Index

Sundays
Third Quarter
2018

 

J Nichols Adams et al

September 23, 2018, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Ord Modern and Ancient Power Struggles

 

 

LectionAid 3rd Quarter 2018

September 23, 2018, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Ord Time 25, Proper 20

Modern and Ancient Power Struggles

Psalm 1 or Psalm 54, Proverbs 31:10-31 or Wis of Sol 1:16-2:1,12-22 or Jeremiah 11:18-20, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37

Theme: Power Comes No Power

Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON

Starting Thoughts

We think modern society is so different from the ancient world of Jesus. But, that is just not the case. We really are just the same group of people. For instance, the present big media story is the abuse of women in the work place the short hand for this is the #Metoo Movement. However, this is a very ancient problem that happened in many ancient societies. There is nothing new about the #Metoo Movement. Modern society may help ameliorate some of these abuses. However, it must be noted that the church after two thousand years still struggles with gender and sex issues today. The only difference may be that it is no longer as easy to hide. It is part of a larger and even more insidious kind of problem which is at the very basis of our society both ancient and modern
Ours is a culture that worships all forms of power and authority—popularity and wealth, political and military. All the media exacerbates this tendency to enshrine power, reporters and interviewers flocking to get the opinion of a movie star or a celebrity politician or lawyer on this question and that. Even those who embrace the servanthood lifestyle are turned into media celebrities, with all the attendant trappings, witness Mother Teresa, the Pope, or Billy Graham. In our churches we erect plaques only to those who give a lot to the institution.
Even the church's clergy are subject to the desire for importance and power that so tarnished the disciples. I remember a colleague in an upper Midwest state telling a group of us about his next call. It seemed that his initial excitement was over the fact that his new charge in an eastern state had a brick building. He described its imposing exterior and many rooms. Now, to understand his excitement one must know that virtually all of us were serving small town churches that had white frame churches. Going to a brick church meant a major step up in status. I had to ask him about what kinds of mission or service projects the church was involved in before learning what the church did. (Of course, all of us clergy who go on to bigger churches believe that this enables us to be of "greater service" to a greater number of people.) The two times when I accepted a call to smaller congregations than the one I had been serving seemed to shock some people. Probably no temptation is as powerful to believers, clergy or otherwise, then the worldly desire to be important and powerful, even in a spiritual sense. We all think that to really serve we need to be done celebrate service, but then maybe to really serve means to do so out of the lime light and away from all eyes but God's eyes.

Exegetical Comments

It is interesting to note the famous description of women in Proverbs 31:10-31is something that can be dissected. Even in older commentaries we find that: “The condition of woman is the touchstone of a civilized society. Again, there is a sense in which woman is an interpreter and revealer of God to humanity. She has religious intuitions and spiritual susceptibilities in which the other sex is usually deficient. Most religious systems in the world’s history have overlooked her and have suffered accordingly. The religion of Jesus Christ recognized her, claimed for her, her rightful place, and to this day does much of its best work in the world through her gracious ministrations, through her unquestioning faith, through her unquenchable love. It is as a foreshadowing of this religious significance which Christ was to give to womanhood that the Proverbs recognize the beautiful direct relation between God and the possession of a good wife. "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord." {Proverbs 18:22} Wealth, as it is ordinarily understood, is of the earth, -it can be derived from ancestors by inheritance, or it can be earned by toil of hand and brain, -but every wife worthy of the name is far above all wealth: she cannot be earned or inherited; she comes, as the mother of mankind came, direct from the hand of the Lord. The marriage tie is a thought of God’s heart. He Himself has arranged the exquisite blending of life with life and spirit with spirit; He has fitted man to woman and woman to man, so that the perfect man is not the man alone, the perfect woman is not the woman alone, but the man and woman one flesh, mystically united, the completeness each of the other; not two, but a single whole. This is not the normal power dynamic we find in most ancient societies. (https://biblehub.com/commentaries/expositors/proverbs/31.htm)
There is great irony in these two incidents that Mark places together. Jesus for the second time predicts his passion. Desiring to instruct them in this, he turns his return trip from Caesarea Philippi through Galilee into a private tutorial, rather than a mission to the people. As before, the disciples soon demonstrate that they just do not get it. Their old dream of having the inside track to power retains too great a hold on them. Upon arrival at the house where they stay in Capernaum, Jesus asks them a question, not for information so much (he already knows the answer), as to convict them of their inappropriate behavior. He has been instructing them about suffering that is at the heart of his concept of the Messiahship, and they are squabbling about positions of power. Jesus' question/accusation produces shame, nailing shut their lips. They can find no words that would dispel the obvious displeasure of their Master.
Before proceeding further, Jesus assumes the traditional role of the authoritative master: he sits down. Thus, he underlines that his next words are not suggestions or casual remarks but are at the very heart of his being and of his message. Both for him and his followers, servanthood is the way of his kingdom. To underline this even further, he gives them an acted-out parable by taking a child and declaring that when they receive such a child, they receive him, and when they receive him, they receive God. Prof. Pheme Perkins, in a commentary on Mark in The New Interpreter's Bible, points out how difficult it is for us moderns to appreciate how shocking and revolutionary this act was to the people of his day. We are immersed in a child-centered culture based on a romantic notion of the bliss and innocence of childhood, whereas in Roman and Jewish culture a child was "a non-person": "Children should have been with the women, not hanging around the teacher and his students." (Vol. VIII, p. 637) The same could have been said of Mary in Luke's account of Mary, Martha and Jesus. Jesus expects a lot of the disciples for them to accept the child as a stand-in for him. It means a total reversal of their accepted values. That they were struggling with this right up to the end is shown by Luke's account of the Last Supper, in which the disciples again argue over who would be the greatest in Jesus' kingdom.

