St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church

3800 East Third Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47401

(812) 332-5252


Meditation for Fourth Wednesday in Lent (March 9, 2016)

Liturgical Color: Purple

Reverend Colleen Montgomery


Marie Dentiere

Yesterday, March 8 was International Women's Day. A day that both celebrates how far the world has come in realizing and embracing the true giftedness of women and their accomplishments and a day that reminds us how far we have yet to go. The day and connected campaigns advocate for women's equality in all aspects of life including education, medical care, political voice and representation, job opportunities, and wages. After spending time reading about the life of Swiss reformer, Marie Dentiere, let me tell you that this is a holiday she would love to celebrate. In seemingly every aspect of her life, Marie taught, preached, and fought for women's equality as she understood it from her bible centered faith. She offered a female centric interpretation of scripture and advocated for women to realize the ways that God had blessed them with gifts for ministry and life in general.

Before jumping in to all the details about her life, I thought it might be helpful to quickly lay out how she is similar and different to the other fantastic reformers we have been learning about. Part review, part new.

Marie is similar to all our previous reformers in that she was influenced by the writings of Martin Luther. She is also specifically like Katarina von Bora because these writings persuaded her to leave the convent. Marie is similar to Argula, our mother and daughter team of Elizabeth's, and Katarina Zell because she was a published writer and stood firmly in her beliefs.

Marie's differences include: she was Swiss, not German or Scandinavian, she did not align with a particular Protestant camp-instead she described herself as an evangelical and Christian, and she had a unique focus on women's issues.

Of course there is much to learn about Marie but the two most important aspects of her work and faith are these two facts: Marie knew her Bible, and Marie wanted everybody to use their talents.

We'll start with how well she knew the bible.

Augustinian nun. Don't know her dates specifically because the biographic work on her is limited. As we'll learn later, many of her writings were purposefully destroyed and hidden from history.

She was educated - she knew Hebrew, taught some to her children and conversed with other women about the meaning of Hebrew in biblical passages. It appears, most of her convictions and arguments came from the bible.

Inspired and taught by the strong women of the bible She specifically cites the Samaritan woman by the well, Mary Magdalene, and Moses' mother has being particularly important to her confidence is God's call for her to preach. A woman who has an extended conversation with Jesus and is told about the living water, a woman who is as close to Jesus as one of the disciples, a woman who breaks the law the save the life of her son. These are just a few of the women Marie modeled her life and actions after.

More than following in the footsteps of these faithful witnesses, her most central belief was that the word of God brought hope. "Hope against hope". Believing that God still has the ability to act, bring relief of suffering, and work in the present time.

Marie believed that the bible called her to preach to the oppressed in the world, and the most oppressed people she saw were women.

She wanted others to know the bible too. Like Luther, she encouraged individuals to read the words of the bible in their own languages.

She offered particular encouragement to women. Of course many women were illiterate, but she fought for them to be educated.

Second, Marie wanted everyone to use their talents.

Hide it under a bushel, No! I'm going to let it shine

Some of her male counterparts believe in "spiritual equality before God" that meant God loved men and women the same, but that men got to be the bosses on earth. Marie sought for more than spiritual equality. She advocated for professional theological opportunities for women.

She used Luther's theological conviction of priesthood of all believers to justify that women were equally gifted by God and capable of serving God and serving others. Important to say that, Marie cannot be considered a completely modern feminist. She had pretty specific ideas of what women should be doing.

First on the list: not be a nun. She actively recruited women away from the convent. She said God did not care about celibacy, that it didn't matter, and that they should all go get married. Marriage was great.

She thought all women should be educated, get married, have kids, teach their kids. Those were gifted to be pastors, theologians should do that in addition to their family life.

She also was highly critical of Calvin, Luther, and she called them, the Jews and the Turks. Marie was very specific in her convictions and could not be described as having ecumenical, interfaith, or really even inclusive leanings. But as she would be the first to admit: no one is perfect. However, she brought an important women's centric voice into the Reformation and advocated for those she saw as oppressed.

One final note, Patriarchal leaders at the time did not want her to use her gifts. Her writings were actively suppressed, burned, and set aside. This meant the access was cut off for later theological interpretation. We will never know what theologians of the 1600s or 1700s might have made of Marie's work. Additionally, not as much biography work on her. The author was hopeful that her text would promote more research on Marie.

It feels so fitting to let Marie's words mark our celebration of International Women's Day and Lenten journey. Pray that you can take her encouragement to recognize anew God's gifts that are alive in you. Pray that you can take hold of these talents, confident that God will use them to bring grace into the world. Pray that you remember God will help you persevere whatever challenges come your way. Like Marie, also work to help other realize God's blessings in their lives and together work to bring the good news to the oppressed. Amen.

 

 

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