Welcome to Wading in the Waters of the Word™ with A Women’s Lectionary

Gentle Readers, Followers, Preachers, Pray-ers, Thinkers and Visitors, Welcome!

Welcome to this space where you can share your worship – liturgy and preaching – preparations – using  A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church. We begin in Advent 2021 with Year W, a single, standalone Lectionary volume that includes readings from all four Gospels. (We will continue with Year A in Advent 2022 to align with the broader Church.) In advance of each week, I will start the conversation and set the space for you all. I will come through time to time, but this is your space. Welcome!

Media Resources

A Women’s Lectionary For The Whole Church

Session 1, October 16, 2021
Rev. Wil Gafney, PhD at Myers Park Baptist Church

Plenary 1 | Translating Women Back Into Scripture for A #WomensLectionary
This session introduces participants to frequently unexamined aspects of biblical translation in commonly available bibles and the intentional choices made in “A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church.”

A Women’s Lectionary For The Whole Church

Session 2, October 16, 2021
Rev. Wil Gafney, PhD at Myers Park Baptist Church

Plenary 2 | Reading Women in Scripture for Preaching, Study, and Devotion
This session provides an overview of “A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church,” its genesis, production, and content. There is also an in-depth exploration of specific passages appointed for specific days including time for public and private reading and discussion.

Lectionary Lectio

Click the Comment links to add to the conversation

Jesus, Jeremiah and Joan of Arc


Let us pray: In the Name of the Author, the Word and the Translator. Amen.

I’m not who you think I am. You celebrate me now. But I remember when you didn’t. I know where I came from and you never let me forget it. I hear my family’s shame every time you call my name: Jeremiah ben Hilkiah of Anathoth.   

It’s not my fault my ancestors chose the losing side. Adonijah ben David, David’s boy, was a fine strapping prince of a man. And with David lying impotent on his deathbed, and I do mean impotent – there was that pretty girl they brought him in hopes of stirring something up who left unmolested. As David lay there not having designated an heir, Adonijah declared himself king and my ancestor Abiathar the high priest backed his play. Then Bathsheba walked into the room with the kind of dignity that cannot be taught but only lived and told David that he had named her son Solomon as his successor, but there was no record of that. And then the prophet Nathan came in as they had prearranged and said the same thing. Everyone could see it was a set-up, everyone but David.

So, Adonijah went down and took my ancestors with him, they were exiled to Anathoth – I guess it was better than execution. But Anathoth? You know Anathoth. No one does. But back then, everyone knew it was in Benjamin, bad news Benjamin. Benjamin, the home of the failed king Saul. Benjamin, the site of an unspeakable crime against a Levite’s wife. Benjamin, where the first Israelite civil war that turned brother against brother was fought. Benjamin who was almost wiped off the map. Benjamin who turned to trafficking women and kidnapping girls – sometimes their own relatives – to breed themselves back into existence. That’s where I’m from. It’s all there in the very first line of my memoir: The words of Jeremiah ben Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. If you know how to read in the gaps and between the lines and behind the text, it’s all there. My time traveling friend, Dr. Gafney, says that a text without a context is a pre-text. So I thought I should remind you who I am, who my people are as you say down here, and what my first readers and hearers and knew about me and my story and, why the folk in my time treated me the way they did. So you understand why I am still preaching the same sermon, to you all here today.

I was like Joan of Arc, while I was alive I was treated like a false prophet and even put on death row. Unlike Saint Joan, I survived. But only because one of the elders said that there was a real prophet named Micah who had the same critique of Jerusalem and its shining temple as I did. That wasn’t even the only time I was put in jail. Or the only time I was beaten. I couldn’t even go to my grave in peace. I was kidnapped by the very people who did not receive me as their prophet and taken to Egypt where I died. Some say I was martyred there. Those are stories for another day. After my death, like Joan of Arc, they pretty much made me a saint and published fifty-two chapters of my memoire.