Preaching Possibilities

The reversal of the power dynamic is seen in several places in Jesus’ teachings. Jesus wanted to reverse our understanding of how society treats women and children. When we can understand Jesus’ teachings that the first shall be last and the last shall be first we can suddenly see that a great deal of the way society still treats children and women will be turned upside down.

Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON

Different Sermon Illustrations

More than a third of female workers report being sexually harassed at work, explaining why the #MeToo movement is so influential. Women so traumatized may suffer serious effects from anxiety and on careers. But why is the problem so common?
Conflict between males and females over sexual access crops up all over the animal kingdom, from scorpion flies with their specialized claspers for forcible mating to praying mantis females eating their mates.
Sexual harassment at work is generally not this extreme and typically involves some quid pro quo such as a fast food restaurant manager demanding sexual favors in return for more favorable shift assignments for an employee.
Males are generally more eager to mate than females (known as Bateman's principle) because females invest more in offspring than males do.
Amongst humans, the conflict often plays out as men wanting intercourse earlier in a relationship than women do. Men have often used social power to extract sexual favors, so that those close to the top of the tree often have an unjustified sense of entitlement.
That such issues are widespread in nature does not justify coercive sexuality but establishes the context in which it may be more fully understood, and corrected.
Social Status and Sexual Access to Women
High status men are more attractive to women for various reasons, even in the Internet age, judging from research into online dating preferences. From a practical perspective, women who marry wealthy men have greater access to economic resources that makes it easier to raise children, especially given that mothers pay a career price for devoting themselves to raising youngsters.
The reproductive options of high status men were not limited to marriage, even in the rigidly monogamous societies of European history. Laura Betzig describes many sexual privileges accorded to wealthy men. In some feudal societies, the lord of the manor was entitled to spend the first night with each of the brides in his parish. Moreover, the design of medieval homes probably facilitated sexual access by the squire to single servant women living in his household. Scions of the nobility often abducted peasant women for sexual gratification. Such crimes were rarely prosecuted, and the worst perpetrators were sometimes priests and clerics who were nominally celibate.
This phenomenon is all too familiar today and the biggest culprits are men of power and privilege. Highly prominent men took sexual liberties with their employees and used money to intimidate, and silence, the victims.
All power relationships are relative, and lower-level managers in the fast food industry may abuse their short-term employees by obtaining sexual favors in return for giving a woman more hours of work
As women climb professional and business ladders, such inequalities of power shrink, and women can both expect, and receive fairer treatment at work. Being treated more fairly at work does not mean that all the problems of masculine sexual assertiveness will disappear overnight. Humans follow a similar courtship protocol to other species where females attract, and males pursue, and this pattern favors masculine assertiveness.
None of this is intended to justify the abuse of female workers by bosses or mentors. But it can help us to understand why some men act as though their workplace subordinates were their sexual property. Just because men benefited from sexual assertiveness in the past does not mean that this cannot change: it will change and is already changing before our eyes. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-beast/201802/me-too-movement-confronts-ancient-problem)

Violence against women was common in cultures 3,500 years ago, a professor from the eastern province of Erzurum’s Atatürk University has said.
“In the ancient documents [that we found], it is said that 3,500 years ago – between 1375 and 1345 B.C. – kings used violence against their wives,” said Professor Mehmet Karaosmanoğlu of the university’s archaeology department.
There were many documents about women in history, the professor said, adding that documentation of violence toward women in Hittite times had been reflected in stone tablets.
“We can see in these documents that the Hittite King Mursili II was one of those kings [who beat his wife]. It is documented that Mursili II complained about his wife to the gods and goddesses all the time and cursed her, [causing her to die],” Karaosmanoğlu said. (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/women-saw-violence-in-ancient-times-17998)

