Since mid-2019, New Churchwomen in Australia have taken to gathering for women’s weekends twice a year, in person when feasible and virtually when not. This is adapted from a session I presented at our April ‘22 weekend, just as applicable to this audience as to that.
When I think about our women’s weekends, I think about our group of ladies coming together, from various corners of the country (or world!), from various generations and various walks of life, and I think about the bonds we form, a sort of sisterhood, despite the lack of any blood ties.
Thinking about sisters in the Word, not many sister-sister relations come to mind. There are a number of sisters of men mentioned – Moses and Aaron’s sister Miriam, Absalom & Amnon’s sister Tamar, Laban’s sister Rebekah (Isaac’s wife) and King Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba are the prominent ones. The only two sister-sister relationships that I thought of are Mary & Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, and Rachel & Leah, Jacob’s wives.
Mary & Martha are most well known for their interaction with Jesus when He visited them in their home: Martha spent time getting things ready for the Lord, while Mary didn’t seem to do anything except sit down at the Lord’s feet and listen to Him. Martha complained and Jesus chided her, saying that what Mary was doing was very important and that she must be left alone to do it. (Luke 10 / John 12)
Rachel & Leah are the women that Jacob worked seven years apiece for; Rachel was the one he loved, Leah was the one that he was offered in marriage first. We’re told that Leah’s eyes were weak, and Rachel was beautiful. (Genesis 29)
That’s all well and good, but what do sisters represent? What’s their spiritual role in these stories, in our lives? Often ‘sisters’ are mentioned together with ‘brothers’, in the Word, and we can learn from the Writings for the New Church that they both mean affections – brothers affections for good, sisters for truth. (Arcana Coelestia 3160) We can see this illustrated in the story of Leah & Rachel, for example, where Leah – whom Jacob married first – corresponds to affection for external truth, which we need first, and Rachel – whom Jacob wanted most but married second – to affection for internal truth, which we develop after we’ve mastered external truths. Elsewhere in the Word, ‘sisters’ signify intellectual truth (Arcana Coelestia 1495), such as when Abram passed off his wife, Sarai, as his sister in Egypt (Genesis 12). An example of where brothers & sisters go together is in the gospel of Mark, when Jesus says, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).
We learn in Secrets of Heaven that ‘[The term] “Sisters and brothers” was used by the Lord [to refer to] those who hear the Word and act on it (Luke 8:21); the “hearers” are those who have faith, the “doers” those who have charity.’ (Secrets of Heaven 367, emphasis added) Notice the connection, the hearers being those who have faith, i.e. truth, i.e. what we learned about about sisters corresponding to an affection for truth, and the doers being those who have charity, i.e. good, i.e. what we learned about brothers corresponding to an affection for good. Even more poignantly, though, we read that, ‘in the church of the non-Jews, or the early [Christian] church, they all called each other “sister” or “brother,” because of the charity among them.’ (ibid) The explanation of this passage tells us that ‘the term translated here as “brothers and sisters”… is fratres, which can apply collectively to siblings of either gender, and which also applies to people unrelated except by their common humanity.’ (Commentary on Secrets of Heaven 367 by LHC, emphasis added)
This is where the rubber meets the road, for me: this weekend – and this blog, for that matter – is about the sisterhood that we share on account of our common humanity. We gather as women of faith, thirsting for truth, eager to share the Lord’s love with others through the charitable acts that we do. Welcome to our sisterhood.