Open Doors

It does not take a Ph.D. in public media to see that women have been at the forefront in our news and politics. (Let’s go ahead a give a giant shout-out to Wendy Davis!) Sen-Wendy-Davis-filibusterAside from the government attempting to (re)take control of the female body through draconian legislation and fear-mongering, not the least of which stems from ignorance and a lust for power, a phenomenal and well-orchestrated event transpired this past weekend. The FBI succeeded in their largest nation-wide bust on the sex-trafficking industry here in the US. Over one hundred individuals were freed from the tyranny of their pimps and trading routines with even more arrests made to secure the freedom of the innocent. The majority of those rescued were women, the youngest only 13. Unfortunately in this case, good news does not make the bad more palatable. Like the ubiquity of the sex-trade for one instance.

I preached a sermon this past week from the lectionary passage Luke 11:1-13. The “Parable of the Persistent Neighbor” is a quirky little pericope exploring the idea of charity and compassion. The protagonist needs a loaf of bread to entertain some unexpected guests. Unfortunately, he called upon his neighbor at midnight for the favor of sharing his bread. Inconvenienced by the late-night call the benefactor eventually shares of his resources–not because they are friends, but because the guy was so persistent in his asking. He was not going to leave until he got what he needed! The crux of the story comes when Jesus says that God is not the curmudgeon neighbor trying to cover his head with the pillow when our middle of the night door knocking won’t cease. Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. God is eager to share the gifts and goods that make for abundant living.

Except when we are still lost and the door is locked, right?

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Are women across the globe not knocking loud enough? Have we not been knocking all night, so to speak? How dare our governments turn a deaf ear to our knocks. (Let’s give another shout out to Wendy Davis, our s-heroic persistent neighbor!) And what of the governments around the world who leave their female populations even more lost and wandering than America does?

God is a communal God. Jesus lived in community and spent his life compelling others to care about those who are left out in the cold night after night seeking food/security/shelter/equality/justice. God acts through God’s community of people. God continually shapes us into God’s fuller intentions for us. This means that we get to help God respond to those persistent and pesky knocks. The great doors of freedom and justice do not magically open on their own accord, especially with the winds of patriarchy and dominance bellowing to keep them shut! This means we have to react against the thrusts of looming legislation, entitled power-hungry, politically savvy men, and rise up ourselves in the middle of the darkness to usher in those whose rights are compromised.

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The Women’s Center operates with an open door policy. (Well, not literally 24/7; I like to sleep in my own bed at night.) As we are formulating and growing our calendar of events for the coming academic year, we seek to be in partnership with the God who says, “Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” We long to see this promised reality now. We also seek to participate with other women and organizations in Louisville who are also about the business of sharing our resources with those who have need. Will you partner with us?

A few events for you to anticipate this Fall:
October 10th  Celebrating National Coming Out Day (10/11) in Chapel
October 13th Louisville AIDS Walk
November 17th  Transgender Awareness Memorial Service in Caldwell Chapel

Events TBA:
> A film showing of “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” followed by a conversation with two women seeking ordination in the Catholic Women Priest Movement.
> Our Light + Lunches with special guests from the community

Finally, William Sloane Coffin, former senior minister of The Riverside Church in NYC and rhetorical genius extraordinaire prophetically claimed in a sermon about the subjugation of women during the 19th and 20th centuries that God will not be mocked. (Published in this book.) How so? Sloane Coffin instructs us to remember early suffragists. These women who were martyred for their work and who are today celebrated, emulated, and revered. They are in our history books, their work having paved the way for many of the liberties we to which we are privy. We have erected statues in their honor, in some cases in the very cities that outlawed and murdered them. 01302012_AP070523074824_600Women like Anne Hutchinson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojouner Truth (just to name a few of the big ones) along with more contemporary names like Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie Townes, Sheryl WuDunn, Hillary Clinton and now Wendy Davis inspire and remind us to run with God to open wide the doors of oppression and truth.

What will our great-grandchildren celebrate in a few years because we kept our doors open with God today? Indeed when one who seeks is found and one who knocks is let in, God’s justice prevails. God will not be mocked!