In ancient Greece, the portrayal of women in mythology as deceitful, manipulative, and the downfall of men corresponded with oppressive treatment and forced seclusion, which mirrored Greek patriarchal society. Through a discussion of three case studies, the myths of Pandora, Aphrodite, and Helen of Troy, this paper argues that the depiction of women in Greek mythology perpetuated their treatment in society as elite men used these legends as instructions detailing the correct way to deal with their female counterparts. Women were viewed by men as examples of what would happen if an elite woman was given even just a modicum of independence. Because of these lessons, instructional texts such as Xenophon’s Oeconomicus drew upon the morals of the stories when teaching their audience, the importance of keeping elite women solely in the domestic sphere. This forced gendered segregation was meant to mirror an idealized version of elite society. The examination of the mythic tradition in ancient Greece, as well as the way myths influenced education, leads to an effective analysis of the genre of instructional literature. Texts that were often used as educational tools, like Oeconomicus or Homer’s epic poetry, deliver themes of patriarchy and male domination that are hard to miss: men were in charge; women were always subordinate to their male counterparts.
Ancient Greece in the Classical period (5th and 4th centuries B.C.) was organized, politically and socially, in a patriarchy based in small city-states called poleis. Historian Mogens Hansen contends that traditionally, “a state is principally a territory, a polis is principally a people… a community of men ready to defend their society.” Men were the only ones able to participate in political, military, or social spheres, while women were never given the same rights in these domains throughout all of ancient Greek history, regardless of their individual social position in the community. Xenophon, in his work Oeconomicus, provides one of the clearest views on this male-female separation when he explains: “I think the god from the very beginning designed the nature of women for the indoor work and concerns and the nature of man for the outdoor work. For he prepared man’s body and mind to be more capable of enduring cold and heat and travelling and military campaigns, and so he assigned the outdoor work to him. Because the woman was physically less capable of endurance, I think the god has evidently assigned the indoor work to her.” According to Xenophon’s records, it is the god—a mysterious, male, mythological entity—who has made these separations part of the Greek way of life. By doing so, Xenophon not only examined the extreme influence the Greek pantheon had on each polis’ society, but he also reinforced the relative positions of men and women by declaring that patriarchy was based on the natural order of things and the divine will of the gods.
Ancient Greek mythology, when it came to displays of male importance and power in the patriarchy, also upheld the prominence of men’s positions in the community over the harsh attitude towards women. Greek myths were full of double standards for men and women, with male gods clearly getting the benefit of the doubt in most situations. According to Classics professor Barry Powell, “Although male gods regularly pursued mortal women, it was altogether shameful for a goddess to consort with a mortal man.” By doing so, a goddess would have, for all intents and purposes, been placed on an equal playing field as male gods – in this case, in terms of amorous desires—thus necessitating some sort of recognition of a woman’s contribution outside of their seclusion forcing men to give up some of the power that they desired to control. Homer’s Odyssey applies this same idea of necessary seclusion when Telemachus states “Mother, go inside the house and tend to your own work… the bow is the concern of men, and to me most of all, since the authority in this house belongs to me.” Telemachus ordered his mother to leave all militaristic action to him while she contents herself with weaving and other acceptable feminine pursuits. If he had allowed his mother even the slightest bit of influence or opinion in ‘male matters,’ Telemachus would have effectively given up his sole authority in the household and elevated his mother, a woman, to a level of input previously designated to men.
One of the most recognizable stories of misogyny in ancient Greece was the tale of Pandora’s Box, a tale that recorded the imposition of the greatest affliction to man: women. Powell states, “The folktale of Pandora, like the biblical story of Adam and Eve, is etiological to explain the origin of woman, marriage, and suffering in the world.” From her conception by Zeus, Pandora was meant to be a punishment after Prometheus stole fire from the gods. As recorded in Hesiod’s Work and Days, Zeus upbraids Prometheus shouting, “You are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire – a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.” The entire formation of the idea of woman was as a punishment for man’s wrongdoing; Pandora was a deception, beautiful on the outside, while within she was filled with chaos, trickery, and ultimately, misery. Even though it was Prometheus, a male deity, who began the divine-mortal conflict, neither he nor Zeus were ever blamed for their part in releasing evil into the world. That designation was given solely to Pandora, a woman who would not have been created had Prometheus not stolen fire from the gods. Sorrow and pain were not caused by a man’s folly; rather, they were caused by a woman. The designation of blame is one of the most patriarchal themes of this tale: Pandora, though she is just as much a victim of Zeus’ punishment as men, was the one who was declared responsible while Prometheus got off without blame.
The patriarchal and misogynistic ideologies continue throughout the rest of the story, especially when Hesiod chronicled Pandora opening the container: “By now the hands of the woman lifted the jar’s heavy lid and allowed them [torment, pain, and disease] all to escape, planning the bitterest of sorrows for man. Hope only remained in a prison she could not escape… for the woman had replaced the great heavy lid. But the other numberless miseries were spread over all humankind.” Hesiod states in no uncertain terms that it was Pandora who was responsible for afflicting the rest of society with evil and darkness; the only mistake men made was allowing women to enter their homes. Had Epimetheus turned Pandora away when she was sent to live with him, the box would not have been opened and evil would still lie safely tucked away, away from the prying and obviously destructive hands of women. Even the containment of hope in the jar clearly placed the blame of introducing evil into the world at Pandora’s feet. She shut the lid of the container before hope could rush out and mitigate at least some of the effects of the newfound darkness. Hesiod states above that “the woman replaced the great heavy lid” but already “the other miseries were spread over all humankind.” Pandora in a sense punished men twice, once by the original release of evil, and once by shutting in the one thing that could shine through the despair: hope. Pandora’s explicit depiction as the scourge of man gives us a glimpse of the ancient Greek view of women, namely that they are “weak, fickle, and opportunistic,” bound up in the unconscious desire to do harm to men. Based on the so-called facts the Greeks had because of this written fable, it is clear that the oppression, isolation, and misogyny shown to women in Classical Greece was meant to keep women from inflicting any more destruction.
Mortal women like Pandora were not the only ones portrayed as deceitful and manipulative; Aphrodite, the immortal daughter of Zeus, was relatively consistently represented as scheming, untrustworthy, and cunning. The Greek poetess Sappho described her in one of her poems as “Fancy-throne deathless Aphrodite, deceitful child of Zeus.” Aphrodite held remarkable power over the hearts of both men and women alike as she was known for being the goddess of love, sexual desire, and erotic appeal. She herself displayed all three of these characteristics, blatantly flaunting her sexuality in such a way that there was no doubt that Aphrodite was not the obedient, virginal elite woman the Greeks tolerated. Instead, she represented all ancient Greek men’s fears: an independent, sensual, promiscuous woman who carried on affairs even though “it was altogether shameful for a goddess to consort with a mortal man.” One such instance is the tale of Aphrodite’s liaison with Anchises, a Trojan prince “with the form of a god.” Zeus made Aphrodite desire Anchises as a sort of payback for her trickery in making other gods lust after mortal women. He wanted to refute her claims “that she alone drove them to couple with mortal women, who bore them sons who were destined to perish” (emphasis mine). Zeus’ action of casting “a sweet spell of desire” upon Aphrodite was meant to prove that she did not hold exclusive power regarding love and desire; Zeus had the ultimate power of such feelings and was more than willing to exercise that power over his own daughter to prove his dominance over her.
Aphrodite’s depiction as manipulative, deceitful, and promiscuous influenced men’s treatment of women by applying the same characteristics as part of a woman’s nature. Pygmalion described his view of women when he was “critical of faults which nature has so deeply planted through their female hearts.” Pygmalion, though a character in myth, represented the generalized Greek male opinion of the nature of women, namely that they are misleading, shameful, and need to be held in the firm grasp of man. The Homeric woman is not only subordinate but also the victim of a fundamentally misogynistic ideology… the Homeric hero mistrusts women, even the most devoted and submissive of them.” With Aphrodite’s portrayal as uncaring about pre-established societal rules, ancient Greek men learned that they could not trust any woman’s obedience or character, thus condemning them to a life under misogynistic policy. For if an immortal goddess could not obey the rules of society, how would flawed, mortal woman? The safest place men could keep their women was safely locked away in the house, away from the temptations of adultery and other sins. Separated from and subordinate to men, there was no way elite women could use the wiles that nature had given them to tempt men into their grasp.
Cultural portrayal of women in ancient Greek mythology is both a representation of and an influence on the treatment or place of Greek women within society. Men were in charge; women, even those of a comparable status, were never seen as equal to their male counterparts. In part, this reality was due to the lessons imparted through instructional literature. Xenophon's Oeconomicus strongly implies, if not blatantly states, a desire to seclude elite women for the benefit of the male members in the Greek household, necessitating impersonal treatment in order to mold a wife to distinct and exact specifications. Hesiod’s letter to Perses in Works and Days is nothing if not an attempt to instruct property owning Greeks on agricultural techniques. Though, at its heart, it did not seem as if the treatment of elite women and instruction in the agricultural arts are in any way connected, the fact that Hesiod wrote his treatise on farming as specific instructions meant to be followed shows how he also expected his warnings about women to be heeded. Hesiod’s description of Pandora as the downfall of all mankind was meant as a warning to men about the perils of allowing women out of seclusion.
There is no doubt that ancient Greek instructional texts were meant to keep elite men in charge. In fact, in the texts examined above, not once do the women discussed have their own voices. All the texts were written about men and only had male characters in them. Ischomachus, when mentioning his wife, states how she learned “to see and hear and speak as little as possible.” In neither Theogeny nor Works and Days did Pandora ever respond to the allegations and blame against her; her guilt was just accepted by the male readers, intended as a warning against allowing women power or independence. The degree of male control over the female population, especially amongst the elites, was astounding. Ancient Greek elite women were a necessary evil, filled with undesirable characteristics necessitating their complete and utter domination. Oeconomicus, as well as the educational aspects of Hesiod’s and Homer’s epic poetry, were used to strictly enforce the seclusion of elite women in Classical Greece, rather than acknowledge their contribution to society in the form of progeny and taking care of the household. Instructional literature drew upon the negative characteristics of women in mythology like Pandora, Aphrodite, and Helen of Troy. By doing so, Greek noblemen saw how a woman’s independence could lead to disaster. Since Xenophon, Hesiod, and Homer were used in the raising of elite male youths, the fictional accounts of Greek mythology were treated as fact, thus perpetuating elite Greek women’s treatment in society as the bane of men’s existence. Women in mythology were commonly portrayed as devious, manipulative, hazardous to men, and deceitful. Their actions in the stories culminated in realization of ancient Greek male fears: namely that women would become promiscuous, disloyal, and uncontrollable. In order to keep this from happening, ancient Greek men exercised the practice of seclusion, forcibly separating women from men and barring them from authoritative positions outside of the household, for this was thought to be a solution to combat women’s innate trickery and keep men firmly in control. At no time in Classical Greece do women’s voices resonate as greatly as those of men, enforcing the idea that, despite feminine portrayal in mythology, it is men who are ultimately in charge of society. (https://www.armstrong.edu/history-journal/history-journal-containing-the-kalon-kakon-the-portrayal-of-women-in-ancien)

