The Femininity of the Church

bride-of-christ

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation, by water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride.
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food.
And to one hope she presses with ev’ry grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder the world sees her oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Through toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth has union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O blessed heav’nly chorus! Lord save us by Your grace
That we, like saints before us, may see You face to face.

 

 

“The Church’s One Foundation” (Lutheran Service Book, 644)
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Hannah’s God

woman-crying-6

Had God forgotten Hannah? Was He just too busy with other, more important things? Maybe Hannah had sinned sometime in her past, earning her the punishment of childlessness…or at least had made some bad choices way-back-when that landed her here. She knew how the other woman looked down on her and wondered why she had the “woman’s curse.” Or worse. Maybe the LORD had just struck her barren for His own sick enjoyment, so He could laugh at her suffering and mock her childlessness, like her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, did. All the time.

Sure,  Elkanah said he still loved Hannah…she might’ve even been his favorite wife. As much as a wife who can’t give her husband any children can be favored over the one who does, anyway. You know how men are. He probably just liked her more youthful figure, compared to Peninnah’s stretched-out, well-used one. But a husband’s love, while wonderful, just didn’t fill that void.

And then one day, just after the annual sacrifice at the tabernacle in Shiloh…Hannah lost it (again). She was frequently depressed and didn’t want to eat or be around the family. But this time, she was DONE. Cracked. Bat spit crazy.

Only this time, they were all out in public, for God and everyone to see. Pastor Eli was sitting right there, on the bench next to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. And Hannah just brazenly wandered right up to the Doorway of God’s Own House! By herself! She didn’t even notice Eli, what with all the sobbing and incoherent mumbling going on as she poured out her heart, directly to God, laying it all drenched in tears and snot, right on His front doorstep.

God answers her prayer and gives her a son, Samuel, whom she then gives back to the Lord to serve in His house. In the next chapter, she sings a song of thanksgiving.

Yay, Hannah! What an example of an effective prayer! You should pray like that if you really want to see results.

No.

Actually, I think Hannah would be pretty horrified to hear our version of this story, the one praising her for her such a powerful prayer that God rewarded her by granting her plea for a son. What you need to do, then, is be like Hannah.

But she wasn’t given Samuel as a reward for being such a powerful pray-er, who managed to say just the right words and suddenly change the Lord’s mind about her barren state. And she wasn’t given a baby because she was just so pathetically desperate for a child that she promised she’d give him right back to God as her special gift to Him.

Hannah prayed to God, not because she thought her tears and sincerity would convince Him to do what she wanted and give her a child, but because she knew that He was the one from whom all good gifts come — including (and especially) the gift of children. She prayed to the LORD because she had a God who gives good gifts.

If her “pouring out her heart before the LORD” was anything like my pouring out my heart before the LORD, the world is probably better off not knowing what she said with all her groanings too deep for words. It’s bad enough being barren. Being barren with a husband who had another — very fertile — wife (who even mocked your childlessness)…that’s got to be a real special kind of torture.

Hannah probably told Him about Peninnah’s hurtful taunts and her utter hatred for her and all her stupid kids, and how it killed her to see her husband being fatherly with them. How she hated everyone for their polite questions and unhelpful platitudes, and their whispers and gossip. How she’d wait and pray and try-not-to-hope but couldn’t-help-hoping that this time it would happen…and then have those hopes-shattered-into-tiny-little-pieces as her period inevitably returned. Every. Single. Month.

Why God?? Why not her? Why all those other women? When would it be her turn? Didn’t He love her? What had she done wrong? She must’ve done something to deserve this shame-filled fate. She poured out all the doubts and fears and feelings that she had kept pent up for so long. ALL of them.

When she had confessed everything to the LORD, there was nothing left to get in the way of faith anymore. So she made a vow. Notice how this part gets recorded in Scripture, possibly because, unlike the sobbing confession, Hannah’s speech was now clear and quite lucid. “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV)

Oh, but there’s more! Hannah’s brazen faith didn’t even back down when, after watching the whole scene, Eli called her a drunk and told her to go sober up. She had just triple-dog-dared the LORD God Almighty to remember her and give her a son. It was nothing for her to now give His Holy Priest the what’s-what, explaining to him that she is not drunk (thank you very much), but that this is what a woman praying to her LORD “in anxiety and great vexation” looks like. The stunned Pastor Eli could only respond by sputtering out a perfunctory absolution and quickly sending her on her way.

And her faith Amen’d even that!

Whether God gave Hannah a child after this is beside the point. Hannah’s Canticle (foreshadowing Mary’s Magnificat) is not sung in celebration over her son’s birth or his being given to the Lord, but in praise of Her God, from whom all good gifts come. He doesn’t operate like other gods. In fact He does all sorts of things that Gods aren’t supposed do— even in the Old Testament! Hannah’s God is the One who strengthens the weak, feeds the hungry, gives children to the barren, and raises the poor from the ashes. He kills and raises to new life. He is the one who gave her barrenness and He is the one who gave her Samuel and his other brothers and sisters.

