Rev. George Miller
October 16, 2016
There are those who would say that we are in “The Year of the Woman.”
At the Olympics, women won 61 medals for the USA. The Women’s Gymnastics Team won 9, and Simone Biles and Simone Manuel set records.
Music wise, women have ruled the airwaves. Rhianna told us to “Work, work, work, work, work.” Beyonce visually and sonically poured us a big ol’ glass of “Lemonade.”
Adele sang “Hello from the other side” and sold 10 million copies of her latest CD.
In the world of literature and stage, J.K. Rowling is making magic with her newest Harry Potter creations and “Girl on the Train” has become the must read book.
By reimagining their classic cartoons with real people, Disney has been crafting films that feature women as the main character.
Last week Disney made news with their live action remake of “Mulan,” undertaking a huge, international casting call for one of the few Asian female leading roles in history.
As we prepare for this year’s Trunk-o-Treat, retailers report that female anti-hero Harley Quinn is the number one costume, with people of all ages dressing up like the “Suicide Squad” character.
Then there is this little thing called the Election, in which for the first time in American History we have a female presidential nominee for a major political party.
Personal preferences and politics aside, we can all agree that this is a historic moment in time.
But yet, other countries have had women in powerful positions for quite awhile, such as England and Germany.
And then we have the Bible, and though it is much harder to come across, we encounter a handful of stories featuring women in prominent roles.
For example, Miriam, the sister of Moses. She followed him down the river, ensured his survival, and worked alongside Moses and their brother Aaron in delivering the people.
Upon crossing the Red Sea, Miriam leads the women in a song of praise which is believed to be the first piece of recorded scripture.
For those who are taking part in our Daily Bible readings, you know that this week we met the Queen of Sheba in Chronicles 9, who paid a visit to King Solomon.
The Queen of Sheba came to the Holy City to test Solomon, to see if he was as truly wise as others said.
She brought with her spices, gold, and precious stones. Upon investigating and interviewing him, she gives her approval and rewards him with her blessings and gifts.
In the Gospels we have Mary Magdalene being the first one to hear about and to experience the resurrection of Christ.
While the disciples hide away in fear, it is she who bravely goes to the tomb and experiences the Good News.
Then we have today’s reading. Like last week, it is also from the Book of Judges.
Here is a story that not too many people are familiar with, and that is a shame.
Here is a story about a woman of great power, of great wisdom, of great might.
During a time in which Israel has yet to be ruled by Kings, Deborah is a judge.
She is married to a man named Lappidath, which in Hebrew means torches. Therefore Deborah is literally a “fiery woman” or a “woman of spirit.”
Deborah was not just someone’s wife. She had many roles. She was a prophetess, which meant she was looked upon to declare whether or not God would give the people victory in battle.
Deborah was also a judge, which had a different meaning back then. Judges were seen as deliverers, they were responsible for bringing their people up out of harm’s way.
But if you also noticed, she was sought after by people who came up to her, seeking her knowledge as she sat under the palms.
Deborah was many things to many people. And in today’s story we also witness as she becomes a general.
Once again, the people of Israel have failed God. They have failed to trust God. They have failed to believe that God will do what God says can be done.
Because of that, new trouble and new enemies arise.
But Deborah is not afraid. When Barak comes to her, she says “The Lord says Go! Bring an army of 10,000 men and God will defeat your enemy for you.”
Barak asks her to go with him. Who knows why. Was it because he was scared and wanted her there for support?
Was it because he was untrusting of Deborah and God’s promise?
Was it because he so highly valued her leadership that he wanted Deborah right by his side?
We never know, but it is clear that Barak has no issue going into battle with Deborah, and we are told she gets up, she goes, and like General Patton she leads 10,000 men to war.
Just recently we as a nation were debating if women should and could serve in combat, and right here, in a biblical story that’s nearly 3,000 years old, we have a tale of a fiery woman who bears the light of freedom, justice, and victory for her people.
Makes you wonder how different we would be as a people if we all knew this story.
Makes you wonder where we would be as a nation if we taught every child this story.
Makes you wonder how the church could go centuries debating if women could or should be ordained, or be ministers, or hold leadership roles.
This story, though 3,000 years old, is still so revolutionary. Just this week we had a pastor say that it is against the will of God for a woman to be president.
But right here, in sacred scripture, we have God using a woman to lead, to judge, to discern, to save.
Once again, today’s reading goes along with the theme of last week’s reading- the freedom of God.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it much more- scripture teaches us again and again, and again and again that God is free. God acts unexpectedly; God cannot be controlled.
Which means if God wants to use a lefty in a world of righties- God will.
If God wants to rely upon crafty word-play- God will.
If God wants to use the tools of the enemy against them- God will.
If God wants to appoint a woman as a judge and use her as a prophetess- God will.
If God wants to use a woman as a soldier in the Army of the Lord and promote her to general- God will.
If God wants to stop injustice, unkindness, and the evil of the enemy- God will.
God is free, God is wild, God is funny. God is complex. God is with us in the high places, and with us in the low places.
God is not sexist. God does not discriminate based on gender. God does not fall victim to gender roles placed upon people by their society.
God hears, God sees, God acts, God moves.
God will use who, what, where, and when, and God does not have to answer to the “why?”
God is not limited. God is forever free.
For that, I believe we can ALL say Amen and amen.