God's Gift of Woman
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Women! God’s gift to man without whom there would be no human race. This morning we recognize the faithful women of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. Through their collection of the spare change from our pockets, they have spread the Gospel throughout the world.
Let me share with you the words of our Lord from the book of Mark chapter 12 verses 41 through 44:
‘Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”’ [Mark 12:41-44]
This is a great example that speaks to the poverty of humankind along with the great love this poor widow had for God. The rich put in much but it was not their all. The widow did not have great bags of money to her name. At the time of our Lord, a widow could not exist without the help of a man. She could not own property. She could not run a business or represent herself in court. For all intents and purposes, she was not even considered a full citizen. This culturally invisible human being depended on the kindness of other people in order to live. On that day, in the presence of her Savior, she gave “all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
Before I continue with the widow and her pennies, I want to speak about the creation of woman. The Old Testament reading for today speaks about God’s creation; specifically, about the creation of woman. Genesis is the story of creation. God created the heavens and the earth, and from the earth, he created the birds of the air and the plants and the animals of every size. From the earth he also formed man. God saw that this was good.
God brought the animals before Adam so that Adam could name all the creatures. God looked upon all his creation and saw that Adam did not have a counterpart – one who is like him.
Therefore, God put Adam into a deep sleep. He took a rib from him and built a woman. That’s correct. The word written in the Hebrew text says the Lord God built the woman from the rib he had taken from the man. She was not created or made from the same dust as Adam, God built woman from the flesh of his flesh and the bone of his bone.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” [Mark 10:7]
Woman is the counterpart of Man. Woman and Man are not equal. And before you get in an uproar about that statement, let me explain the use of the word equal here. Man and animal were made from the dust; woman was made from flesh and bone. A counterpart is not the mirror image of what it is built to join. If they were of the same shape and design, they would not fit together to form a singular piece. Since we are showing our appreciation for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, let me share with you what the good Dr. Martin Luther has to say about women.
‘Let us, therefore, obey the Word of God and recognize our wives as a building of God. Not only is the house built through them by procreation and other services that are necessary in a household; but the husbands themselves are built through them, because wives are, as it were, a nest and a dwelling place where husbands can go to spend their time and dwell with joy.
What Moses adds, “And He brought her to Adam,” is a sort of description of betrothal, which is worthy of special note. Adam does not snatch Eve of his own will after she has been created, but he waits for God to bring her to him. So Christ also says (Matt. 19:6): “What God has joined let no man part.” For the lawful joining of a man and a woman is a divine ordinance and institution.’ [Luther's Works, 1:134]
Women are the counterpart to men. They are the complimentary part of the male in the human race. Without women, mothers or wives, there would be no people. God created and brought together man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth in glory to God. As it is sometimes said, ‘The rest is history.’
Throughout this history, women have been more than wife, mother and mate. Women have different attributes than men that allow them to be mothers to all children. Attributes to feed, heal and comfort the entire household including the husband.
These innate qualities allow every woman to be the surrogate mother to any lost or hurt child. I believe that this God given compassion for any human being is how women can take so little and do so much.
I remember stories my grandmother told of how people in her neighborhood looked out for each other’s needs. When a new child was born, the women of the neighborhood would knit clothing for the baby. When someone lost a spouse, the women would cook meals for the widow or widower. They would help with the children and the household, and they would enlist their husbands to help too.
I remember growing up in a neighborhood where everybody knew whose kid you were. If you got into any sort of mischief, your mother knew all about it before you could get home. If you were hurt or lost, those mothers would bandage you up and take you home. It didn’t matter what you social status was, if you were rich or poor, the women took care of their neighbors.
Today, it would be a surprise if neighbors even knew each other’s name, let alone their children. It seems today that people are more likely to treat others in the community with suspicion first and maybe, after years, might say hello. It seems that society is afraid of helping a stranger for fear of being held responsible for their welfare.
Since our fall into sin, the treatment of our fellow human beings has been the opposite of God pleasing and helpful. We now look out only for our own interests. We make sure our needs are met first and, maybe, if we have a little left over we might think of helping our neighbor. This type of living is not God’s will.
Because of our sinful nature, we cannot break free from this downward spiral into death and separation from our loving Father in heaven. Because of our sinful nature, God sent His only Son into this world. Now God could have come down in all his heavenly power and glory to stand before us as the rightful and righteous judge. Instead, he sent the Holy Spirit to a virgin girl and became flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones.
Jesus Christ was born of a woman. Woman, who was built from the flesh and bone of man, became mother to our Lord. The Virgin Mary literally became the home to the living Word of God. Jesus Christ grew and became strong. He did not sin. He honored his father and mother but most importantly, he honored Our Father in heaven.
By fulfilling the Law of God perfectly, he became the only human being able to pay the price of our sin. As a holy and righteous servant of God, he became a servant to us. He gave up his life as a holy sacrifice in order to redeem every man, woman and child in creation. His work of salvation did more than pay the price of our sin. By his resurrection from death, he destroyed death forever.
This is the Good News, also known as the Gospel. We are commanded by our Lord and Savior to tell our neighbor this saving grace. The question now is, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ One way to find out is to ask your mother or your wife, I bet they know. Another way is to open your eyes and look.
The person sitting next to you is part of your community and your neighbor. The person who lives on your street or road is your neighbor. The person who lives in your town is your neighbor. The person on the other side of the world, whom you have never met, is your neighbor. They are to hear the Good News of our Lord.
How are we supposed to share the Word of salvation with our neighbor? Again, ask your mother or your wife. Ask anyone of our sisters in the LWML! They do what my grandmother and her neighbors used to do. They knit clothes for new babies. They sew quilts for families and people they will never meet. They buy Bibles and Christian books for our neighbors in war torn or impoverished countries. They take the loose coins, change, and gather them together to give to our neighbor.
Like the widow with her two little coins, these women give more than pennies. They give glory to God by doing what every woman knows. They see all children as children of God and all people as their neighbor. They put into practice the second greatest commandment, ‘Love your neighbor.’
Yes, God did a wonderful thing by ‘building’ that first woman who was the mother of us all. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, he has built us another woman – his bride, the Church. Like our human wives, the Church is ‘…a nest and a dwelling place where husbands can go to spend their time and dwell with joy.’ Jesus Christ is the groom and the Church his bride. The Church is a dwelling place for our Lord where he comes to dwell with joy and we are all his children.