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You are not sugar and spice

You are not sugar and spice

by Jeff W. Fisher


I am not sure that children learn nursery rhymes much anymore.
Yet I learned quite a few nursery rhymes when I was a young boy.
And one of these little rhymes, written in the 1800s, describes the differences between little boys and little girls.
This rhyme describes girls like this:

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice.
That’s what little girls are made of.

As some of you might know, I am pretty proud of my Texas heritage, as a sixth generation native Texan.
I am also proud of my heritage – in that I am the offspring of a long line – of salty women.

And back in the 1920s, my great grandmother was ahead of her time.
Grandma Ida, as I called her, was my great grandmother.
And Grandma Ida’s husband was (as family members whispered) – a womanizer.

So in 1923, my great grandmother divorced her husband – in 1923, folks.
And, in the 1920s, Grandma Ida went on to become a businesswoman in her own right.

Then, in 1925, my grandmother got married, two years after the divorce of her parents.
And my grandmother made an amazing and salty decision about her wedding.
When my grandmother got my married, she decided not to be walked down the aisle – by her father.
My grandmother, in 1925, was walked down the aisle – by her mother.

Jesus proclaims:
“You are the salt of the earth.”

And my Grandma Ida and my grandmother, they were not described as sugar and spice and everything nice.
They were women – who were the salt of the earth.

And this weekend, you are gathered here as women.
And as women who are followers of Jesus Christ, you are not described by Jesus as sugar and spice and everything nice.
As followers of Jesus Christ, you are the salt of the earth.

Today, October 15, is the feast day of the saint, Teresa of Avila.
Teresa lived in the 1500s in Spain.
Teresa reformed monastic life, even going against the orders of the all-male hierarchy in the Church.
Teresa single-handedly established 17 convents, going to prison to “punish her” for her efforts.

One of Teresa’s spiritual heroes was:
Mary Magdalene, the same Mary Magdalene who was the very first witness to the Resurrection of Jesus.
Teresa of Avila was a follower of Jesus Christ – whom I would not describe as sugar and spice and everything nice.
Teresa of Avila was – the salt of the earth.

Now, my sisters, can we get real here?
That little nursery rhyme that originated in the 1800s might seem harmless and cute.
Yet, my eyes are being opened to this observation:
Telling women and girls that they are to just be sugar and spice and everything nice –
Is an admonition, a warning, for you to keep your mouth shut and to not get out of line.
Telling women and girls that they are to just be sugar and spice and everything nice –
Can force you to remain silent and to not rock the boat.

And my eyes are also being opened to this observation:
For almost 2000 years, the Church has tried to silence the voices of women, including Teresa of Avila, who rock the boat.
In fact, this is why, many years ago, that women in our church organized into the Episcopal Church Women – because men silenced your voices and did not want you to fully be the salt of the earth.
In our own beloved Episcopal Church, it wasn’t that long ago that women and girls could not serve as an acolyte or as a vestryperson or as a deacon or as a priest or as a bishop.
Yet even though we Episcopalians have officially opened many doors, still in our own Church, and in other branches of the Christianity, misogyny, the devaluation of women, still runs rampant.

And in this last week, I have become sick to my stomach, sickened, by the depths of misogyny, the devaluation of women, that run so deep, deep in our world.

Mary Magdalene was a hero to Teresa of Avila.
And Jesus was so smart in his resurrection.
Because Jesus chose to reveal his resurrection – first to a woman, to Mary Magdalene.
And then when Mary announced the good news to the men, the men did not believe her.

And even today, when women tell stories of their abuse, of their societally-imposed silence, of their groping, of their shame, of their assault – the men do not believe them.
Yet various studies have shown, that statistically, only between 2 to 10% of rape accusations are false.
Which means that 90 to 98% of the stories are true.
Which means that women tell the truth.
Women tell the truth about the resurrection.
Women tell the truth about their assault and pain.
Women are the salt of the earth.

