Thomas J Parlette
“The Year of the Woman”
Gen. 2: 18-23
Pastor Billy Strayhorn tells about a certain church which held a Sunday service patterned after those in colonial America. The pastor dressed in long coat and knickers, and the congregation was divided by gender: men on the left side of the aisle and women on the right. At collection time, the pastor announced that this, too, would be done in colonial fashion. He asked the “head of the household” to come forward and place their offering on the altar. All the men stood. To the amusement of the entire congregation, however, many of them crossed over the aisle to get money from their wives.(1)
Way back in 1992, four women joined Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland as members of the US Senate. Head-line writers consequently dubbed 1992 as “The Year of the Woman” because the United States now had 5 women in the Senate. But Senator Mikulski was offended at this title. She said, “Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus.” Then she added, “We’re not a fad, a fancy or a year.”(2)
There are quite a few pundits who are predicting that we could see another Year of the Woman in 2018. More women than ever are running for office – at the state and federal level. And in the primaries, they are winning. It’s interesting to note that currently the Congress has 23 female Senators and 84 in the House of Representatives, an all-time high. And we will probably see that number rise after the mid-terms. The numbers aren’t equal yet, but they getting closer.
Popular columnist Kathleen Parker, in an online article, adds her voice to those who think that 2018 might finally be the Year of the Woman. She notes that many of the original goals of the women’s movement have already been reached. Woman now outnumber men in college, graduate schools and medical and law schools; three of the nine Supreme Court justices are female; and, incrementally, women are reaching what Parker calls the dubious objective of serving alongside men in combat roles. Then in her humorous way she adds, “Nor would it be wise to underestimate women’s determination to clean House…” and then she adds in parenthesis (“and Senate.”)(3)
That phrase “Cleaning House” has taken on a new connotation for some women. With Congress nearly equally unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans, many wonder if the situation cannot but be improved by the addition of a few more women in both houses.
Clearly God thinks the world is a better place with women in it.
Our passage for this morning from Genesis is one of the Creation narratives. The first chapter of Genesis is about what Gerhard Von Rad called “the Primordial History”(4) and what Walter Brueggemann called “the Pre-History.”(5) It was the story of how all creation came from God, and God considered all of it “good.”
In this next part of the Pre-History, the writer focuses on human beings and their ultimate calling or destiny. This text focuses on humans as the glory of creation – made in the image of God, but also as the central problem of creation, as described in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden giving in to the temptation to be like God. But for now – we’re not quite to the story about the Garden. Today we are looking at the story of God creating human beings.
Our passage begins with the Lord God saying, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper as his partner.” So the first point to make about this story is that God doesn’t want us to be alone. We’ve just gone through the story of creation, and God called everything good. But now, God declares something not good for the first time. It is not good for humans to be alone.
That’s true, isn’t it. It is not good for human beings to be alone. People are made for relationship. That is a practical statement of fact. That doesn’t necessarily refer to a spouse, it could also apply to family, friends, church, and of our social networks. Having family and friends, being connected to a community is good for our health.
Lisa Berkmann of the Harvard School of Public Health has found that older people with more friends are much more likely to recover from a heart attack than people with few or no friends or social supports. Another study demonstrated that people with no friends were three times more likely to die than those with at least one or more sources of social support. These outcomes apparently have physiological underpinnings, since contact with friends and loved ones may also lower the levels of hormones like cortisol that are released in stressful situations. A friendly face, says one author, may be just as health giving as an aspirin or vitamin E. It is not good for our health for us to be alone. It is also not good for our emotional well-being. It is not good to be alone.(6)
From the very beginning, God wants us to live in community.
Author J. Allan Petersen tells about a flight he took on a 747 out of Brazil one time. Midway through the flight he was awakened by a strong voice announcing, “We have a serious emergency.” The emergency was that three engines had quit and the fourth was expected to go at any moment. The plane began to drop and turn in the night, preparing for an emergency landing.
At first the situation seemed unreal to Petersen, but when the steward barked, “Prepare for impact,” he found himself – and everyone around him praying. He buried his head in his lap and prayed, God, thank you. Thank you for the privilege of knowing you. Life has been wonderful.”
But as the plane approached the ground, Petersen’s last cry was, “Oh God, my wife! My kids!”
Petersen survived the emergency landing. As he wandered around the airport in a daze after disembarking from the damaged plane, aching all over, he found he couldn’t speak, but his mind was racing. “What were my last words,” he thought. “What was the bottom line?” As his last thoughts came back to him, he had his answer – relationship. Reunited with his wife and children, he found that the only thing he could say was, “Thank God. Thank God.”(7)
It is not good for us to be alone. We are made to be in relationship.
So God goes about creating some more creatures. God creates all the animals and birds and lets the human name them. But none of them were suitable as a helper or a companion. So God took a piece from his human and fashioned an equal for the man. And the man recognizes this new creation as his equal – “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”
Which brings us to the second thing we can say about this passage. It is not good for humans to be alone. We are called to live in community. And men and women – humanity – are created in God’s image. God created both from the same essence and in God’s image. One is not favored over the other. One is not superior over the other.
Now we all know that men and women are different. Man are from Mars and Women are from Venus as the bestseller says. Comedienne Elaine Boosler notes this difference when she says “when women are depressed, they either eat and go shopping. Men invade another country.”(8)
Yes, men and women are different – but they are created equal, in the image of God. And as such, women deserve to be taken seriously, just as men are. Women deserve to be heard, just as me are. Women deserve the right to be believed. Women deserve the right to take their place alongside men as leaders in our society – in business, education and government. From the beginning, God created males and females to be equals – both created in the image of God.
From the start, God recognized that it was not good to be alone. So God called us to live in community and gave us the world as a garden filled with the riches of God’s creation – plants, animals, oceans, skies, birds, the sun, the moon and the stars of heaven. And God gave us each other, created as equals, to love and to serve.
That’s what we celebrate on this world communion Sunday, as Christians all over the world gather at the Table – God’s call to live in community, as equals. Because it is not good to be alone.
May God be praised. Amen.
1. Dynamic Preaching, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4, p4.
2. Ibid… p4.
3. Ibid… p4.
4. Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis, The Westminster Press, 1972, p5.
5. Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, John Knox Press, 1982, p11.
6. Dynamic Preaching, Vol XXXIV, No. 4, p5
7. Ibid… p5.
8. Ibid… p6.