Preacher: Jessie Houff
Scripture: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 & Romans 5:1-5
Date: June 12, 2022
As soon as I read the first few lines of this: Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? My interest perked IMMEDIATELY because of this incorporated pronoun: HER. We have the opportunity to read scripture from a Feminine perspective. Refreshing. Amazing. As a woman myself, I love it. When I started reading, It was like, ok, scripture, but as soon as I read that “HER” pronoun, I gasped, and leaned in. Proof that representation really does matter.
The language used in this translation instantly asks us to personify wisdom and understanding with a feminine mindset.
Today’s reading was an excerpt, but if you’ll humor me, I’d like to read the full chapter. This is from The Message. Take a deep breath in and hear these words:
Proverbs: Read entirety of chapter 8
I Love all of this. And I’ll tell you why:
FIRST of all, we LOVE to personify things, whether they be ideas like this Lady Wisdom. We love to imagine inanimate objects, ideas, animals as human. How would they talk? What do they look like? What’s their personality? Are they sassy? Serious? Inspirational? Think about children’s books and so many of them are personified animals and things. The Giving Tree. The Tortoise and the Hare. We think about movies, particularly animated ones: Finding Nemo. Toy Story. The Brave Little Toaster. We LOVE putting a personality to a thing that doesn’t have one like a human’s.
In Proverbs 8, we have the Lady of Wisdom to guide us in understanding this scripture.
Remember earlier in the reflection when I said that representation matters? Wisdom and Understanding personified as a female identity, using she/her pronouns. I’ve talked about this before at the pulpit, but pronouns are something that is becoming much more prevalent in our society, at least here in the US, more prominently. Pronouns, of course, being she/her, he/him, the non-binary usage of they/them/theirs, among many others that I won’t address at this time, but I welcome any conversation post this service and beyond. I love discussing gender and the theology behind our current contexts.
In The Message translation, Lady WIsdom talks about “Living Well”. She says, “I’m telling you how to live well”.
What does living well look like? I’m not necessarily talking about eating healthy and exercising. We’re given lots of examples in Proverbs 8: Be open minded, hate evil, embrace wisdom. But how do we do these things and what, to you, does living well look like?
Here’s what I think. I welcome you to follow me on my logical journey. Anecdotally, if there are any current or former Professors of Logic, I welcome you to hear my following logic and search for any fallacies. Ok, so here’s my logical train of thought:
The idea of representation is inclusive. Inclusivity means that more people feel welcome. Inclusivity means that more people feel like they belong, which is good. Living well also means you’re being treated well by others who are living well. Are you following me? When each of us live well, logically we will be treated well. If all of us in this space are living well, logically we are feeding each other’s wellness and we will treat each other well.
Basically put, goodness like good deeds and including others when they feel outcast, is good and sparks goodness in others. When you see someone doing a good deed, the act of you seeing it sparks ideas in you and can inspire you to do good as well. If you see someone picking up a piece of trash from the ground and put it in a bin, you may be inspired to do the same the next time you’re outside.
How many of you have become increasingly frustrated when you’re trying to figure something out and you can’t figure it out? By an honest show of hands, how many of you have used swear words, screamed, thrown physical objects, anyone? Just the other day I was talking to my neighbor. He fixes old tools and equipment like lawn mowers and chainsaws. He said to me the other day, “When I don’t understand something, I get angry”. How many of you can relate to this? Maybe not with chainsaws, but how many of you have ever put together Ikea furniture? Gotten annoyed at technology?
In the same vein, the opposite is also true. How amazing is it when you understand something? When you have wisdom and understanding of something, anything, could be a subject in school or an ideology or something you have to do; it is incredible to have that knowledge and to have conversations with others who have the same knowledge.
I have a story to share. It’s a sweet story that happened earlier this week. My dad called me. Usually when dad calls, it’s either sad/bad news, or he calls to check in about logistics for visiting each other, like for Christmas or them coming up for a Baltimore trip (which they were supposed to do last weekend, but they didn’t want to catch Covid.)
But this phone call from dad was different. He said, “I just have a fun story to share!” I’ll preface the story with a conversation we had about a year ago about gender. My dad is of the “baby boomer” generation, so the introduction of using pronouns other than the ones you were given at birth, assumed by ones sex, was completely new territory for him. When I told him that I had a friend who uses they/them pronouns, it sparked a bit of tension between us. He said, “They implies a plurality, which means more than one person is present, so how can one person want to be addressed as ‘they’ when not using a name?” Some of you may still have these questions, which again, I’d be happy to discuss with you after the service.
Over the last year, my dad and I have had more conversations about the usage of pronouns other than the assumed ‘she’ and ‘he’. I explained to him that gender is socially constructed by humans. The idea that girls wear pink, are proper, and wear dresses and that boys wear blue, are strong, and play with trucks and plastic weapons is a flawed one. We have people in this world who do not fit into those boxes. We have many who float somewhere in between.
If you want to revisit my sermon on binaries on our website under sermons and searching for, “The God of More”.
Anyway, fast forward to this week. My dad called me because he wanted to tell me that he had a conversation about pronouns with some folks older than he and they pushed back on the idea of addressing ones pronouns. Dad told me that he was SO excited to talk about them because he has had conversations with his daughter that opened up his mind, so he felt equipped to open up others’ understandings of a new concept that is inclusive to those who do not fall on a binary or use pronouns that are different from the ones with which they were born.
As my dad told me this, he was giggling with delight because he is making positive change in his community. But most importantly, he STARTED the conversation. Because of conversations that I started with him over a year ago.
Knowledge is power. When we talk to people, we gain their perspective. It may not be a perspective we agree with, but it builds empathy.
We are called to figure this out. We are called to love. We are called in Proverbs 8 to have open minds. We are called to be wise and understand.
So whether we’re putting together a piece of furniture, trying to navigate our technology, learning someone’s change of pronouns, let us go and live well. Amen.