who gathered it together probably did not see things as being divided into good and bad. Instead, they seem to have been trying to say something about the way we live in the world. Instead, they saw the world as being divided into Wisdom or Foolishness. And that is a very different division indeed.

And at the start and the end, they speak of wisdom as being like a woman about her business in the town. And the division is between the wise woman and the foolish o­ne.

And the writer of the passage that we read this morning is thinking through what it would be like for a ruler to be married to holy wisdom herself. And the writer comes to the conclusion that this partnership would prosper everyone around.
It is interesting to think about for quite a while. If God is like a wise woman, to whom would you compare God? Who comes to mind when you think of a wise woman? In some way, God is like her. Think about it.

The writer is not inviting us to emulate the woman of the passage ? this is not a description of superwoman at all. It is certainly not something that women should be trying to emulate. If we are to emulate anyone, it isn?t the woman, but the ruler, the o­ne who was wedded to wisdom. It is that marriage which the writer of this passage is advocating, and nothing to do with the institution of marriage at all.

Now, what does this have to say about the gospel. Let us turn the pages of the bible again and look at what Jesus is doing. In a way, Jesus really was o­ne who was wedded to wisdom. Last week I asked you to think about him as someone who turned the wisdom of the world upon its head. And that is what he is doing when he brings the child into the centre of the argument in this morning?s gospel.

Children would not necessarily have had much of a place in the society in which he lived. Jesus, in putting the child at the centre was telling them something again. He was telling them to change their assumptions about power and influence. And he was giving us a hint that he knew that children would always have a special affinity with him.
Jesus nudged the child to the centre and inferred that the child would understand more about the message that he came to share than the adults who were standing around arguing about who was the greatest.

The child was probably regarded as o­ne of the servants of the household. Someone who fetched and carried and was not noticed much. And here is Jesus giving the child centre stage. Telling those around him then and those around him here now that things in his world are different. God?s greatness lies not in having power over someone, but in the power to be willing to understand greatness as the capacity to care for others.

Not power over people, but the wisdom to stand beside the them.
Not the power of wealth and influence but the wisdom to share weakness.
Not a life of dividing the world into good and evil, no, the invitation is to something more rewarding for us and more fulfilling for the world in which we live.
Not power over people.
Not the power of wealth
Not the power of influence
but a life lived looking for wisdom, wherever She is.


  1. Anonymous says

    Re: Superwoman – Sermon on 21 September 2003
    What is it they say about “truth” and “out of the mouths of babes”?
    Widsom and greatness seem to appear in the most unusual circumstances from the most unexpected people.  I think this is often because it comes from people who have nothing to hide, nothing to fear and have no alterier motive, so truth comes easily to them. Whether it be a child who can trust their own feelings or whether it be someone who has nothing and is scorned by society but has nothing to lose by being honest.  I think there is some common ground there.   From truth then comes wisdom- from wisdom comes greatness- I think!
    I believe we should all be ready to listen and learn from others in all of the unexpected places!
    As we get o­n with our busy lives it is easy to get hung up o­n daily drudge, worrying about things that really don't matter. 
    What does a young child worry about, will I see my friends tomorrow, what will we play?

  2. Anonymous says

    Re: Superwoman – Sermon on 21 September 2003
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