Sunday, November 16, 2014

SERMON:' INTO THE HAND OF A WOMAN' ... Judges 4:1-9, 17-23

  1. This ancient story of the importance of the feminine ironically comes out of the midst of the thoroughly patriarchal culture of ancient Israel. This sermon encourages you to view it as a model for the complete equality of women that in recent decades has become more conscious in our American culture. Or one can use some tools of Analytical Psychology to see this story symbolically describing every  man's need to find and integrate his inner feminine function. Since such an ancient story comes mostly out of the Collective Unconscious of a culture we can expect it to introduce themes that are timeless and relevant. In this vein the story demonstrates  male and feminine qualities as symbols of different aspects of every human's personality, no matter ones physical sexuality.
  1. This will be more of a Bible lesson than a sermon. I ask you to consider the story not as history but as symbolic of some basic characteristics of what it means to be most fully human. It means to have both male and feminine capacities. Jungian psychology specifically speaks of a man being more familiar with or conscious of his male function but hopefully, as he matures beyond midlife, finds and develops what would be considered as some of the more feminine qualities. The opposite of course is true for a woman. 

    Deborah, leader of men.
    3. The Bible is primarily writings produced under male or patriarchal influences, so in general it says little proportionately about women's lives and generally depicts women as  less important, less powerful, less reasonable , more weakly emotional etc than men. But since the Bible is also a product , I believe, of  the Collective Unconscious forces surfacing to consciousness, over all the Bible is bound  to 'show' to some extent the conclusion that men and women are of equal value, of equal need in the world. And are both able to develop both those qualities that have been eternally associated with  maleness and femaleness. For example,  through the ages some  female qualities are considered: tenderness, able to hold back rather than rush ahead, adjust to the moment, focus on relationship, able to build quality friendships, to cross artificial social  boundaries and to build families and culture. Where as qualities that are associated with maleness are being head strong, well developed reasoning capacity, the sex of  humanity most prone to act, pursue, penetrate, to build alliances and empires. Since this story comes from a male dominated culture we can correctly see, spiritually and psychologically, the women here, Deborah and Jael, as symbols of part of the male psyche; feminine forces and factors that probably before midlife are totally unconscious and unpracticed in conscious behavior. Or if you prefer you can also be seeing them as real women who have well developed both their feminine, but far more difficult, their inner males aspects. It is always a good thing when a flesh and blood man or woman is able to discover , integrate and use as a life resource their inner contra sexual function

I. Some background of  the O.T. image of God. War is historically a product of  male instinct. So it is here and throughout the O.T. War, an effort at overt dominance and oppression of others, was central to the culture in which Jesus lived. He rose up with his  more feminine like capacities to cry out against a totally unbalanced culture with the male aspects fully out of control, dominating and oppressing those with less power. It was his speaking out against this that resulted in Jesus being killed. Also notice the God image of Yahweh here, as is common in the O.T. , presents as an all male god which is acting out strong, often enraged, relationship destructive male attributes. He is jealous and possessive of Israel who he refers to as belonging to him. He also is deeply involved in unilaterally  setting up wars. He frequently  blames Israel for being totally unfaithful and accuses her of being an adulteress.(and he totally innocent of any of the failure)  With Yahweh there is no  room for a more realistic, considered, conscious  view that  maybe Israel did some things right, that they were trying to do the right thing at least some of the time. In his exaggerated male quality of seeking dominance and being right he puts total blame on the other party in any dispute. (Fortunately, there are places in the O.T. where the God image is pictured as feminine wisdom such as in Proverbs. There God is personified as wisdom and is given a female name Sophia. This was shown in the liturgy in last week's bulletin.)

