When I realised I was expected to preach on Mothering Sunday or what is popularly called Mother’s day, I thought. Oh No! Not because I don’t approve of the day but how does a mere man give a sermon on it without sounding patronising. Also I am very conscious that not every mother is a good example let alone perfect. We only have to refer to the abuse and murder of children by their parents to realise that. Another difficulty with celebrating mother’s day is that the death of a mother may have been a very sad or traumatic event due to serious illness at a young age, suicide or childbirth itself. If this sermon sounds, in any way, patronising then I apologise in advance and you can tell me off afterwards.
International Women’s Day was celebrated at the beginning of the month. Although International women’s’ day is essentially a political event fighting for equality and recognition for the contribution to society that women have made I do agree with them that we should celebrate the role of women generally not just motherhood. In fact, in this church on Mother’s day we have long recognised the part played by all women regardless of whether they are mothers.
From a personal point of view, in my working life as a nurse, I have been used to working with women in both junior and senior positions. I have to say most of my colleagues were kindness itself and wonderful role models as excellent nurses. There were a few who shouldn’t have been allowed in contact with ill people without wearing a muzzle or on a short lead but we can ignore them.
This is a sermon so we should start with the Bible. I am ignoring whether or not these people actually existed as it is irrelevant. Let’s start right at the beginning with Eve Why was Eve necessary. It seems that Man was not complete until Eve came along. In Genesis chapter 2 it says that God sent Eve as Adam’s helper. A question for you. What do you understand by this verse describing Eve as a helper for Adam. …… Unfortunately, this translation creates the wrong impression. The Hebrew word used is ezer which certainly means helper but it does not mean someone who is subordinate. How do I know that? Of the 21 uses of the word in the Old Testament 16 of them are used to describe God. I’m pretty sure that it was never intended to suggest that God was lower than the person being helped. This word translated as helper is not about making dinner or darning a man’s socks. This word means an ally or rescuer, someone who comes running when people cry out for help. An ezer drops everything to save those in n3eed. An ezer is a hero. In the same way using the Hebrew word, ezer, to describe Eve elevates her way above Adam. In the Bible there are well over a hundred named women. Some of them, like Lydia, noted for their contribution to leadership, others like Herodias for their scheming and revengeful natures. Apart from those women whose names we know there are many hundreds who remain un-named yet are significant enough to be mentioned.
In spite of the prominence of some women throughout history western society has in the main been male dominated. Most husbands would probably question that assumption. However, society in general and the church in particular have tried to relegate the role of women to largely a domestic role. Given the evidence in the Bible including Jesus’ own ministry it is fair to say that Christians should be the most pro-active supporters of women. Surely it is unforgiveable that it has taken so long to allow women to be priests and bishops.
What else can we find in the Bible to honour women? I mentioned the Hebrew word Ezer meaning helper. But I believe it has greater significance than just being applied to God. As ezers women reflect the image of God in a fundamentally different way than men. Why else would God think that without Eve Adam was far from complete. Just for the record It was much more than about reproduction. Throughout the Gospels we see women treasured by Jesus. We see them esteemed for their faith. In history we see the mistreatment and devaluing of women in stark contrast to Biblical accounts of their role.
It is only right that society changes to bring equal rights to both men and women but for the Christian there is a solid foundation for honouring women. The example of Jesus, himself. Christians should be the most pro-women group of all. Perhaps Psalm 144:12 puts women in their rightful place. “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown and our daughters like corner pillars cut for the building of a palace.” Today, let us honour all women whether mothers or not.