Like Joan, while I was preaching, I was essentially a country bumpkin with dreams of making it big in the big city. I even told God once that I didn’t want to prophesy to poor people; I didn’t think they even knew the teachings of God – it never occurred to me to teach them. But with the boldness and brashness of youth I told God to send me to rich people. That I thought wealth and wisdom went together tells you something about how desperately poor I must’ve been in my youth.

I said, “These are only the poor, they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Holy One of Old,
the Torah, the teaching, of their God.
Let me go to the rich, the great, and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Holy One of Old,
the Torah, the teaching, of their God.” (Jer. 5:4-5)

I went to Jerusalem, the big city, full of vim and vigor with my fresh calling and the promise of God to speak through my lips and my less than prestigious seminary degree and, I realized they had all gone astray, rich and poor, great and small alike. I preached in the city gates because they wouldn’t let someone like me, with my pedigree, anywhere near the temple. But the temple, oh! It was the grandest thing I had ever seen. It soared into the sky until it touched the very foundation of heaven. It was trimmed with more gold than I had ever seen in my life. And the entire population of my small town was walking in and out of its gates and colonnades and praying in its courtyards.

And the priests whose ancestor Zadok backed Solomon never gave me so much as a passing glance even though I was a priest too. I was from the wrong side of the tracks. And everybody knew it. I couldn’t even read and write. But I had a special friend, his name was Baruch and he wrote everything down for me. They always let him in the gates. (Jer. 36:4-18)  One time, he took my best sermon in and got an audience with the king and the king burned the entire first draft of my book. (Jer. 36:22-26) Then they tried to arrest me, again. God got me out that time. But that is another story.

God called me to Jerusalem but not to be invited to serve at the temple, God called me to preach against the temple and Jerusalem. People thought I was just being petty because of my background. They didn’t take me seriously, they didn’t understand. God had told me that Jerusalem, where God had once promised that their unspeakable Name would dwell forever, would fall because of the rottenness within. So I got as close as they would let me and I preached the words you heard today:

For if you all truly reform your ways and your doings, if you all truly do what is just between one person and another, if you all do not oppress the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, or pour out innocent blood in this place…then I will dwell with you all in this place…

When I first preached those words like most of my people, I believed that there was only one place in which God would dwell. That place has become a battlefield. It has never known any peace longer than the forty years of rest the warrior-prophet Deborah won for it 600 years before my time.

From the moment God drew the land out of the waters of her womb and assigned guardianship and stewardship to the creatures she crafted out of it, the land was always and ever only a sacred trust, the obligation to care for it was the inheritance. But somewhere along the way people began to think of the land as God’s gift for them and only them, no matter who was already living in it. That’s why I preached, “Do not trust in them, these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Holy One, the temple of the Holy One, the temple of the Holy One.” Don’t imagine that this temple will always stand or that it is even the only place in which God may be found.

But they didn’t listen. And, Judah fell. The temple was ravished. And the people, my people, they were also ravished in every way. It was a bloodbath. Not even children were spared. And people argued theology, not as an academic exercise but as a way of understanding the world into which they had been thrust. Where was God? How could she let this happen? Is it really true that if bad things happen to you it’s because you deserve it? That is what the old preachers used to say, but I’m not so sure about that. Having seen the desecration of war I know that no one deserves the horrors that war brings to an entire people even if there are those within the midst who are guilty of atrocity themselves.

Dr. Gafney asked me to tell you my story because it’s not too late for you. For some of you, America is a temple that will never fall. You sing, “God bless America,” and trust that your wealth and military might, your vote and your democracy, will protect you and the American way will endure forever – and let’s be clear, some of it needs to fall. But God’s prophets are still preaching the same message: do not oppress the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, or pour out innocent blood in this place.

Yet do you pour out the blood of innocents, daily. With your idolization of handguns and unequal access to healthcare and weaponization of food and famine you are no better than the Babylonians or the Assyrians. You are your own enslaving empire, trapping people in poverty and prosecuting them to death when they lash out in rage and frustration.