II. Of interest, in the story, Barak confesses his need of a woman to help him do his work, even the work of war. We can see this symbolically as a man becoming aware of the need of his feminine aspect. Not taking  this  literally but symbolically and psychologically, it not primarily  real flesh and blood woman that he needs  but even more importantly he needs to find  his inner feminine function. World renowned psychiatrist and religious writer Carl  Jung called this living function the 'anima' and it can be thought of as the 'soul.' It comes in dreams and fantasies as a female personality.  When a man finds and integrates his anima  he finds and  becomes united with his own soul is the implication. With his feminine function more conscious Barak trusted he could have the kind of wisdom that is of a feminine quality. Its not enough to be tough and plow the enemy down. He needs to be also be clever and cunning, to be able to adapt as every situation changes. To be able to carefully  persuade rather than to  directly over power another person, a counter idea, or even a physical enemy. These become natural functions, as needed,  when the anima function is conscious and integrated more fully.
III. So he outright says,  I will take on this task but you Deborah , or  his inner feminine aspect , must be present for him to function at his very best. Deborah shows another feminine quality that all people need and that is faithfulness. 'Yes, I will go with you', she says ' But You need to realize Barak that when you invite the feminine along in your projects you may well not get the glory.' In real life the job will more likely be done better but it may not be you that gets the credit. So the man in search for his anima, his soul, must be humble enough to want the task  to be done whether or not he gets credit for it.  In fact she implies, ' If I go with you it will be a woman, whether outer or inner, who is the hero in this war.'  The  story is showing how desperately man spiritually needs to become conscious of his inner feminine function(and not simply keep projecting this onto outer real women) in order to accomplish the tasks of his fate. The male function alone is not sufficient for such wholeness. 

Jesus' Feminine Aspect Imaged.

It appears rather obvious in the many paintings of Jesus across centuries that the artist is ,usually unconsciously, picking up on Jesus' feminine aspect. More recently Jesus is painted as the 'strong hard male'(likely fearing he may appear too gay) only; but let's face it, it is the more delicate Jesus that has been the insistent primary image of him for people for 2000 years. The opposite developmental task, described through Analytical Psychology, is true of a woman. Her task is to integrate the more 'male' considered capacities without losing her central feminine nature.(that is a danger in both of these processes) Deborah and Jael  are images of such women. They are still very much feminine but also strong, decisive and able, if need be, to drive a tent peg through the abuser's skull.

IV. Well it seems that God Yahweh has another plan that is not quite so brutish as the one he announced earlier(Judges 4:1-2.)  And he expresses this through the feminine. Instead of God owning a feminine side, so very needed,  which I think we see happening in the personality of Jesus he uses a human woman to explain this plan to the men involved. She emphatically tells Barak that he should take all the forces he can find and go up on Mt Tabor. For there is where the enemy King Jabin will have his general Sisera to have 10k soldiers with a vast array of arms to assemble. There Barak will be able to take the enemy by surprise and crush them. Here we see a woman who has integrated inner male qualities and can have a will of steel and compete in the mens war as effectively , probably better, than most men. So it happens this way in the story.

 V. The end of the story is the the enemy general abandoned his horse and chariot and walked toward home. Exhausted from battle he invited himself into the home of fa Hebrew couple. The wife Jael, in her woman's intuition, recognized him as the oppressor of her people for two decades. She invited him in and here is the story...4:18-21. She used her feminine capacities to hold back, to anticipate, to lure …. and at the right moment she strikes the enemy with deadly force. And so it was as Deborah said, ' The Lord shall give the victory today into the hands of a woman.' 
Conclusion : The story of the feminine aspect of men would not be complete without music. I grew up in football country where a boy would likely be called a sissy if he wanted to play an instrument or be in the band. I imagine this culture was a lot like that and thought of only women being music creators and singers. So this story of the feminine ends with a long song called the Song of Deborah. Judges 5.  It praises Deborah for providing wise judgment for her people, for her wisdom and prudence. And for her courage and seriousness for even war if it came to that. So whether you want to take this symbolic story as being a reminder of the strength of women to participate in the fullness of life along side of men or even the deeper meaning that it shows the reality and healthy goal of a man, as he moves through life, being able to find and integrate and live out of his inner feminine as well as his outer male attributes.

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