Domestic violence is neither a new nor a localized problem. The myriad forms of domestic violence can be found all over the world, and evidence of its occurrence can be found as far back as written history goes. Through the various historical periods and different societies, the world over, there have been many sociolegal precedents that either blatantly supported domestic violence or failed to condemn it. This long history of apathy toward the subject has created a huge mass of social, legal, cultural, and traditional beliefs and attitudes that contemporary societies have yet to overcome despite their best efforts. This research paper will explore these beliefs and attitudes to demonstrate how their influence far outweighs current attempts to create attitudes and beliefs against domestic violence in any form. By knowing what must be overcome, societies may be more successful in their efforts against domestic violence.
One of the issues encountered in viewing domestic violence from different times is that throughout history many of the behaviors now thought of as domestic violence have been both legal and socially acceptable. This demonstrates an evolving standard of what is acceptable behavior in personal relationships.
An underlying theme in each society which allowed for domestic violence against women and children is patriarchy. When men are the ultimate authority and women and children are considered property, the difference in human rights is staggering. Historically, the only human rights women were granted related to their value as a man’s property. Children had no rights at all.
This legal subjugation is often combined with social acceptance and even pressure to conform. The historical criminal justice practice of returning women and children to their male guardians’ homes for punishment rather than subjecting them to formal processing reinforces this idea. Cultural practices of punishing men for the crimes of their women also reinforced women’s legal subjugation. Legal codes from various societies, particularly those of the distant past, also indicated social support of and pressure toward committing domestic violence by specifying that a man had the right to punish and even execute his wife without official intervention. This implies that the man had no other alternative for resolving his domestic issues.
Ancient civilizations are often hailed as belonging to a golden age of humankind where art and culture were highly developed. The basic foundations of more modern societies can be traced back to ancient times, where the beginnings of math, science, religion, and law emerged. For all their positive achievements, ancient civilizations are also where the legal and social traditions of permitting domestic violence toward women and children began.
The Code of Hammurabi is the oldest written legal code known to exist. In it are provisions for disciplining a wife and children by the husband/ father. These provisions are state-sanctioned rights to privately discipline without intervention by legal authorities. They included the right of the male head of household to execute his wife and her lover if she was caught cheating. She could also be drowned in the river for spending too much money and gadding about. The husband had the ability to sell her and her children into slavery or bind them into slavery for three years to pay his debts. Children were even less protected. Not only could they be sold or bound out, but they could be executed for disobedience. A son who struck his father was to have his hands cut off. An unmarried virgin daughter who was raped by a man who was not already married was forced to marry her rapist. The rapist’s only penalty was to marry the girl and pay her father a fine.
These legal provisions compare favorably with Hebrew laws (Mosaic Codes). If anything, the Hebrew laws were even stricter. The death penalty was available for more crimes. Sons could be executed for striking their fathers, cursing, general disobedience, and rebellion. Women and children who were bound out for labor to pay the man’s debts could be held for up to six years.
In Greece, the original laws regulating families did not include penalties, but left it to the male head of household to enforce the laws as he saw best. This left the range of punishments wide open. The woman had no recourse, as she was under male guardianship for her entire life.
During the Roman empire, beatings, divorce, and murder were private rights of the male head of household. Women could divorce their husbands only in cases of excessive violence. This right was also limited to those in the upper classes. Women in the lower classes could not divorce their abusive husbands no matter how excessive the abuse might be.
The level of violence available for a man to keep order in his home in these ancient societies was certainly greater than that now afforded, but it was based in part on the level of violence available in the general societies of the times. The death penalty was the prescribed punishment for many crimes, even minor ones such as pickpocketing. Wars were fought man-to-man with swords, clubs, and whatever other weapons could be found. The level of personal contact in these wars was immense. The Roman Empire also played sports of violence through its gladiators. Armed personal combat to the death with other men or with wild animals was considered entertainment, not violence or cruelty. By comparison, domestic violence was not only acceptable, but a normal form of familial interaction. It was not considered violence at all.
European societies of the Middle Ages also demonstrated a level of social and legal acceptance of domestic violence that is now intolerable. Women were denied education and the ability to participate in political affairs. Marriages were often arranged between fathers and future husbands without concern for the wishes of the daughters. Women of all ages were no more than chattel to men to do with as they wished. Their prime value was as housekeepers and breeders.
During the Middle Ages various communities in Europe would burn women alive for their transgressions. Offenses included threatening their husbands, committing adultery, scolding, nagging, and having miscarriages. The cause of a miscarriage did not matter, even if it resulted from abuse by the husband.
Children were treated even more harshly than women. In many societies’ children were bonded out for labor, sold into slavery, and even abandoned to the elements. Abandonment of unwanted infants was particularly popular as a remedy for having a child of the wrong sex. This, of course, meant female.
Perhaps the most famous domestic violence rule, the ‘‘rule of thumb,’’ emerged in connection with English common law. This rule indicates that a man may beat his wife with a stick, but only if the stick is smaller in circumference than his thumb. This placed a limit on the violence in the family where no limits had previously existed. The rule was thus seen as improving the treatment of women. Although the rule was popular in England and America, it was never officially codified into law. It remained a court-based interpretation of existing laws.
Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for solidifying the legal codes of France and exporting many of these legal principles to other countries, including Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Women were defined as legal minors no matter their age. Permanent disfigurement was permitted for minor offenses such as scolding. The Code of Chivalry went so far as to call for breaking the woman’s nose, so she would be permanently marked and embarrassed. The woman could achieve divorce only if it could be shown that the man was attempting to murder her through his violence.
When the English established viable colonies in America, many persons from all over Europe immigrated in order to make a better life for themselves. Many fled religious oppression, poverty, lack of opportunity, and other social ills found in their home countries. In the colonial era, America derived its laws and social order from England. After independence, the new country, while forming its new political structure of democracy, continued to use many of the legal traditions of England.
White landowning males were given all the power, and women were not so much as mentioned in the new system. Nowhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights are women discussed. Women were not allowed to own property, enter into contracts, or even vote.
The history of civilization indicates that changes in patriarchy and societal levels of violence have been important indicators of social and legal approval of domestic violence against women and children. In ancient times, society was filled with brutal violence in wars, sports, and criminal punishments. Patriarchy was at an all-time high, and the power of life and death was literally in the hands of the master of the house. Modern times have seen sports and criminal punishments become less gory, while warfare has moved away from man-to-man confrontations. Patriarchy has lost much of its former status. Women are reaching for equality and achieving some level of success. Domestic violence is now illegal and socially unacceptable in most societies. Why then does the problem still exist?
Where does this leave the contemporary world? The remnants of several thousand years of patriarchy are still being challenged by women who struggle to work, raise families, and be equal to their male counterparts. The level of violence in entertainment as well as is also being challenged. Rating systems on movies, television programs, and music and protests the continued use of the death penalty and other forms of state-sanctioned violence attempt to limit exposure to the brutal side of life. History is a difficult thing to overcome. Until equality is achieved and humankind evolves past the need for violence, the struggle will continue.
(http://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/domestic-violence/worldwide-history-of-domestic-violence/)