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A Reflection on Amendment 10-A

Read slowly to make for understanding

by Heather Thiessen

The many people who have been associated with the Women’s Center, through the years, have been dedicated and active supporters of ordination for LGBT Presbyterians. That support has taken different forms over the years. It has included bringing speakers like Rev. Jane Spahr, Rev. Michael Adee, and Lisa Larges to campus to speak, preach, and talk with the community; forming a pioneer seminary chapter of More Light Presbyterians; sponsoring a week-long installation of the Shower of Stoles in Caldwell Chapel. All these events, and others like them, aimed to promote clear, principled support for LGBTQ ordination among LPTSeminarians. So it is no surprise that the Women’s Center gladly heard the news that Amendment 10-A had passed in the majority of presbyteries needed for its official acceptance. [Amendment 10-A replaces language designed to make same-gender relationship an absolute bar to ordination with language that focuses on a person’s relationship to Jesus Christ as the central criterion, and leaves the matter of determining a candidate’s suitability for ordained office to the examination and judgment of the ordaining body, whether session or presbytery.]

The Women’s Center is not alone, I know. I have been reading with interest the many statements the action has generated in the past week, including those made by prominent Presbyterian women, like those by the moderator of the General Assembly of the PCUSA, (and also the thoughtful, less formal statement in Cindy Bolbach’s blog), by our friend Lisa Larges, and by pastors Janet Edwards, Laurie Kraus, Laura Viau, and Katie Mulligan.1 Although some dear friends — some of whom have been mourned in the pages of this blog, including Virginia Davidson and David Bos — did not see this manifestation of the goodness of God in the land of the living, I have confident hope that they share our gladness in the communion of saints.

It feels essential for the Women’s Center to acknowledge and celebrate this moment, for which so many people have worked for so long and with such passion, even though little if anything is left to say that has not already been said, well and beautifully, by others. The Women’s Center can only be happy that we as a denomination have moved further in the direction of full inclusion; happy that the church will benefit from the gifts given to LGBTQ folks, rather than scorning those gifts, and will affirm and honor the clear calls that have been denied for so long; happy that the polity no longer includes a carefully worded act of institutionalized discrimination. No one here innocently imagines that the vote means we Presbyterians all finally agree on the relevant essentials, however any of us might parse them, or that Amendment 10-A will not initiate its own set of difficulties, even as it puts an end to what we have long seen as others. No one here believes that “this changes everything.” But, changing the rule that required barring some of us from ordained service to the church on the grounds of sexuality and relationship status feels like a large collective affirmation of trust in the grace of a benevolent God. For that, with gratitude to the people who have dedicated themselves to the hard work of bringing this moment about, we are thanking God.

One thing the past week’s many beautiful, thoughtful, generous, and happy statements have not mentioned, however, is power. At least, people have not had much to say explicitly about power. Implicitly, in the repeated calls for empathy with those who are experiencing the vote on Amendment 10-A as a loss rather than a victory, there is an acknowledgement of power differentials, and the way they often make people feel.

Perhaps it is not even worth mentioning. It is no secret that a collective decisionmaking process, like the ratification of an amendment, emphasizes the political dimension of collective life. That political dimension always involves us in exercises of power or powers, whether intentionally or othewise. The mechanisms of parliamentary politics, like counting up numbers or referring to established procedural rules, are historically mechanisms for making the exercise of power, if not less adversarial, at least less violent.

But I was thinking of another kind of power, which seems to be particularly important in this case: the power to persuade.

There was a time when the patriarchal paradigm of social relations was the unquestioned canon of normality and reality. In that paradigm, power is understood to belong rightly to fathers, especially successful fathers. Women and children revolve around these powerful father figures. They are unintelligible, they have no meaning, outside of the roles that relate them to patriarchal heads of household, and outside of the functions that make them valuable in that context. What would a woman be, if not a wife, mother, or daughter? What would a woman do, if not produce the father’s children, and care for the father’s house?

It would be a mistake to overstate the relaxation of that patriarchal paradigm for social life. It continues to operate in our world, still influencing many people’s imaginations of normal reality, shaping a range of social phenomena, and carrying a presumption of legitimacy in numerous readings of Christian sacred text. If this were not so, there would not be an ongoing debate over the acceptability of women’s ordination in circles in which substantial numbers of Christians move.

Nevertheless, we can see signs of the diminution of the compulsory character of patriarchal social relationships. It is no longer strictly mandatory for people, especially women, to marry – or risk being unable to support themselves. The range of intelligible social roles, for women in particular, is no longer strictly limited to the set of possible relationships to a male head of household. The sole mark of social acceptance for women is no longer successful procreation.

