Thursday, June 16, 2016

Do You See This Woman?

Do you see this women?
Do you see this women?
Do you see this women?

I almost feel like that at this point I could throw down my pen, close the computer lid and stand on my soapbox and keep repeating this phrase over and over on behalf of all those who have been marginalized by society.

This was a verse (44) in this week’s gospel lectionary (Luke 7:36-8:3).

Last weekend, which we have enjoyed together on retreat, was entitled, “New Monasticism, New Priesthood”. One of the facets of the new priesthood is that women are fully included. Not just as tokens, not just as those who will serve the men, not just to be politically correct but because of their calling, because of their lives, because of their gifts and because someone has responded. “Yes” to the question, “Do you see this woman?” And recognized all that she has to offer.

Women have sadly been excluded over the centuries. There is an interesting time-line about ordaining women at religious ( It makes sad reading.

Apart from a few isolated incidences, the question “Do you see this women?” was answered with a resounding “no” until fairly recent history. Perhaps, even to say it was answered “no” is giving too much credit. To answer one has to have heard the question. For the large part women were invisible, unconsidered, in the background, serving the men.

So some dates on the ordination of women . . .

1978- Episcopal church (at the discretion of the local province)

1981-First American woman to be ordained Buddhist (Ani Pema Chodron)

1985- First woman rabbi in Conservative Judaism (Amy Eilberg)

1992- Church of England ordained women

2000-Baptist Union of Scotland (an ordinance where churches could allow or prohibit ordination of women)

2004-A woman led a mixed gender congregation to evening prayer in a Mosque in Canada (first occurrence world wide)

These dates are just firsts, each first was the result of many years of women demanding of the men in leadership, “Do you see this women?” The struggle for full acceptance continues. Just last year the Anglican Communion consecrated their first woman bishop.

The story this phrase was taken from is an important one. When reading the gospels, it is generally assumed that if a story is repeated by all four authors it is notable. Today’s story can be read in all four gospels. Of course, the details vary but the core remains the same. A woman anoints Jesus feet with an alabaster jar of ointment and, in this case, tears, and dries them with her own hair. In many ways a sensual story, the woman touched Jesus, she allowed her hands, her tears and her hair to be in contact with him. Think about that. Picture it. It is not a sterile encounter.

In Luke’s version he calls the woman a sinner. Perhaps, being a sinner is in common with all humanity. Yet, when I read commentaries about this woman she is often called a prostitute. Is this again indication of the way women are perceived? Sinning is sexual. Women offering their bodies to men. It would be easy to digress here in view of the recent Stanford court case and even say, “Are women’s bodies just to be taken and used by men?” But I won’t digress.

But I do want to look at a couple of other places in the gospels where the same word for sinner is used.

Matt. 9:10-11. Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners.
Matt. 11: 19. Jesus is called a friend of sinners
Matt. 26: 45 Jesus is betrayed “into the hands of sinners.”

Nowhere have I seen it suggested that these sinners were prostitutes. Just something to think about. Are women’s sins worse than men’s sins?

Do you see this woman?
Do you see this woman?

It was the question Simon was asked by Jesus. Simon had missed it! Simon had been so taken up with the woman being a sinner that he missed really seeing the woman.

Do you see this woman?

The woman who had bathed Jesus, kissed Jesus, anointed Jesus. The woman who had given of herself to honour Jesus. The woman who left Jesus presence with the blessing of peace.

In the Lindisfarne community I hope we can answer,

Yes, we see this woman.
Yes, we see all women.

Yes, we see all marginalized people.

All our welcomed and can use their God given gifts and fulfill their God given callings.