You build walls instead of welcome centers and on this Earth Day, pollute rivers with barbed wire and concrete, letting people die, letting children drown, rather than cross to safety, the dubious and insecure safety of the American empire built on stolen land, on the bones of the Coahuiltecans and Karankawa of the Rio Grande Valley, by the blood, sweat and tears of stolen people and the immigrants who followed them. What are you protecting? Nothing you have belongs to you. You did not create a single ray of sunshine or drop of petroleum. You did not endow yourself or your species with the competency to invent the combustion engine or the iPhone. This land is not yours! You are stewards. And the God who seeks to dwell with you in this place shall surely come for an accounting of your stewardship.

The promise God spoke through me to Jerusalem is still binding on anyone who enters the gates of any sanctuary to worship God, who by their action or inaction oppresses the widow, orphan or poor. My people were a perpetually oppressed people – except when we oppressed other peoples and sometimes we oppressed our own folk over petty distinctions and divisions, always seeking an “us” and a “them.” Our scriptures were texts of resistance to oppression; that’s why they still speak across the ages, because neither God nor humanity has changed.

We had an entire vocabulary of oppression. We had more than a dozen different words to describe the ways in which we were oppressed and oppressed each other. Today I am talking about economic oppression. That is what I was preaching about in this sermon almost 2500 years ago. Today there are more temples of different kinds soaring into the heavens and there are even more schemes to defraud the poor, keep the vulnerable vulnerable and the marginalized on the margins.

My people were so mired in structural patriarchy that they could not see that they created the very systems of indebtedness and insecurity that made widowhood a virtual death sentence. Yes there were women who survived patriarchy or carved out a life that was not subject to it, but only a few like Delilah and Judith rode off into the sunset with their lives in their own hands. God knows most widows and single mothers and grandparents raising their grandkids don’t have it like that.

In this Black Maternal Healthcare Month, we need to be reminded that, as the psalmist – who was most definitely not David said: God is Mother of orphans and defender of widows. (Psalm 68:4 (5)) Well, the manuscripts say “father” but since Job taught us that the only reproductive organ that God has in the scriptures is a womb (Job 38:8, 29), we will cut Dr. Gafney a little slack with her translation. The point is that God is invested in the wellbeing of women, particularly those who do not have what they need to make it in this world, to survive, thrive and flourish – [and that is not a man. Y’all are not back in the Iron Age with me, why are your social and sexual politics and theology so prehistoric?]

In my time an orphan was a fatherless child because of how nearly impossible it was for a woman to provide for herself and her children without a man. But today you have orphans who have both parents living. You have children and teens who are orphaned by parents and churches and school boards who don’t respect the plurality and transformational promise of their precious lives. Queer kids are bullied to death, denied healthcare or even the medical necessity of a bathroom, left to fend for themselves against idol worshiping politicians bringing the full might of this evil empire down on their sanctified heads. They who in some ways most closely reflect God’s first human creation, full of potentiality, containing the full rainbow prism of transformational possibility in one flesh.

But there was a man from Galilee who said, “I shall not leave you orphaned.” (John 14:22) Jesus is God come to dwell with us, the promise of God fulfilled. Jesus is the love of God incarnate. Jesus is the justice of God made manifest through the injustice of the cross. Empires will fall and the Church may fail but Jesus will save the oppressed and the oppressor, if you all truly reform your ways. Amen.

4 Easter Year C, A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, Earth Day

Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta

Jeremiah 7:1–7; Psalm 68:4–11; 1 Timothy 5:1–4, 8; John 14:18–24

The King Is Dead All Hail the Queen

A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church Year A

Proper 25: 1 Kings 1:1–5, 11–18, 29–31; Psalm 61; James 5:1–6; Matthew 6:19–27


Sermon begins at 46 minutes

Let us pray:

My prayer is Miriam’s prayer,
Mother Mary’s prayer – Let it be.
Let it be with your woman-servant
according to your word.
With these words
the word of God was formed
in the woman of God.
On this day, as on that day,
let the daughter of God
bring forth the Word of God again. Amen.