Now, I don’t want you all to go away from here thinking that I have some sort of political agenda.
For in the past, for many years, I have been disgusted by the sexual affairs and predatory practices of all kinds of former politicians and leaders, all of whom are male.
This year, I have been disgusted about the sexual assaults of women at Baylor University, and the all-mighty power of all-male football to cover it up.
Many, many times, I have felt embarrassed and disgusted by my half of the species.

And in this last week, I have been disgusted and upset about the video on the bus.
I have felt sick to my stomach.
I will say – that this last week for me – was the final straw.
And preaching to a room full of women this morning, I am convicted – that I cannot remain silent in this pulpit.
Because, as a man, if I remain silent, then I am just as bad as Billy Bush on that bus, laughing and brushing off sexual assault.

Because, as a man, Jesus doesn’t describe me as sugar and spice and everything nice either.
Jesus calls me the salt of the earth too.

And Jesus is the only one, the only person, who can save us.
Jesus is the only one who can heal us from our disease of continuing, continuing to devalue and objectify other human beings.
Jesus is the only one who can heal men, some of whom must feel so unloved that they continue to feel threatened by a woman as their equal.
Jesus is the only one who can heal women, some of whom feel so unloved and unworthy because they have been violated or shamed.

I am not preaching here as a Republican or a Democrat, or even as an American.
I am preaching as a Christian, a Christian who believes and hopes that Jesus will continue to heal us, healing our wounds of division and hatred and violence.
I am a Christian, a Christian who believes that Jesus wants – to heal us.


This afternoon, at 4pm, the Rev. Cynthia Caruso will offer an optional prayer service of healing.
Maybe some of my words today – or maybe current events – have unearthed past or present experiences for you, painful experiences when you have been devalued or objectified because you are a woman, or for any other reason.
If you wish for Jesus to be invited into your healing process, then please avail yourself of that healing service this afternoon.

Because one of the reasons that you are gathered here this weekend, is to come together as women – and to feel free and safe to share your stories:
Stories about that guy who went too far with his hands.
Stories about that boss who never paid you the same salary as that of the family man.
Stories about that husband who calls you stupid, and maybe much more.

You are gathered here as women, to hear salty stories:
About Mary Magdalene, who shouted good news beside the empty tomb, while the men called her a liar.
About Teresa of Avila, who planted 17 convents, against the orders of the all-male hierarchy.
About Grandma Ida, who divorced her husband and walked her daughter down the aisle in 1925.
About honored women, who are salty followers of Jesus.
About courageous women, who say:
“Enough: this is the final straw.”

You are not sugar and spice and everything nice.
You are the salt of the earth.


The Rt Rev Jeff W. Fisher is Bishop Suffragan in the diocese of Texas, this is a sermon he offered at the Annual Retreat for Women at
Camp Allen, Texas


image: Many strong and beautiful women by Kiki Suarez


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Leslie Marshall

When I was 6 yrs old, I always liked the first part of the nursery rhyme (What are little boys made of?)..

“….snigs & snails and puppy dog tails…”

At that age, it was confirmation for me, what it was like to have all brothers!

Linda McMillan

Agreed… Enough with the men talking. I don’t need anymore of that. Honestly.

Ann Fontaine

Could use a trigger warning for the photo in the story.
And yes to your comment Nancy. This does not really help — I don’t want more men commenting – just be quiet and listen to us. And stop.

David Allen

Wasn’t the bishop invited to the conference?

Women on FB have a very positive response, especially those who were there.

Yes, the hand-on-knee photo does invoke triggers. I have experienced that as well! Many young men & boys are subjected to that.

Nancy Aubitz Hunter

I’m sitting in my favorite restaurant in Concord, NC. I am in tears. I am angry. I’m am the salty broad who has felt diminished, and dismissed, and emotionality violated; abused by men in higher positions who did not want to recognize my contributions. I have had enough…

Dixie Allen

So thought provoking and profound. I am so glad my sisters were with me to hear this sermon. I can remember when I was growing up hearing, “boys will be boys,” and never making the connection until I joined the workforce. We must raise our girls to be salty. We must also raise our boys to be respectful and responsible to the girls in their lives.

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