The support for Amendment 10-A is probably another such sign. I suspect it means, among all the other things it means, that the patriarchal paradigm no longer possesses the power to make same-gender relationships appear self-evidently aberrant, without further argument or justification. Once, patriarchy claimed and could make people believe, that its reality was all the reality there was; whatever and whoever had no place in its categories was wrong. Now we have, it seems, come to a point in the long, slow, and I hope sure demise of patriarchy at which many people — enough people — can no longer find possible and positive same-gender relationships simply unavailable imaginatively. Enough people can no longer really believe that same-gender relationships must be dangerous rather than safe, life-denying rather than life- and love-affirming, or distortions of something given by God rather than themselves something given by and approved by God.

To the extent that the vote on Amendment 10-A means that the power of patriarchal reality to present itself as exclusive and right is waning, it means we are moving in the direction pointed by scripture. We know from scripture that our social world is distorted, broken, and that no social arrangement can be presumbed to have the full imprimatur of the divine. The Bible points beyond itself to an as-yet unimaginable world, in which the old heaven and the old earth have passed away, there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, and we do not know what we shall be except like a Word of God whom we shall see in all the fullness of that Word’s complete reality. The Bible points beyond itself to that Word of God in scripture; that Word presumably outlasts every temporal and cultural limitation embodied by scripture. Insofar as we readers of scripture seek to attend to the Word of God and practice the ways of life that Word affirms, our passing world along with its presumptions must change.

Patriarchy is part of that passing world. Patriarchy, we are convinced, for all its long history and its appearance in scripture, is wrong. We ought to know by now – its fruits are rotten. Traci C. West, in her book Disruptive Christian Ethics, claims that a “liberative approach to bringing together particular and universal moral concerns compels Christians to engage in an ongoing struggle for sustained, systemic changes in the universal moral agreements about social relations in our society” in conjunction with struggles for concrete solutions to particular problems.2 The waning of patriarchy, to the extent patriarchy is on the wane, is just such a change in universal moral agreements about social relations. It has come about, to the extent that it has come about, by moving in directions people learned in church – the direction of relief of suffering, the direction of caring for the neighbor, the direction of gracious inclusion – in their efforts to address particular problems faced and felt by particular people. Like the particular LGBTQ people called by God to special functions in the church, which a still-changing moral agreement about social relations in our society has at last given more power to appear simply as faithful Christians striving, like all faithful Christians, to be steadfast in our callings.

1. Rev. Robert Austell’s list is a thorough and clearly organized resource for various categories here.
2. Traci C. West, Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 52.

Inside The Art of Presence

what is the boundary between life and art?


from Johanna Bos

1/11/11 Snow day; Seminary closed, but we continue with class because Cheryl will have to leave after two weeks. The second day of class with Cheryl and a report on our activities is be in order. I am part of the class to create close encounters with the biblical text in a group of nine participants. We begin the day with warm-up exercise and checking in on our state of body and soul. We then move to sit around tables for our discussion of the Sarah/Abraham/Hagar cycle in Genesis (Gen.11:27-23:20), beginning with the lineage of Terah in Ur, and ending with the death of Sarah in Canaan.

Because this is a rich cycle we have selected six episodes for a closer look. We spend the first hour and a half or so taking notice of events, imagining a historical context, being mindful of the way plot develops, characters are set on the stage, how the stories say what they say. Today we considered Abram’s move to Canaan, and the story of Sarai having to pretend, on Abram’s direction, that she is Abram’s sister in Egypt. Questions that arose: was it normal, moral, O.K., for a man with greater power to kill another man and take possession of his wife? Did Abram plan the whole thing, i.e. did he know that Sarai would be taken into the harem of Pharaoh? Did Pharaoh have sex with Sarai? If not, why did God strike the Pharaonic household with plagues? (Cf.the parallel story in Gen.20 where the narrator explicitly states that Abimelek did not touch Sarah (vv.4 and 6). Why is there a duplicate story? We noted the prevalence of words for moving: walking/going/leaving/setting out/traveling/going down/coming close almost all with male subjects. The males in the story are also in charge of much “taking.” Terah “takes” his family, Abram “takes” Sarai and Lot, Pharaoh “takes” Sarai. In the prelude to the episode in Egypt, there is a description of God “appearing” to Abram and Abram engaging in altar construction. The word for “appear” is in the passive form from a root “to see,” and can also be translated “being seen.” We observed that Sarai does not speak, she does not reply to Abram, so we can only surmise that she agreed to the plan. She has not yet received voice in the story.