The study of the lives of women in Classical Athens has been a significant part of classical scholarship since the 1970s. Our knowledge of Athenian women's lives comes from a variety of ancient sources. Much of it is literary evidence, primarily from tragedy, comedy, and oratory; supplemented with archaeological sources such as epigraphy and pottery. All of these sources were created by – and mostly for – men: there is no surviving ancient testimony by Classical Athenian women on their own lives.
Female children in classical Athens were not formally educated; rather, their mothers would have taught them the skills they would need to run a household. They married young, often too much older men. When they married, Athenian women had two main roles: to bear children, and to run the household. The ideal Athenian woman did not go out in public or interact with men she was not related to, though this ideology of seclusion would only have been practical in wealthy families. In most households, women were needed to carry out tasks such as going to the market and drawing water, which required taking time outside the house where interactions with men were possible.
Legally, women's rights were limited. They were barred from political participation, and Athenian women were not permitted to represent themselves in law, though it seems that metic women could. (A metic was a resident alien – free, but without the rights and privileges of citizenship). They were also forbidden from conducting economic transactions worth more than a nominal amount. However, it seems that this restriction was not always obeyed. Especially in poorer families, women would have worked to earn money, and would also have been responsible for household tasks such as cooking and washing clothes. Athenian women had limited capacity to own property, although they could have significant dowries, and could inherit.