 

 

 

 

 

And You, Miss, are no Lady.

When I think of quiet and gentle spirits, I admit that Sarah isn’t the first one who comes to mind (1 Peter 3), though she certainly must fit the bill. I think of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes. Or “Mealy-mouthed Melly,” as Scarlett O’Hara referred to her. To Scarlett, as passionate and brash as her name, Melanie was a wuss. Melanie also married Scarlett’s crush, so that didn’t help the situation between them any. But you’d never know there was even an iota of tension between the two women by the way Melanie behaved.

enzerick-fandom-gonewithwind-splsh

Melanie exemplified thoughtfulness, generosity, and gracefulness. She always managed to put the best construction on everyone’s actions — especially when it came to Scarlett. Scarlett was moody, stubborn, outspoken, passionate, manipulative. And stunning. She had the smallest waist, prettiest dresses, perfect pout, and she knew how to work it all to get nearly anything she wanted.

Gentle and quiet are definitely not words that anyone (including me!) would normally use to describe my spirit. Hard and outspoken would be more like it. I guess that makes me more Scarlett than Melanie. (Just don’t look at my waist!)

But I figure I’ve got good reason to be that way. (Cue the flow of excuses. I’ve suffered. I’m a double-parent, I’m always on duty. If I don’t do something, it doesn’t get done. I don’t know what a vacation is. And don’t even get me started on my relationships. My health literally changes with the weather.)

Gentle and quiet are great, but they don’t pay my bills.

And yet, buried away, that person is still there. Hidden actually. Or, in my case, buried under piles of self-pity, fear, and overbearing pride. I don’t want to be that way. I beat myself up whenever I hear that someone is afraid of me. I feel the nastiness welling up and still just can’t seem to stop the hurtful words from coming out. I can’t even manage to be gentle and quiet with myself, much less with the people stuck in range of my ever-swirling anger vortex.

Yeah, yeah. I’m the Father’s beautiful, beloved, precious child. My baptism means something to me, for a few seconds anyway. At least until everyday (read: fallen) life gets in the way. When we get a little stressed out and things aren’t going the way we want them to, we go dredging up our own sinful images from the muck. Gentle and quiet? No, what we really need is tough and forceful. Or maybe downright selfish and catty will be more expedient today.

You know what the problem is with being gentle and quiet in the face of this life’s troubles? It only happens by faith. You can’t fake a quiet and gentle spirit. Only the Spirit gives that to you. Sure, you can bite your tongue and retract your claws. You can force yourself (or be forced) into outward quietness and submission. You can only be as quiet and gentle as you are faithful. And you can only have as much faith as you have Jesus.

We get so distracted by the worries of the day that we even forget that we have a Jesus. And it’s not even that Jesus was gentle and quiet in the face of trials so we should follow His example and be that way too too. It’s so much better than that. We have a Jesus who is our guarantee, our promise that the Lord only has good gifts for us. Our baptism reminds us that we don’t have to storm ahead, take charge, and manipulate situations to make life tolerable. Christ died to save us from an eternity of worrying about ourselves. He was not just gentle and quiet, He was gentle for us. He was quiet for us.

Take a moment and step away from whatever has you stressed-out and worried today. Make the sign of the cross and remember that you are baptized. You have a Jesus.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprising Advocate for Headcovering

Veiled sexuality meshes with Muslim values 
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008

By NAOMI WOLF
NEW YORK — A woman swathed in black to her ankles, wearing a head scarf or a full chador, walks down a European or North American street, surrounded by other women in halter tops, miniskirts and short shorts. She passes under immense billboards on which other women swoon in sexual ecstasy, cavort in lingerie or simply stretch out languorously, almost fully naked. Could this image be any more iconic of the discomfort the West has with the social mores of Islam, and vice versa?

Ideological battles are often waged with women’s bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception. When France banned head scarves in schools, it used the hijab as a proxy for Western values in general, including the appropriate status of women. When Americans were being prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were demonized for denying cosmetics and hair color to women; when the Taliban were overthrown, Western writers often noted that women had taken off their scarves.

But are we in the West radically misinterpreting Muslim sexual mores, particularly the meaning to many Muslim women of being veiled or wearing the chador? And are we blind to our own markers of the oppression and control of women?

The West interprets veiling as repression of women and suppression of their sexuality. But when I traveled in Muslim countries and was invited to join a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes, I learned that Muslim attitudes toward women’s appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one’s husband. It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channeling — toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life and the attachment that secures a home.

Outside the walls of the typical Muslim households that I visited in Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, all was demureness and propriety. But inside, women were as interested in allure, seduction and pleasure as women anywhere in the world.

At home, in the context of marital intimacy, Victoria’s Secret, elegant fashion, and skin care lotions abounded. The bridal videos that I was shown, with the sensuous dancing that the bride learns as part of what makes her a wonderful wife, and which she proudly displays for her bridegroom, suggested that sensuality was not alien to Muslim women. Rather, pleasure and sexuality, both male and female, should not be displayed promiscuously — and possibly destructively — for all to see.

