Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sermon from Dec 12, 2010; Luke 1:47-55

Rev. George Miller
Luke 1:47-55
“Across the Generations”
Dec 12, 2010

Back in 2004 a country song by Gretchen Wilson was blazing the airways called “Redneck Woman.” I thought it was an ignorant song, after all, in New York, calling someone a redneck was one of worst things you could say.

But then I took up Line Dancing and this was one of the first songs I learned. I tried to act as if I was too cool to enjoy it, but I had to admit it had some energy and a bite.

After dancing to it a few times I realized something: this song isn’t ignorant at all. It’s actually a song of empowerment in which the singer is unabashedly claiming who she is and making no apologies for it.

So what if she likes to keep Christmas lights up all year, buys negligee at Wal-Mart and chooses beer over wine? She is who she is, as we all should be.

You know what else? Gretchen Wilson is a broad, and I mean that in the best sense of the word.

I love the word broad. It’s is a word with a lot of power that has sadly seemed to lose its place in the popular vernacular.

Ya’ll know what a broad is: she’s strong, courageous, and tough; unafraid to ruffle a few feathers.

She’s that force of nature that’s all woman but can hang with the guys. She’ll gladly join you for a drink and tell it like it is.

A broad is unafraid to speak her mind and engage in witty wordplay. She doesn’t mince words, nor is she easily fooled. She’ll call you on your junk but she’ll also save your butt when you’re in a bind.

Where have the broads gone? Back in the day we had Marlene Dietrich strutting through the nightclub in a tux. We had Katherine Hepburn throwing golf clubs out the front door. Bette Davis and her cigarette telling us it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Bacall held her own against Bogey, Cybil Shepherd bantered with Bruce Willis in “Moonlighting,” Bea Arthur nailed every single line in “Golden Girls” and Dixie Carter gave the most cutting monologues ever in “Designing Women.”

Sadly, many of them are gone. Bette Midler is a broad; Julia Roberts is not. Paula Dean is definitely a broad with a southern bent, Rachel Ray is certainly not.

We have some broads in the FL Conference and right here at EUCC. Rev. Dr. Jean Simpson- definitely a broad. Our wonderful secretary- a broad indeed.

The rest of you know exactly who you are. And I thank you for unapologetically being your amazing self, because there is nothing like a broad.

But still- where have all the broads gone?

Fortunately, we can find them in the Bible. I bet some of you have never thought of that before, but the Bible is full of tough, no-nonsense women who can hold their own against any guy.

Trouble is, for too many years the Bible has been interpreted and preached from a male perspective, and without a true appreciation for the biblical broad, many of them have been silenced or profiled as helpless, docile creatures.

Thank God that over the last 50 years we have welcomed the voices and insights of blacks and Hispanics, women and gays have helped us to rediscover these voices and to perhaps more clearly see who our Biblical brothers and sisters really were.

For example, go to Exodus 1. The King, feeling threatened by the Israelite presence, comes up with a plan to keep down their population- have all the male babies killed.

He sends out an edict, sure that all the women will do as they were told. Except, there are these two broads named Shiprah and Puah.

They were midwives, probably making minimum wage and even though it put their lives in danger, they disobeyed the king and let the boys live. They even went as far as to lie to the King about why they didn’t follow his orders.

Two women standing up to the “Man”? Sounds like Thelma and Louis.

What about Hannah in 1 Samuel? She’s a woman who refuses to give up her dream of having a child. She goes to Temple and prays so hard the priest thinks she’s drunk.

She promises to dedicate her first born to God and when her prayer is granted, she does just what she promised. Talk about your Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Then we have today’s reading from Luke. I don’t know about you, but I have grown tired of the images we see of Mary. She’s always dressed in those blue and white robes with such docile, submissive poses.

I don’t think Mary was docile at all. I think she was tough, like Hepburn and Bacall, like Siphrah and Puah.

I think Mary and Elizabeth were broads. And thank God, because they ushered in the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let’s review the story. In the beginning of Luke we meet Zechariah and Elizabeth, a childless couple who is said to be getting on in years. And some amazing things happen.

For one thing, Elizabeth finds herself pregnant. At an age when most women were preparing to be grandmothers, Elizabeth becomes the oldest woman in town to be wearing maternity clothes.

On top of that, her husband has been rendered mute for the entire pregnancy. (Which may not have been such a bad thing…I’m just sayin’.)

So here she is with a husband who can’t talk and a growing belly. How do you adjust to such a change? It couldn’t have been easy. Yet she found a way to be strong and make it through. Sounds like a broad to me.

Then we have Mary. No one knows what her age was, but general consensus is that she was young, perhaps only 13 or 14. And regardless of how you interpret the story, she finds herself unmarried and pregnant.

What is it that she does? She embraces her future and then she travels out of town, alone and without support, to visit her cousin.

A young, single, pregnant girl traveling by herself? Do you realize how dangerous that would have been? Do you realize that Mary did this while having bouts of morning sickness and bloating?

Does that sound docile or submissive to you? No, Mary must have been a broad as well, or at least a broad in training.

In today’s reading the two women meet. Elizabeth is six months along and when the newly pregnant Mary enters her home, Elizabeth’s body has an immediate physical reaction, which provokes her into words of blessing.

Then Mary goes into what is called the Magnificant. If you listen to her words, they are not submissive nor a “calming lullaby,”[1] but in-your -face revolutionary.

Mary speaks of how the proud will be scattered, the powerful leaders on their thrones will be brought down and the rich will go away empty.

If that doesn’t sound like the words of a
Bad Mamma Jamma, what does?

Also note that in a true biblical fashion Mary is not speaking about just breaking down, but of building up: the lowly will be lifted, the hungry will be filled and mercy will be extended from generation to generation.

It is said that Mary’s words establish her as the founder of Christian theology[2] and that her and Elizabeth created the first Christian Community.[3]

Not such a bad thing to credit two broads.

Who knows what transpired during the three months Mary stayed with Elizabeth. I hope it was a time of bonding, that they were truly there for each other, sharing concerns and joys, embracing the possibilities that lay ahead, trusting that God would see them through.

Two broads: strong, courageous, and tough, facing life head-on.

In conclusion, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking people of faith are weak or that the people of the Bible, in particular the women, were goody-goodies, pure and helpless.

That’s an insult to our faith and to what our spiritual ancestors went through and were willing to endure.

The generations of faithful who came before us had real personalities with weaknesses and strengths, fears and hopes, not perfectly passive holy people; nor were they afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

Biblical women, like Hannah, Shiprah and Puah, Elizabeth and Mary did what they had to do and what was right for them to honor life.

They did so to celebrate God and to lift up what God has done and will do across the generations.

And what God does is give strength to the lowly, hope to the hopeless, peace to the peaceless and love to the forsaken.

Let us give thanks for these biblical broads and let us give thanks for anyone who finds a way, through God, to also be strong, courageous and tough.

In other words, let us give thanks to anyone who finds a way to be unapologetically real.

Blessings to the Spirit, Blessings to the Creator and Blessings to Jesus Christ, whose birth we joyfully anticipate.
Amen and amen.
[1] Sharon Ringe, Luke, 1995, pg 35.
[2] Brigitte Kahl, “Reading Luke Against Luke…” in A Feminist Companion to Luke, edited by Amy-Jill Levine, 2001. pg. 87.
[3] Kahl, 79.

No comments: