Rev. Kathi's Message
Today is International Women’s Day. I couldn’t let it pass unnoticed, but it does make me wonder why we have this day. It is supposed to be a day to showcase women’s accomplishments and signals that they are worthy of our collective attention, but only temporarily. A passing glance, a slight nod, a quick puff piece on the evening news then back to the “real” story. It feels like tokenism.
Then there’s the question of how we determine which women to honour. More importantly, who gets to decide which women are most deserving of celebration? Who gets left out? When our re-telling of women’s lives is revised, sanitized, and romanticized, we don’t get the whole truth.
For so much of my life, the stories of women in the Bible were mostly absent from my experience of church. Any roles women did play were described as secondary at best, antagonistic at worst.
When I began my theological education, I encountered an even more disturbing reality: the presence of “texts of terror” as Hebrew scholar Phyllis Trible calls them. These monstrous sexual crimes and acts of violence committed against women were captured right there, plain as day, in the holy book I treasured.
Was this all there was for women — victimhood? I prayed to God it wasn’t.
About a decade ago, I was asked to provide a day-long study for the annual gathering of United Church Women (UCW) units in our presbytery and I began my search for examples of biblical women who managed to defy the forces of oppression that threatened their lives and dignity. I discovered women like Shiphrah and Puah in Exodus, the midwives who resisted the pharaoh’s orders to murder Hebrew infant boys; and Hannah in 1 Samuel, who claimed her rightful place in the temple when the male priest ordered her to leave. I found spiritual companions in women like Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Hagar, and the unnamed widow with oil from 2 Kings.
Their stories encouraged me and troubled me. Each story held pain and joy, loss and hope, sin and grace in equal measure. Far from being one-dimensional, these biblical women lived complex lives.
So, this International Women’s Day, I hope we can honour the full humanity of the women who have shaped our faith. Those whose lives are captured in our scripture and those whose life stories were excluded. Those whose names are known to us and those whose names are known only to God. We can create space for these wounded yet resilient women to speak across the generations, calling us to continue the sacred struggle for justice that started long before us and will remain long after us. Let us honor the complex history of women - today and every day.