The unwrapped child, with his spontaneous faith and confidence in goodness, is the best illustration of that spirit which fits the Kingdom of God, Rufus Jones, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 114 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Know what it is to be a child?It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief….It is to know not yet that you are under sentence of life, nor petition that it be commuted to death. Francis Thompson, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. .114 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Christ is with those of humble mind, not with those who exalt themselves over his flock. St. Clement of Rome, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 454 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

In Revelation it is the saints and elders nearest God who cast down their crowns when they adore Him. The lesser fry, further off, are quite content to go on wearing theirs. Evelyn Underhill, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. .456 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

The love of power is oppressive in every sphere, but in the religious the most of all. Romano Guardini, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 749 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Power is a dangerous thing to handle, even in religion. Joseph R. Sizoo, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. .749 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

To have what we want is riches, but to be able to do without is power. George MacDonald, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 749 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Shakespeare's words about ambition might well be those of Christ to his disciples, caught arguing over who was the greatest: "I charge thee, fling away ambition: By that sin fell the angels." King Henry VIII, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 15 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Ambition is a very dangerous thing: without it, in some degree a man would soon grow weary, and with it he is likely to be led away. Francois Fenelon, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 15 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Dost thou wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that shall pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation on humility. St. Augustine, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 32 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

To walk always in the way of the cross remains for the best of men an aspiration rather than an achievement. Georgia Harkness, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 32 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

Unbridled ambition has succeeded the desire for gain; the whole economic life has become hard, cruel and relentless in ghastly measure. Pope Pious XI, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. .749 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

The power-hungry disciples could have benefited from George Matheson's hymn "Make me a Captive, Lord." It resounds with the paradoxes so dear to Jesus, such as being a captive in order to be free, rendering up "my sword, and I shall conqueror be." Matheson knew that the human "heart is weak and sore," dependent upon a firm Master lest it "vary with the wind." The hymn's six verses, most of which hold in tension opposites, beautifully sum up the life of one who willingly becomes "the servant of all." Matheson lived his hymn. Born in Scotland in 1842, he was blind by the time he was eighteen. Yet at the age of nineteen he graduated from college, excelling in philosophy, and entered the ministry. He became an outstanding preacher, once invited to preach to Queen Victoria and her court when she was staying at Balmoral Castle. He wanted to become a scholar, but because of his blindness, he could not do the necessary research. He was interested in Biblical criticism, but this field also demanded research. He found his niche in devotional writing. He bequeathed to us two hymns, "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go," and this one of surrender to the leadership of Christ.

In the controversial film Bruce Almighty God appears to Bruce Nolan, a self-centered TV reporter who, because he does not get what he wants, thinks that he is as bad off as Job. Fed up with the man's whining complaints, God, after many attempts to get the jerk to come and meet him in an old vacant building, gives over his powers to Bruce to see if he can do any better. Of course, he cannot. Being still self-centered, Bruce is as much a washout as a god as he is as a human being. He makes a mess of the world around him and of his personal relationships. What I found intriguing in the film is that when God first appears to Bruce he is dressed in a janitor's overalls and mopping the floor. He invites Bruce to join him, but when the man looks around at the vast floor space yet to be cleaned, he declines—a very revealing refusal. The image of God as a lowly janitor, as one who cleans up the messes of others and maintains order, I found especially interesting, but apparently the movie studio did not. In their press kit most of the pictures are of star Jim Carrey, and only two or three show Morgan Freeman as God—and these three all show God dressed in a white suit. Apparently God as a CEO, Southern Gentleman, or black Power Preacher is more acceptable to the filmmakers, or at least their publicity department, than God as Servant. In the film itself there is an understanding of the cross in the scene in which the sheer number and anxiety of the millions of prayers addressed to the Deity overwhelms Bruce. It is more than he can bear, so he tries to take the easy way out and says "Yes" to all of them, which of course, brings chaos to the world.

Take that gift that God has entrusted to you no matter how humble it may seem to be, and use it in the service of Christ and your fellow men
. He will make it glow and shine like the very stars of heaven. John Sutherland Bonnell, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. 920 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

A vocation is a falling in love with God, a crucifixion that is the prelude to a resurrection. Fulton J. Sheen, quote from The World's Treasury of Religious Quotations, p. .1040 (New York: Garland Books, 1966.)

"I don't know who put the question….I don't know when it was put. But at some moment I did answer "yes" to someone…and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal." (Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965, p. 205.)

A comic strip features "Dreams of Grandeur." For Earl, sleeping on his pillow, it is to be Superman. For Opal, sleeping on the other side of the bed, the dream is to be queen. The dog's dream of grandeur is to stand atop a high mountain. The cat, however, dreams only of being asleep in her bed. (Brian Crane, Pickles, date unknown)

A mother recounts her struggle to maintain a relationship with one of her children. The girl began acting out in adolescence, doing dangerous things, and distancing herself from her mother constantly blaming the mother for whatever happened to her. The mother was counseled to put values aside and to do whatever necessary to maintain the relationship. There always was the hope that the girl would grow out of her rebellion and blaming others for her behavior.
Now an adult with children of her own, the daughter continues to blame her mother for everything that goes wrong. When she is depressed, she writes long "hate" letters, accusing her mother of not loving her, and tells how oppressed she feels. She blames her mother for things that haven't happened, and from time to time she refuses to let her mother visit the grandchildren.
When asked why she continues to let her daughter treat her so unfairly, the mother explains that she knows her daughter is not well. Because she cannot be her daughter's therapist, this mother bends herself to her daughter's needs. She acknowledges that she deserves to be treated with respect, but that her daughter isn't capable of that. So she responds in a way that her daughter can accept, and gives up her own rights, her watchwords always "to do whatever it takes to maintain the relationship

Our general tendency is to want immediate success and glory. The reality, however, is that reaching that point of glory often takes a lot of time and difficult persistence beforehand. Throughout the 1960s and the early part of the 1970s, the UCLA Bruins were the truly dominating force in college basketball. During that era, coach John Wooden led his team to ten NCAA championships in twelve years, at one point achieving a 61-game winning streak. But John Wooden went through a long and difficult period before reaching that pinnacle of glory. In fact, he didn't win his first national championship until his fifteenth season as coach. From 1948 until 1963, no one paid too much attention to UCLA. But starting in 1964, because of the relentless focus on the goal he had, John Wooden became a college basketball legend.