For the last hour of the morning we go into ensemble work. Throwing puppets in distinct patterns to each other while standing in a circle, walking through and around the wonderful space in Hundley Hall, which we have opened up for the purpose, to a count from very slow to very fast and everything in between. Cheryl gives us a count of three different speeds and tells us to stop and start at the same time. We get a long way toward stopping at the same time, and start all together as if pulled by a string. We stand in a circle again and sing “The soul loves the body, they are one, they are one; the soul loves the body, my body, my soul, my love.” Then we begin to tell our three-minute stories recounting an experience that moved us profoundly, one we will later connect with a biblical character who will provide material for a monologue. I am stunned by the stories; they leave me in awe of the honesty and trust, and the eloquence that comes forth from this group. I can’t wait to hear the monologues on the biblical characters! We also play some wonderful games, designed to help create a spirit of ensemble work among us. We play the “What Am I Doing” game and I for one shall never forget Jaeseok playing guitar. How fortunate we are to have Cheryl as our teacher in all these endeavors.

The Art of Presence Begins

The Art of Presence J-Term 2011Today is the day!

The day for the unveiling of “The Art of Presence: The Text, Theatre, and Theology,” that is, a long-awaited J-term course being taught by Rev. Cheryl Goodman-Morris, Women’s Center J-Term Artist-in-Residence, and Rev. Dr. Johanna Bos, Dora Pierce Professor of Bible and Professor of Old Testament and Women’s Center Faculty and Financial Liaison. The course begins this morning at 9:00 a.m. in Hundley Hall, Gardencourt.

We are particularly happy to welcome Rev. Cheryl Goodman-Morris to campus as this year’s Artist-in-Residence. Goodman-Morris is a distinguished alum of Louisville Seminary (M.Div. ’77 ), a nationally recognized playwrite (“Puah’s Midwife Crisis”), founder and Artistic Director of the Portola Valley Theatre Conservancy, and Minister of Worship and Arts at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley, California. We are fortunate to have the benefit of Goodman-Morris’s experience and knowledge of theatre and its resonances with textual interpretation and liturgical practice.

We look forward to this term’s exploration of the connections between textuality, interpretation, performance, and the various forms of inhabiting and coming to achieve familiarity with the scriptural text.

The themes addressed in The Art of Presence highlight the mission of the Artist-in-Residence program, which was conceived as a way to celebrate and cultivate “alternative intelligences,” adding to a curriculum that leans heavily on the linear, left-brain, analytical models that prevail in the academy. We are convinced that God’s intention for creation and humanity is diversity, and we observe that the wealth of diversity in our world is a gift we often fail to unwrap and take delight in. The aim of the Artist-in-Residence program is to encourage its participants to embrace that diversity through the medium of the arts, explore the novel insights a different approach to learning makes available, and then share those insights with the community in a relevant way. This year, that sharing will take the form of a final public theatrical performance, Friday, January 21, 8:00 p.m., in Hundley Hall, Gardencourt.

We wish the students and teachers of the Art of Presence well, and look forward to seeing and hearing the fruits of their exploration later this month!

In the meantime, members of the Seminary community are cordially invited to welcome Rev. Cheryl Goodman-Morris to campus at an informal reception in the Women’s Center, Friday, January 14, 4:00 p.m. We look forward to seeing many of our friends and neighbors there, and to sharing a pleasant time with our Artist-in-Residence.

Revealing Language

Image of portrait of Henrietta Maria and Charles I by Anthony van Dyck

Daddy, mommy, bubby

The adult class I attend is reading a book (The Good and Beautiful God, by James Bryan Smith) together, so I have been doing my homework, dutifully reading the chapters and doing the exercises. The text is designed to encourage us to adopt the narratives Jesus tells about God, in preference to the ones we might have in our heads from who knows where, on the premise that Jesus’ narratives are the ones to go by. In general I have been appreciating this book, albeit critically, and thinking it has good things to say and is worth studying. But this week, the issue of language for addressing God has come up, and I have a bone to pick with the author. Not so much with Jesus, I don’t think — although I am confident Jesus would not mind having this conversation one bit.

The issue is about calling God “Father.” Smith in essence repeats Karl Barth’s argument about revealed language. We ought to call God “Father,” because Jesus did. And we ought to let what Jesus says about God the Father define what “Father” means when we use the word. So “Father” doesn’t essentially mean “the male person who contributed 50% of my DNA” or “the male person, whether or not married to my mother, who was one of my adult role models while I was growing up” or whatever positive or negative personal meaning that word has. “Father” means a familiar, personal entity who is present, pure, powerful, provident, pardoning, and protective. A good “father” (in the ordinary sense) would be all of these things, and so would a good “mother” for that matter. “Father” language isn’t really about gender, according to this author. It is about whatever God has in mind when God chooses a word to use to reveal Godself.