The King Is Dead. All Hail the Queen. All that most people seem to remember about Bathsheba is the worst day of her life, maybe the worst few days: the day David raped her, the day David killed her husband, the day she realized she would have to marry her rapist, the day the baby David raped into her died as his punishment for his sin against her husband and against God. That it was rape and not adultery as the victim blamers say is clear from the fact that David sent men to abduct her and she could not say no to the king’s men or the king and, when the prophet Nathan rebuked David, God speaking through him, there was no accompanying rebuke for or punishment of Bathsheba and the Scriptures have never failed to convict and condemn a woman for sexual sin.

There is a beloved Psalm where David confesses his sin against God and God alone. Psalm 51 begins with the words: To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. But long-standing Christian practice has been to excise the first verse and treat it as a title, apart from the rest of the song. Many churches pray Psalm 51 on Ash Wednesday and throughout the period of Lent without the recognition that they are praying the confession of a rapist who does not acknowledge his sin was as much against the woman he raped as it was against her husband, whose honor he violated and, God whose law and trust he broke. No cultural or contextual consideration excuses decentering and disembodying Bathsheba in the world of the text or, in ours.

No one in the text acknowledges David’s sin against her. He uses her body and the text and Christian and Jewish tradition use the story of her rape and then they discard her, as David did, until he could not. I don’t know how she did it, how she survived her assault, her widowhood and with the turning of her world upside down, her lack of good options and the choice — if it was a choice at all – to go publicly to the palace and beg attendant after official after attendant for access to see the man who raped her and destroyed her family in hopes that he would provide for her financially and keep a roof over her head. I do not judge her choices; I do not judge the choices of any survivor. It seems to me she made up her mind to have the best life she could under the circumstances. In my sanctified imagination, I hear her saying to David, “You are not going to shut me away like you did your first wife Michal. You stole the life I had with my husband. You stole our future and you stole our children. I can’t get that back but I can have your children and the security that comes with them. It’s good to be king and I will be the mother of kings.”

I don’t know if she really said that, but I have to imagine something because she keeps living and sleeping with David, having his babies – four of them – in spite of everything that he has done to her and her husband. She stayed in that marriage like so many women married to a monster with no place to go. Now, I’m not saying that women who are being abused or even raped by their husbands should stay with them. In this Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, I am simply acknowledging that she like so many other women in our world, had no other choice. Like so very many women, some of whom we may know intimately, Bathsheba made the best life she could out of the situation.

In so doing she changed the course of history. Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan decide between them, with an old, then-impotent David at the end of his life, that her son Solomon and not David’s oldest son Amnon or even his favorite son, Absalom, will be king. Her boy, Solomon would be king. Bathsheba put her son on the throne. And after David died, Solomon put her on a throne. The King Is Dead. All Hail the Queen!

For the most part ancient Israel didn’t have queens. They had queen mothers but, only in Judah. Thus the woman with the queenly title was never the wife of the king on the throne and she only rose to that status when and if her son became king. Sometimes when the death of a king left a young child as the new king the queen mother was not just the power behind the throne, she was the power of the throne. The King Is Dead. All Hail the Queen!

In 2 Kings 2, Solomon enthrones his long-suffering mother who has survived her rape, her rapist and their forced marriage. Bathsheba became the right-hand woman in the kingdom. And when Solomon got up off of his throne and bowed at her feet, everyone else in the throne room did too.

We have no idea how old Solomon is when he becomes king. The rabbinic fathers Rashi and Radak make a strong argument for him being twelve. He would have been seen as old enough to take the throne but still in need of guidance. And Bathsheba the Queen Mother was there, right at his side, at his right hand, as his right hand woman, serving as his queen mother – it was an actual job and later the Assyrians and Babylonians would look to take the queen mother hostage because of her high value.

A final word about David that often gets neglected. God’s love and forgiveness did not erase the consequences of his actions. He passed his objectification of women on to his son Solomon who collected women like trophies. He passed his lack of respect for women and our bodies and our right to consent to what happens to our bodies to his son Amnon who raped his sister Tamar. David passes his bloodlust and hunger for power to his son Adonijah who tried to murder his own father for the throne and, in spite of having killed his brother to avenge his sister’s rape, he raped David’s wives to show he was more man than his daddy. This too is David’s legacy. Game of Thrones has nothing on David’s Dynasty.