In the field of management, there is a popular school of thought that says that the ideal kind of leader for a company is a Level 5 leader. In the recent best-selling business book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't, Jim Collins proposes that it's Level 5 leaders that make all the difference. One key characteristics of such Level 5 leaders is the ability to shift their ego needs away from themselves and into the grander goal of building up the company. Level 5 leaders, by definition, are ambitious, but their ambitions are not focused on themselves. Rather they concentrate on what they can accomplish for the institution around them. In a way, you could say that Jesus was an early Level 5 leader. His focus throughout his ministry was not on his own self-glorification, but on the glorification of God.

Some donors to Duke University were horrified when they saw the way the school planned to honor them. Aubrey and Kathleen McClendon contributed $5.5 million to build a new dorm that would bear their name. But besides naming the building for the couple, Duke decided to add some gargoyles to the structure, bearing the faces of Mr. And Mrs. McClendon. When the couple found out about the statues, they asked the university to remove them, which the school did. At the same time, there would undoubtedly have been many other people who would have gladly seen themselves immortalized like that. But apparently the McClendon's understand that true greatness does not come from powerful images like gargoyles, but from humble service and giving to others.

Have you ever noticed how many Protestant churches call themselves "First"—First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian? Of the 11,178 congregations in the Presbyterian Church
, 2,610 of them are named First. In other words, nearly 25% employ that name. Although it might not be necessary to run out and change the name of your church's marquee if you are a First Church, it's vital that every congregation remember that we aren't number one; only God can lay claim to that designation.

Scott Ginsberg thinks the world should be a more welcoming place. To do his part, he has been wearing a name tag everywhere he goes for over 900 days. He said that he is tired of having people turn their eyes away from one another when they approach on the street. So, to help people become more friendly, he began wearing a name tag. He believes that it serves as a kind of front porch, inviting people to enter into conversation with him. The idea to wear a name tag started when he attended a seminar while a student at Miami University of Ohio. After the seminar was over, he and a friend kept their name tags on throughout the following evening. That night about 20 people went up to him to say hi and began conversations with him. But not everyone likes his idea. Ginsberg reports that quite a few people have threatened to beat him up because of his unusual idea. Two of his cousins liked the idea so much that they also began to wear name tags all the time. When one of them went on his interview to be accepted into medical school, at first he debated whether wearing the tag would be a little too strange and might hurt his chances of being accepted. But when the receptionist saw him wearing a name tag, she soon went and got name tags for all the other applicants to put on. Ginsberg has written about his experiment in a self-published book, Hello, My Name is Scott, and he has a web site that tells about his experiences. He also has plans to attend a wedding where the groom specifically asked him to wear his name tag. Ginsberg is giving consideration to becoming a motivational speaker. When Jesus spoke about being welcoming, were name tags what he had in mind?

Several times in Mark's Gospel, Jesus attempts to give a preview of what is about to happen in Jerusalem. This past March marked the fourth annual Golden Trailer Awards, which are accolades designed to honor the best previews that you see at theaters before the feature presentation begins. Some of the award categories include "Best Voice Over" and "Trashiest Trailer." Evelyn Brady, the executive director of the awards, points out that while trailers contain no credits, those 2.5 minute previews are crucial in determining which films people will plan to see in the future. A decided advantage of the Golden Trailer Awards is their brevity. While the Oscars can drone on for four hours, the Golden Trailers rapidly hand out their 16 awards in a little over one hour. While some people find those movie previews irritating, many people look forward to them, considering them to be extra free entertainment.

The public perception of ministers is an example of how the first become last. For a long time, ministers were generally considered to be among the most respected and trusted members of American society. In light of recent scandals, however, the public's opinion of clergy people has steadily spiraled downward. When the Gallup poll asked people to rate 21 different professions as to their honesty and ethics, only 52% gave high rankings to clergy. That number is down from 64% in 2002. The current percentage is the lowest it has ever been—down from a peak of 67% in 1985. Only 50% of Catholics gave high ratings to their priests, while 57% of Protestants gave high marks for their pastors. Overall clergy ranked fourth in the survey, behind nurses (with a 79% positive rating), military officers
, and high school teachers
. Business executives ranked at the bottom, with only 17% rating them high in the areas of honesty and ethics.

In God's Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics, professor Stephen Carter bemoans the incessant desire of Americans to rank things. He points to various magazines that rate which colleges and universities are the best, using various criteria to achieve that assessment. Likewise, magazines like U. S. News & World Report publish an annual ranking of the best hospitals in the nation. That listing even includes rankings within various specialties: the best cancer hospital, the best heart hospital, the best pediatrics hospital, and so on. Similarly, more and more pressure is put on local school districts to do well on achievement tests, with the resulting rankings from those tests determining where government education money will be allocated. From college football teams to the towns in which we live, nearly everything in our society has some number, some ranking, attached to it. Carter observes, however, that while we might be attracted to rankings and appreciate the way that those numbers give us quick impressions of how something is doing, those rankings all have limitations. The growing problem in our society, Carter contends, is that we seem to be concluding that what can be measured and ranked is what is important, while what is not measurable must of necessity be less important. With his rebuke to the disciples, Jesus threw all rankings into question.

Our tendency often is to want to hold on to what we have. But Jesus tells us that it is only by letting go that we can receive all that God wants to give us. When Rome was sacked around 410, that was a traumatic event for many people. Countless people thought that imperial Rome was an eternal city, a city whose glory would never come to an end. Upon hearing the news of Rome's demise, though, Augustine commented, "All earthly cities are vulnerable. Men build them and men destroy them. At the same time there is the City of God which men did not build and cannot destroy and which is everlasting."

