October 25, 2019
Scripture: Luke 24:10
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.
Thought for the Day: N.T. Wright is an interesting Christian scholar, and though I disagree with him on a few topics, I find him to be an exceptional conversation partner (as I read his books). Wright would fit in a more conservative theological world than my own, yet in a recent interview he spoke about the women coming to the tomb of Jesus and he suggested that within the first century culture having “the prime witnesses to the most important event in the whole story be women is so counter intuitive.” Wright went on to say that as a historian, “That no one would ever make up that story.” It is important for us in the 21st century to acknowledge how “counter intuitive” or even crazy it would be for a storyteller in the first century to suggest women as the first proclaimers of the resurrection. The four Gospels rarely agree on much, but they all tell the story of the resurrection and they all clearly have women as both the first witnesses to the resurrection and the first messengers of the resurrection. There are, of course, a handful of other passages that people are quick to quote when they want to create a gender exclusive club for preachers. But if the Gospels are our starting place, and if Jesus is our central teacher and model, then we’ve got to understand those other texts as either anomalies or stuck in the untransformed bias of the culture or a flat out mistake.
I share this today because of words of an author and radio host who said to a group of pastors recently that the Bible teacher and author, Beth Moore, should “Go home! …There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher—period, paragraph, end of discussion.” In a conversation with our own Rev. Mariah Newell, I said that I had stopped responding to this kind of nonsense. Mariah ever so gently challenged me. Does the world understand these comments against Beth Moore to be nonsense? More so, does the world outside the church mistakenly put all Christians in the same category with this nonsense? The person who said this about Beth Moore claimed a “biblical” justification. It’s amazing how quickly people submit or even cower to the words, “biblical” or “it’s what the Bible says” without asking, “Really?”
Finally, my faith is a balance between the Jesus of Scripture and the ongoing work of the Spirit. I believe there is unmistakeable Biblical support for women preaching the Gospel. At the same time, I see the Spirit working in pastors who are women in stunningly powerful ways! I have always had my Top Ten sermons that I have heard preached, and twenty years ago, nine of those ten sermons were preached by men. Today, it is evenly split. Even if the Bible was loaded with declarations that women should not preach, I don’t believe I could ignore what I see and experience all around me. And any argument to the contrary is a distraction from what is happening, and more importantly, what could be happening. Those inside the church decry the decline in worship attendance, and though the reasons are many and complicated, this kind of nonsense is part of it. Of course, I use the word nonsense, but I also need to realize that this nonsense is dramatically impacting and undermining women who have been called by God to preach and teach the Gospel. It’s not just nonsense, it is painful and hurtful to them as individuals and to the whole church itself. So maybe instead of calling it nonsense, I should use words like, sin or demonic or not of God.
I have a place of privilege in our culture, and shaking my head and pretending the rest of the world understands it as nonsense is an enjoyment of my privilege. Borrowing from the old Spiderman line, “With great gifts comes great responsibility,” I should probably say that with great privilege comes great responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to help make a way for those who do not have a venue for their calling because of nonsense, while also getting out of the way so that such voices can be heard clearly.
Prayer: For every voice that announces the Good News of your love, O Lord, I pray for my ears to hear and my heart to be warmed. May the nonsense and sinfulness of some voices in the church be transformed by a clear vision of the Jesus-story and the power of the Spirit at work all around us. Amen.
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