The world will tell you, “It’s good to be King; it’s good to have bling.” The stories of the kings of Israel and Judah and their queen mothers tell the same story, monarchy is a ravenous bloodthirsty paradigm. It is no fit model for the church or God’s heaven. Jesus tried to tell us. They tried to make him king and he ran away. They asked him to restore the monarchy of Israel last ruled independently by Queen Salome Alexandria called Shalom Zion, the Peace of Zion, and Jesus told them his majesty was so different from the kingdoms of the world that it would be unrecognizable to them even when it was among them. The only thing his majesty would have in common with the kingdoms of the world was that his crown too would be drenched in blood and death.

It is good to be king. But Jesus didn’t want to be king. He knew that there was nothing romantic about being king. Many monarchs, kings, some queens and pharaohs – female and male – were bloodthirsty, power-hungry, egomaniacal and rapists. David and Solomon represented the golden age of Israelite monarchy and Jesus didn’t want to be anything like them. David and Solomon collected women for their own personal use. Jesus collected and respected women as disciples like Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles, Salome, Johanna and so many women named after the prophet Miriam that no one can tell all of the Marys apart.

Kings take. But Jesus gives. A king will take your sister, wife or daughter and desecrate her. But Jesus gives women dignity. A king will take and tax your crops. But Jesus gives the Bread of Heaven and food to the hungry. A king will take your life if you get in his way, but Jesus gives eternal life.

They called him Jesus. They called him a threat to Herod’s throne. They called him fatherless; this is what means in Mark (6:3) when they call him the son of Mary – that was the same as saying you ain’t got no daddy and neither you or your mama even know who your daddy is. They called him the one the devil couldn’t deceive or seduce. They called him master and teacher and rabbi. They called him a healer and a miracle worker. They called him Messiah, the Christ of God, the King of Israel and the Son of the living God. They called him a threat to the empire and to Caesar’s claim of godhood.

They called him soft on crime like adultery. They called him a socialist calling for the redistribution of wealth – fishes and loaves, coats and cloaks. They called him a womanizer with lowbrow taste in even lower women. They called him a glutton and a drunk, and not just guilty by association. They called him a thug who ran with thugs, some of his boys were quick to cut you and have you leaving with fewer parts than you came with, but he could fix that up too. They called him ignorant – six days a week you can heal folk but since you obviously don’t know how sabbath works let me tell you why can’t do any healing up in here on today. They called him everything but a child of God. They called him out his name. But they also called him by David’s name, Jesus, the Son of David. If Jesus is the son of David, then he is every bit as much of the son of Bathsheba.

David is the one who breaks women. Jesus is the one who restores broken women. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba. I just don’t see Jesus walking in the ways of dirty David. David was a man who sinned like they vote in Chicago, early and often. Yet Jesus was without sin. I don’t see any David in him at all. But I do see his great great great GiGi Bathsheba all over him.

There was more than a little Bathsheba in Jesus because there was more than a little Bathsheba in his mama. Like Bathsheba, Mother Mary was pregnant outside of the bounds of convention. I have no doubt Jesus grew up hearing his mama’s name in folk’s mouth and I’m sure Solomon did too. And if folk in Jesus’s day were like folk today, somebody traced his whole family tree pointing out all the scandalous women in it: Tamar Perez’s mama? Chile, I heard she dressed up like a streetwalker and has sex with her father-in-law. Girl, naw. They say it was ok back in those days, but ionno. And then there was Rahab. Hmph. They say she was an innkeeper. Girl, you know that’s code. She was sellin’ it. And Ruth? A foreigner. How you gon’ have someone with foreign blood sitting up on the throne? Girl, that whole family tree a hot mess. And his mama tal’mbout a miraculous pregnancy. Girl, just say you got you some.

Jesus is set up to love everybody and anybody. Jesus knows who you are and where you came from, because he came from some trash too. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba.

I see Bathsheba when I look at Jesus. I see her in his love for scandalous and scandalized women, abused women, hurt women, broken women, abandoned women. I see her in his love for no count men too. I won’t say Bathsheba loved David or even forgave him, but she lived as his wife and birthed his babies, bestowing a grace on him that he did not merit. Ain’t that just like God? She took the broken pieces of her life and her own body and raised herself to new life with her head lifted high. Even though the text doesn’t use the word, I’m going to take the liberty to say Bathsheba loved their son Solomon, and wisdom prayer or not, he was out there chasing tail just like his daddy, burning through money like it was paper and leaving such anger in his wake that the kingdom wouldn’t survive him. Bathsheba sat on his right-hand side as his chief advisor after he had her enthroned, reigning with him and counseling him. That sounds like Jesus to me and like any good Black mama, or I should say, in Bathsheba’s world, any good Afro-Asiatic mother, standing by you no matter what you do, no matter how far from their teaching and example you stray.

I see Bathsheba in Jesus. Like Jesus, Bathsheba was sinned against. Her body was broken open and made the occasion of David’s sin. Jesus’s broken body that knew no sin was made sin that we might be made the righteousness of God. But don’t get it twisted, the fact that the world got Solomon and even Jesus out of David’s sexual violence doesn’t make it all right. Let me say right now that the ends do not justify the means in God’s sight. God can redeem and transform any situation and take someone’s evil and use it for good but, God doesn’t need our filthy iniquitous contributions to bring her plans to fruition. This is the same God who inhaled nothingness and exhaled creation with a word on her tongue. God didn’t need David’s nastiness. But she took it and him and made something out of nothing.

This God is the real God. This God who did not forsake Bathsheba though the half of her story has never been told. This God who will never forsake you no matter what has been done to you or your body, or even what you have done. This God who loved and forgave David and took him back when I would have gone another way. If God could save David from himself, God can save anybody.

This God is the God that Mary of Nazareth, the Theotokas, the God-Bearer, of the line of Bathsheba births into the earth in Jesus. This God incarnate who loves in word and in deed. This God who saves, heals, delivers, and redeems. This God enfleshed in a virgin’s womb. This God, born between spit and shit. This God in human flesh who lived and loved and cried and died. This God who was both fatally human and immortal, invisible, the only wise God. This God who is mother and father, the shepherd who searches for lost sheep and the mama-sista homeowner sweeping the corners for lost souls more precious than money. This God put on human flesh, manflesh, and never took advantage of a sister’s hurt and brokenness. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba.

My ancestors called him the bright and morning star. They called him heart fixer and mind regulator. They called him a lawyer in a courtroom and a doctor in a sickroom. They called him a burden bearer and heavy load sharer. Jesus is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty; a friend to the friendless. They called him food in the desert and a rock in a weary land. They even called him a mother to the motherless and father to the fatherless. They called him the Lion of the tribe of Judah. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba. He’s my joy in sorrow, my hope for tomorrow. My fire by night and my cloud by day.

Folk called called him an insurrectionist; I call him a guerilla theologian. They called him incarcerated; I call him the Incarnation. They called him a felon; I call him beloved of his Father. They called him a crucified criminal; I call him the Christ of God. They called him dead and buried. I called to check on him and he was still dead the next day. But I called to check on him one more time. They still called him dead and buried, over and done and soon to be forgotten; but I called to check on him once more and again. And now I call him the quake that shook the earth. I called early in the morning, just before the break of dawn. I called and he answered. They called him dead and buried; but I call him the death of death. They called him a broken promise and wasted hope. But I call him a promise keeper and the hope of the resurrection. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba. This is a God worth knowing. Who wouldn’t serve a God like this?

May God the Mother and Father
of Avraham, Yitza’ak and Ya’acov,
Sarah, Hagar, Rivqah, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah,
Who took the tangled threads of their lives
And wove a tapestry of Redemption
In the Body and Blood of Miryam l’Natzeret
Continue to weave the strands of your life
In the Divine design. Amen.