Christian author C. S. Lewis suggested that every human story, just like the divine story, has two catastrophes. By "catastrophe," Lewis used the word in the sense where it means "the culminating event." The first catastrophe is where a person faces utter ruin, ultimately in death. The second catastrophe facing humankind, however, is a good one. That catastrophe is where the person is reconstituted with hope and life, ultimately experienced through the resurrection.

In Being the Body, Charles Colson tells about a rivalry that existed between two churches in Louisville. Both Shively Baptist Church and Shively Christian Church seemed to constantly try to outdo each other so that they might be considered the number one church in the community. One day the youth pastor at Shively Christian led a Bible study on Jesus washing the disciples' feet. Then, to give the young people an opportunity to put those words about humble service into practice, he told the youth to go out into the community in groups and to find some way to be of help to someone. Two hours later they all returned. One group told about how they had done yard work for an elderly man. Another group said that they had purchased some ice cream and had taken it to some of the older women in the church. Another group visited a church member who was in the hospital and gave him a get-well card. Another group went to a nursing home and sang Christmas carols, even though it was the middle of August. The final group said that they went to the pastor of Shively Baptist Church and asked if he knew someone in his church who needed some help. The minister directed them to an elderly lady in that church who needed some yard work done. As the young people were finishing the work and preparing to leave, the woman thanked them saying, "I don't know how I could get along with you. You kids at Shively Baptist are always coming to my rescue." When the youth pastor heard that, he asked the group if they had corrected the woman and informed her that she had been helped by her church's rivals, Shively Christian. The young people responded, "No, we didn't. We really didn't think it mattered."

In Why Angels Fall: A Journey Through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo, Victoria Clark suggests that competition between the various nationality churches is one of the greatest sins of Orthodoxy. Her travels throughout Eastern Europe revealed how much resentment exists among the various Orthodox communions, such as the Greeks, Russians, and Serbs. The name ascribed to that religious nationalism is "Phyletism."
It might be easier to appreciate how difficult it was for the disciples to comprehend what Jesus was telling them about his impending death and resurrection when we consider the fact that, according to a Barna poll, one-third of born-again Christians today do not believe that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead.

"Jesus condemned all forms of domination: patriarchy and the oppression of women and children; the economic exploitation and the impoverishment of entire classes of people; racial superiority and ethnocentricism." (Walter Wink, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002], p. 14)

"When God is our strength, it is strength indeed; when our strength is our own, it is only weakness." (Augustine)

"The greatness of man's power is the measure of his surrender." (William Booth)

"When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful." (Dwight L. Moody)

"Carry the cross patiently and with perfect submission and in the end it shall carry you." (Thomas a Kempis)

A comic strip features "Dreams of Grandeur". For Earl, sleeping on his pillow, it is to be Superman. For Opal, sleeping on the other side of the bed, the dream is to be queen. The dog's dream of grandeur is to stand atop a high mountain. The cat, however, dreams only of being asleep in her bed. (Brian Crane, Pickles, date unknown).

Power is distinct from authority. While the disciples might have a power struggle, Christ was the one with authority. G. K. Chesterton was once sharing lunch with fellow author Alexander Woollcott in a London restaurant. In the midst of a debate about the distinction between power and authority, Chesterton remarked "If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatsoever." (Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (Boston: Little, Brown, 2000), p. 118).

It is poignant and inspiring to see Muhammad Ali, formerly the great boxer Cassius Clay, suffering from debilitating Parkinson's Disease, yet still willing to appear in public and inspire young people with his courage. I well remember hearing him boast, at the height of his boxing career, "I am the greatest!" Power and greatness are not the result of boasting, but rather the effect of decisive and courageous living that sets an example for others.

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Call to Worship

Leader: Come and worship the God who makes the first last, and the last first!
People: We come because the God who calls us extends an invitation to all;
Leader: Rich and poor; Young and old; female and male—all will gather around Christ.
People: Because of God's amazing grace in Christ we come, and through that amazing grace our small gifts are acceptable. Let us praise the Lord!
Prayer of Dedication
God, You give us so much—our health and wealth, our homes and families, this church and its promise of salvation through Your Son—so now we bring these gifts as tokens of our love and gratitude, Receive and use them for the work of Your church. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Dear God, we live in a king of the hill world in which nice guys finish last and the winner takes all—and we have bought into this. Save us from believing that the rich and the powerful will inherit the earth, rather than the gentle ones who follow Your Son. Forgive us when we have jockeyed for power at our place of work or in the community. Save us from insincere pretensions of humility and any desire to manipulate others to gain our own ends. Through the presence of Your Spirit renew our hearts and minds, that we will desire only those things of which Your Son would approve, for we ask it in his name. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

God, You give us so much—our health and wealth, our homes and families, this church and its promise of salvation through Your Son—so now we bring these gifts as tokens of our love and gratitude, Receive and use them for the work of Your church. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God, we still have mixed feelings about Your Son's way of the cross, and we too readily join with Your ambitious disciples in seeking power and authority. Help us to become more like Jesus each day as we discover people and places in need of our service. Steel our wills to withstand temptations to lord it over others and to want to be regarded by others as powerful movers and shakers, at our place of work or in our church.
May our prayers for others continually be offered—for the sick of mind and body, for the lonely and neglected, for the victims of racism and other forms of oppression. Lift our eyes above our own desires and needs that we might affirm our kinship with all of Your creation.
We thank You for creating and placing us in such a beautiful world, so luminous with Your presence that not even our despoiling of it by our greed carelessness can destroy it. We pray for our nation and our leaders, that we might always seek Your will, and we pray for all nations, that they might learn to live in peace and harmony. Bless our church and always remind us that it exists to serve, and not to be served. This we ask in the name of the one who died to save the world, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen