Sermon for LWML Sunday
Pentecost 20, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas, Oct. 11, 2015
Sermon Text: Proverbs 31:10-31
Sermon Theme: God’s Idea of the Perfect Woman
(Sources: LWML Facts, Online, lwml.org; Men Versus Women Jokes Online; Original ideas and examples; Online Peanuts Comic Strips; Introduction and Footnotes to Paul’s Letter to the Romans; Online Commentary on Proverbs 31:10-31; my devotional given to LWML Zone Rally 10-3-15; U. S. Congregational Life Survey; U.S. Census; Barna Research; Lifeway Research)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ever since John Gray wrote his best-selling book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, many folks are convinced of a planetary difference between men and women. That difference is the subject of hundreds of jokes, most of which are told from a man’s point to view.
Let me tell you several of the jokes, and then I’ll tell you some facts.
In the beginning, God created the earth and rested. Then God created Man and rested. Then God created Woman. Since then, neither God nor Man has rested.
Men see the telephone as a communication tool. They use the telephone to send short messages to other people. A woman can visit her girlfriend for two weeks, and upon returning home, she will call the same friend and they will talk for three hours.
Here’s one more. A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
“Hunting flies,” he responded.
“Oh,” she said, “killing any?”
“Yep,” he replied, “three males and two females.”
Intrigued she asked, “How can you tell?”
He answered, “Three were on a beer can, and two were on the phone.”
Those were some slanted jokes. Now let me tell you some facts.
These facts come from three different national surveys. The typical Christian congregation in the United States is made up of 61 percent female and 39 percent male. And the gender gap is found in all age categories.
So, on any given Sunday, there are 13 million more adult women in American churches than there are men. Less than 25% of married women worship with their husbands on Sunday. Also 70 to 80 percent of the female members of a church participate in midweek activities. Only about 25 percent of the men do. While those percentages seem a bit startling, it doesn’t mean that the majority of American men are atheists, as 90 percent say they believe in God.
Does it mean church isn’t very important to men? I can’t answer that.
It was not true when I was growing up in Dime Box and attending Trinity Lutheran Church. In that church in the 1940’s, women were not allowed to vote in the voters’ assembly, and, segregated, they sat on the lectern side of the church, while the men sat on the pulpit side, the better side of the church. The men were responsible for running the church, and in many ways they did.
Yet the women of the church, like my mother and my grandmother, were very active in the LWML, and through that organization did an incredible amount for the local church and the church at large. That group of ladies did much more for the church than the men did. My grandmother and my mother, and most of the other ladies in the group, exemplified, in many ways, the ideal woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31.
Ever since then, I have been a fan of the LWML.
That was over 70 years ago, — yes, the LWML has been around that long.
Today, the LWML is going stronger than ever before. And they’re still doing it with the Mite boxes. My grandmother was very poor. The money she used to buy groceries came from selling eggs. When she sold her eggs, she took the nickels, dimes, and pennies, and put them in her Mite Box.
The 2015-2017 LWML Biennium Mission Goal is $2,000,000. This Mite Money will be used for disaster response trailers, cancer care packages, hope and healing to the Navajo people, outreach in the refugee camps, opportunities in Uganda, Lutheran Youth Corps, clean water and evangelism ministry, just to name some of the projects. Our women are doing a lot.
Trying to look at Proverbs 31 from a man’s perspective, I find it a daunting thought to try to be the kind of person God wants you to be.
Many of those virtues in Proverbs 31 are expected of the ideal Christian man, too. Being weak and sinful human beings, we find that such a level of goodness and holiness evades us much of the time.
According to Proverbs 31, the ideal woman, or excellent wife, has character and integrity. She is trustworthy and has the best interest of others in her heart. She is an asset, not a liability, she supports and encourages her husband. She gives generously of her time, rising early and working late, tending to the needs of her family.
She has compassion and loves others, striving to make a difference in their lives. She offers counsel and has a way of soothing the hurts of life. She helps the poor and the needy. She speaks with wisdom. She makes things and sells them. Her children call her “blessed,” and her husband praises her.
I still go “wow” every time I read that passage.
As you know, I’m a fan of the comic strip “Peanuts” by the late Charles M. Schulz, and it has always worried me that Lucy, unless she changes drastically, will never grow up to be the ideal Christian woman.
Now, Charlie Brown and Lucy are not married obviously, though she does suggest to him that someday she might become his wife.
Lucy often mocks Charlie Brown, and abuses him, calling him different insulting names, such as “dumb” and “stupid” and “weak,” even though all those insults are false and wrong. Lucy is often unable to realize she is hurting Charlie Brown even when it is completely obvious she is. She also does mean things to Linus.
Even though Charlie Brown does not like Lucy’s mean and crabby personality, he still cares for her and trusts her (how many times hasn’t she pulled that football away when he gets ready to kick it). Charlie always hopes she will love and accept him.
In one Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown is looking very down in the dumps, and he says to Lucy, “Nobody likes me!”
Lucy, with her hands on her hips, replies, “I wish I could like you, Charlie Brown, but I can’t!” Lucy can be so mean!
Most of us, men or women, no doubt have a tendency to be more like Lucy van Pelt than like the ideal woman in Proverbs 31. It seems to me our natural nature is judgmental, sarcastic, and self-centered.
Weakness also seems to be our natural nature. Aren’t we always doing things that aren’t good for us, — like eating too much of that rich, chocolate fudge cake, or finding excuses not to exercise regularly, or wanting to spend more than we earn. I discover a new weakness in me every day that I live.
We’re not alone in this. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This means that no one has ever lived perfectly. We ALL fall short of the perfection God demands of us no matter how much we want to be like the perfect woman Proverbs!
But, you know, there is only one person who lived a perfect life. Jesus. He did the right thing all the time. But the Good News for us is what the Bible says in Romans 3:24 – where it says that we “are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
This means, because of God’s love, that perfect life of Jesus becomes ours.
It’s like God trades our lives that miss the mark with Jesus’ perfect life, and because of Jesus’ perfect life and death on the cross, we get to live in heaven with God forever.
This means, there is even hope for Lucy, too. God is the potter; Lucy is the clay. And so are we. Amen.