Rev. Dawn M. Adams is the minister of the First Congregational Church of Brimfield (MA), UCC. She is the mother of two grown children and spouse and partner with George. Not surprisingly, one of her favorite texts in the Bible is the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel.
Scripture: Proverbs 31:10-31 (NRSV)
Ode to a Capable Wife
A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all her household are clothed in crimson.
She makes herself coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the city gates,
taking his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her happy;
her husband too, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.’
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.
Reflection: Different Times
There are days that my biblical readings comfort me. Days when they surround me like a warm knit blanket. There are days that my readings inform me and bring me to some new knowledge that heretofore I had not known - an insight that had previously escaped me.
And then, there are days, like today, when my reading, as my grandmother would say, "raises up my ire."
Indeed, the words of Proverbs 31 are beautiful and clearly meant to be complementary; but no matter how many times I read it, it reminds me of meeting someone who looks me up and down like a piece of meat rather than the truly capable human being I am.
Is it truly a compliment to be compared to a commodity no matter how it glitters and shines? Is it helpful to female readers to assume that their lives are to be graded by marital status? Does anyone desire a life with no rest from the endless tasks which are required of them?
And how do I match this woman with the laundry pile in my room? The friends I have to rely on to get my children here or there? The fact that I may be a single mother, or not a mother at all? How do these words encompass my frustration, my exhaustion, my struggle for balance?
I do not need another judge. I do that quite well on my own. I need to hear that I am loved for exactly who I am and given the courage to continue to investigate who that is and the strength and support to live that out.
Perhaps ‘once upon a time’ this scripture was meant to uphold and uplift "the capable wife"; today, I think it calls us each to rewrite it, to struggle with it, to call out the sexist misogynistic language, and to remind ourselves (people of all genders) that biblical texts are written in a time and place that is different than ours. They are not God's direct words or necessarily God's plan for our lives; instead, they are someone's understanding given their particular place and their particular time.
Holy One, accept my anger at the words of our holy text. Free me from the guilt I feel in naming my discomfort. Inspire me to bring forth a new word from you that better speaks to the loving and liberative God that you are. And grant me the knowledge of knowing that you have called me beloved just as I am. AMEN
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the victims and their families of the 493 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For the family and friends of the Rev. William Henry West, who served churches in MA and CT. Rev. West died on August 26
- The family and friends of Rev. Arthur H. Durham, pastor emeritus of the First Congregational Church of South Windsor, CT. Rev. Durham died on Sept. 7
- For Jason Parliament, brother of SNEUCC Digital Minister Rev. Eric Elley, who was seriously injured in an accident at home last week
- For those living with chronic pain or illnesses
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the beauty of changing seasons in New England
This Week in History:
September 16, 2013 (8 years ago) A gunman killed 12 men and woman at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C.. The shooter was armed with a sawed-off shotgun and worked through Building 197 of the Navy Yard for an hour before being killed by law enforcement. President Barack Obama called for more gun control after the shooting, but no legislation was ever passed. Though some states have enacted stricter laws for gun ownership, the federal government has addressed only one gun related issue in recent year (2018) relating to "bump stacks."
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Dawn Adams is a member of the Immigration, Refugee and Asylum Task Team, and pastor of First Congregational Church of Brimfield, UCC (MA).