This is an interesting argument, but it seems incomplete to me, for a couple of reasons. One reason is that, when we hear the word “father,” it does not fail to have a “literal” meaning for us, and the literal meaning of “father” — at least in our culture, as in Jesus’ culture — includes the dimension of human gender, and all of the social connotations of that dimension. It includes all the collateral knowledge we have about what fathers do and mothers don’t, what fathers like and dislike and how that is different from what mothers like and dislike, how fathers look and sound and dress and how that is different from how mothers look and sound and dress, and so on and on. In fact, if the word did not carry any such freight, we might have a difficult time saying what the word means. Because for all the sophisticated theories of meaning that have been developed, meaning, at least in the case of nouns, like “father,” still keeps coming back around to what people think a word stands for or points to, and we generally learn that from the way the word is used by the people around us. So to say that “father” shouldn’t make us think of our own fathers seems something like saying “apple” shouldn’t make us think of the red or green fruit we see in the stores about this time of year, and “sun” shouldn’t make us think of the bright light we see in the sky most days. Whether or not it should, it does, and if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to talk to our brothers and sisters.

So, that argument ignores, or suppresses, the revelation about us that Biblical language incorporates. Calvin took the view that Biblical language was hugely accommodated to limited human understanding — something like the way baby talk is accommodated to the limitations of babies and young children. One consequence of that position is that, while all human language is inadequate to full revelation of truth about God, some language “for” revelation might work better “as” revelation for us, whoever “we” are, and other language less well, because of the way people use and understand that language. Which means that the language used in the Bible says something about its readers, and how we use the language, and what we are capable of understanding those words to mean, along with whatever it communicates to us about God.

Since we know (people tell me all the time that we know this) that God does not have gender, then theoretically it shouldn’t make an iota of difference whether we call God Father or Mother or Parent. If a good Parent is present, pure, powerful, provident, pardoning, and protective; if that is what “Father” means in the context of Jesus’ prayer; if a good Mother is equally those things; then we should be able to say “Our Mother who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” etc. with the same ease we have in saying the “Our Father.”

If we can’t (and the persistent resistance to that practice, active and passive, strongly suggests that some of us at least cannot), the question of “why can’t we call God Mother” seems to have much less to do with God than it does with us: why can’t we call God “Mother?” What is it about addressing someone as “Mother” that seems (to some of us, anyway) incompatible with what we think we need to say about God, or have been told to say about God, or have learned to think about God? What is it about the way people use the word “mother” that makes that word seem (to some of us, evidently) inadequate to contain the revelation of God?

More importantly, what revelation about God are we missing out on because of the many limitations imposed by chronic masculine language for God, and by the human reality it reflects? To what human reality is non-inclusive, patriarchal language an accommodation? And what will it take to move past that reality, to one that would be more receptive to something a little less like baby-talk?

Why Louisville AIDS Walk, II

Louisville AIDS Walk Sunday Sept. 26

Click Here to Support Team Women's Center!

(Remember: Team Women’s Center will walk in the Louisville AIDS Walk on Sunday, September 26! Be part of it by joining the team online here: {CLICK THIS LINK} and then contacting more friends, family members, former employers, teachers, and others who can sponsor your effort. You can make an online donation at the site, as well. This is a way to raise money for services to our neighbors in the Louisville area who are living with HIV/AIDS and their families. The Women’s Center team will assemble on the Belvedere downtown at 2:00 p.m. — we think that will give us enough time to turn in the funds we’ve raised, get our team picture taken, and be part of the walk that begins at 3:00 p.m. Please contact the Women’s Center at womenscenter@lpts.edu if you need or want a ride from the Seminary to the Belvedere!)

As noted earlier, the answer to why the Women’s Center at LPTS walks in the Louisville AIDS Walk has a historical and a theological part. We addressed the historical part a few days ago. Here is a view on the theological part:

The theological part has something to do with stigma. That might best be illustrated by thinking about the average church prayer list. Picture that list. It’s probably long — the list at my church covers half a page of the bulletin. The one we used for years at the Wednesday evening Bible study was a full page, two columns. Think about who is on that list, and what we know about them. Most often, it lists the people in and known to the congregation who are sick, or in the hospital, or about to have surgery, or at home recovering from surgery; people whose mothers or fathers or cousins or aunts recently died, in accidents or at an old age. Now picture what you do to get a name on the list. Picture yourself walking up to the church secretary and saying “I’d like the church to pray for my niece/daughter/mom who has been diagnosed HIV+.” Picture yourself standing up in the prayer meeting and saying “I could use prayer for the challenges of living with my HIV+ status.”

We know those prayer requests are more difficult to make than the ones asking for prayer for our relatives and friends suffering with cancer or needing joint replacements. We know that people who are living with HIV/AIDS are living with a disease that entails all the affliction of disease, plus a still-powerful social stigma that makes it difficult for a person to acknowledge that disease, to seek the help and treatment needed, and to experience the grace and care of the community.

Participating in the Louisville AIDS Walk moves that grace and care out into the community in an active way. We believe God’s grace is active; Jesus exemplified active grace; Jesus’ disciples are called to that practice. The theology on that point is simple and direct.

But the reasons we know there’s a stigma attached to HIV/AIDS underscore yet another theological reason for Louisville AIDS Walk-ing. We know that among the reasons for that stigma are punitive and rejecting attitudes about “what HIV/AIDS means” that persist, even in the churches that should be — we also know — the places that proclaim the good news of reconciliation to the world. We have probably all heard people give voice to those attitudes. They may not even be couched in the form “Who sinnned, this man or his parents?” They may express judgment directly: “Well, that’s what people get when they . . .” or “AIDS is God’s punishment for . . .” Often, what HIV/AIDS is said to be a punishment for amounts to a rejection of rules for gender and sexuality said to have been made by God.

We must insist on a different vision of God. It has always been the mission of the Women’s Center to proclaim that the stance on gender that holds that women are bound by divine command to serve men by making babies and taking beatings is stenotic and mistaken. The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, especially where it lingers in the church, often derives from that same stenotic position on gender. It has always been the mission of the Women’s Center to proclaim a vision of God informed by the revelation of created diversity (e.g., Gen. 1:27), an expansive call to worship (e.g., Isaiah 56:3-8, Rev. 22:17), and an emphatic stress on justice and wholeness (e.g., Micah 6:8). The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS evaporates in the light of that vision.

The Women’s Center’s mission and vision urge solidarity with everyone who faces oppression, exclusion or aspersions on grounds of gender — including many people living with HIV/AIDS.

That is another reason the Women’s Center participates in the Louisville AIDS Walk.

Women in the Biblical Labor Force

The origins of what is now the Labor Day holiday in the United States lie in the conflicts around the early labor movement. These days, for many of us, Labor Day is less about celebrating the dignity of the working man — and woman — than it is about getting in a last family outing to the county pool or other seasonal local attraction, or maybe firing up the grill and enjoying a Monday off from labor. At Louisville Seminary, it’s the day for the Community Picnic.

Whatever the festivities, they are behind us now. But the recent Day honoring Labor prompted some thoughts on the number of women in the Bible who are depicted as workers. Sarah cooks for the visitors by the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:6); Rebecca interrupts the work-day’s routine to draw water for a caravan of camels (Gen. 24:15-21); Zipporah and her sisters are shepherdesses (Ex. 2:16-21). Rahab was a sex worker (Joshua 2:1 ff), Ruth an immigrant field laborer (Ruth). Today, Abigail would probably be driving a truck (1 Samuel 25:18-19).

The poetic Woman Wisdom of Proverbs never stops working, hewing pillars, slaughtering animals, mixing wine, and reminiscing about her days as a master artisan in the construction project of creation (Prov. 9:1-2, 8:22-31); her valiant twin, the Woman of Worth, is an omnicompetent woman of business who teaches on the side and still has time for her family (Prov. 31:10-31) — perhaps illustrating that the concept of the “super-woman” is not at all new.

Women in Jesus’ stories are baking (Matt. 13:33) and sweeping (Luke 15:8-10), while women in stories about Jesus sometimes seem pretty fully occupied (Luke 4:38-39; Luke 10:38-40). Paul meets people like Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth” (Acts 16:14).

The main point of a quick and superficial list of this kind is to make us notice something we often fail to notice, because it is so familiar: everywhere we go, all our lives, women are at work. Sometimes they are doing something out of the ordinary, but ordinarily they are doing whatever it is that “women do” in the place and time they find themselves. For many reasons, this “women’s work” often vanishes into the background of life. When that happens, people fail to perceive it as what it is: work, work on which others depend, sometimes the work of a lifetime. What is in Scripture is what is in life: people — women included — are at work. Having a day to honor that seems, upon reflection, a good idea.