Indeed, many Muslim women I spoke with did not feel at all subjugated by the chador or the head scarf. On the contrary, they felt liberated from what they experienced as the intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualizing Western gaze. Many women said something like this: "When I wear Western clothes, men stare at me, objectify me, or I am always measuring myself against the standards of models in magazines, which are hard to live up to — and even harder as you get older, not to mention how tiring it can be to be on display all the time. When I wear my head scarf or chador, people relate to me as an individual, not an object; I feel respected."

This may not be expressed in a traditional Western feminist set of images, but it is a recognizably Western feminist set of feelings. I experienced it myself. I put on a shalwar kameez and a head scarf in Morocco for a trip to the bazaar. Yes, some of the warmth I encountered was probably from the novelty of seeing a Westerner so clothed; but, as I moved about the market — the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me — I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity. I felt, yes, in certain ways, free.

Nor are Muslim women alone. The Western Christian tradition portrays all sexuality, even married sexuality, as sinful. Islam and Judaism never had that same kind of mind-body split. So, in both cultures, sexuality channeled into marriage and family life is seen as a source of great blessing, sanctioned by God.

This may explain why both Muslim and orthodox Jewish women not only describe a sense of being liberated by their modest clothing and covered hair, but also express much higher levels of sensual joy in their married lives than is common in the West. When sexuality is kept private and directed in ways seen as sacred — and when one’s husband isn’t seeing his wife (or other women) half-naked all day long — one can feel great power and intensity when the head scarf or the chador comes off in the sanctity of the home.

Among healthy young men in the West, who grow up on pornography and sexual imagery on every street corner, reduced libido is a growing epidemic, so it is easy to imagine the power that sexuality can still carry in a more modest culture. And it is worth understanding the positive experiences that women — and men — can have in cultures where sexuality is more conservatively directed.

I do not mean to dismiss the many women leaders in the Muslim world who regard veiling as a means of controlling women. Choice is everything. But Westerners should recognize that when a woman in France or Britain chooses a veil, it is not necessarily a sign of her repression. And, more importantly, when you choose your own miniskirt and halter top — in a Western culture in which women are not so free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue — it’s worth thinking in a more nuanced way about what female freedom really means.

Naomi Wolf, the author, most recently, of "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot" and the forthcoming "Give me Liberty: How to Become an American Revolutionary," is cofounder of the American Freedom Campaign, a U.S. democracy movement. © 2008 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

Article copied from: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20080904a2.html

On Being Silent

"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says." (1 Corinthians 14:33-34)

More often than not, this passage is quoted to keep women in line, to remind us that we are prohibited from being pastors because we Scripture tells us that we are not permitted to speak in church. It's usually quoted by men, and frequently with a scowl.

It stings. It makes the hair on the backs of our necks stand up. We don't like it, and we don't like the people who quote it at us. Silence is not something that comes naturally to us since the Fall. 

Women keeping silent means trusting that then men given to you will speak for you, will represent you, will take your needs and desires into consideration, will do what's best for you, will not forget about you, will put you before themselves.

The problem comes in when we take a hard look at the men around us. They fail us all the time. They forget to pick up milk at the store, they work late, leave their dirty socks on the floor and whiskers coating the sink. They're needier than babies when they get a sniffle. The sink still leaks, the lawn needs mowing. They get angry and say mean things to us. They scare us, they hurt us. And sometimes they just up and leave us, or force us to leave them for our own safety.

Trust men like that to speak up for us? Depend on them to take care of us? They can't even load the dishwasher the right way! How in the world can we just sit back and expect them to do the right thing without us practically doing it for them? It's just as bad at church as it at home, maybe worse.

Scripture reminds us that the Church is the Bride of Christ. We are there to receive God's gifts for us through Word and Sacrament. And the only faithful thing we have to speak together are the words we have been given by the Lord in Scripture. Women get to demonstrate this faithfulness in silence twice over. There's a reason quietness is extolled as beautiful in women, it's faithfulness.

"The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." 
(Exodus 14:14)

Our husbands are to love us Christ loves His Bride, the Church. They get to be Christ for us. That means they get to be the ones who fight for us, who speak for us, who tend to us, care for us, protect us, and even sacrifice their lives for us. Not just husbands either. The elders of the church are given that responsibility for the adult women without husbands or other male family members to care for them. 

The Lord, through the men given to us, will fight for us. Even the sinful, flawed men in our lives, whose sins and flaws we know all too well. Those men on their own, no, they probably aren't trustworthy and probably won't make good decisions all the time. But the Lord is working, doing good for us, through these men he's given us. He's also given us the faith to receive all the good they, and He, are going to do for us. We have no reason to expect anything less than the best from Him, and them. 

"…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious." (1 Peter 3:4)

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heav'nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in this vale of tears;
Then you will better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, loves purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

(LSB #742)