Thursday, September 17, 2015

Proper 20 - Year B
Pentecost 17
Proverbs 31:10-31

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels......

The jury is still out on whether or not I will risk wading into the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs in my sermon this Sunday - the reading which takes as its subject: "A Capable Wife" or in slightly grander language "A Wife of Noble Virtue".  Is my skin thick enough and are my shoulders sufficiently broad to take the repercussions of somebody thinking that I got it wrong?

I want to preface these remarks by stating at the outset that I am married to a Wife of Noble Virtue, was raised by one back in British Columbia and that my daughter in Montreal seems well on the road to taking her place in such a designation within her generation.  Women of Noble Virtue loom large in my extended family and many of them were, in fact, married.  That primary relationship and the household which came with it formed part of the springboard from which their nobility and the virtue could flow effectively in their day and age.

One chief objection to the first reading this Sunday from Proverbs is that the "capable" or "virtuous" wife being described here seems to work her fingers to the bone.  She is in the house, around the house, supervising servants, steering the children forward, haggling with merchants, spinning and weaving, caring for the poor and, above all, being the engine of economic and moral activity in her family.  Her husband seems to spend his time at the city gates with his friends.  No other sphere of activity is specifically credited to him.

There's quite a lot in the Book of Proverbs about wives.  Not all of the reflections there are particularly illuminating or helpful and we tend to move from those negative appraisals of women to then tumble upon this reading about a woman who seemingly has the labours of the world piled upon her back.  This reading suffers badly from the comments and opinions of folks who haven't read it through on its own merits.  Read it, will you?  The woman described herein is a beacon to her village or town.  She is a moral and economic giant within her family and her local community.  She is a force to be reckoned with.

We are blessed at Christ Church with a full complement of high school girls.  While they may not choose to live their lives in the shadow and pattern of the woman described in this Sunday's Old Testament Lesson they will, I hope, think kindly of a woman who seizes the challenges of her day with an iron grip and made things happen.

Girls of Christ Church - take note.

If there's anything to be improved upon or departed from in this passage about the Wife of Noble Virtue it might be in the woman's choice of a husband.   We look in vain for any evidence of his substantial contribution to his age and generation.

Boys of Christ Church - take note.