Sunday, May 03, 2015

This week's lesson (May 2-8): women in the ministry of Jesus

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. -- Genesis 1:26f, NIV
Let us now praise uppity women.

Consider the Canaanite woman who would not take "no" for an answer . . .

(And yes, I know her story's in Matthew 15:21ff, and not in the Gospel of Luke, but cut me some slack, okay?)

But consider the nameless woman who's daughter needs to be healed -- but whose request for that healing is met with an indifference that borders on cruelty.
  • "Send her away," say Christ's disciples, "for she keeps crying out after us."
  • "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel," Jesus tells her.
  • And when she persists, Jesus tells her that, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
So there she is: ignored, insulted, denied . . .

And if she had been the kind of sweet, demure, and submissive woman who "knows her place," then that would have been the end of this story. Yes, the story would have ended with:
  • Her daughter not healed.
  • The disciples unchallenged.
  • And its readers puzzled (to say the least) by Christ's uncharacteristic action.
But the story does not end there.

No, like the importunate widow of Luke 181ff, she demands justice -- and she does so with the subversive humor that oppressed people have always used as a weapon.

"I may be a dog," she says, "but even puppies get crumbs from the table."

And with that, Jesus commends her faith, grants her request, and gives this story a happy ending . . .

But there's a happy ending, notice, only because this woman did not "know her place."

No, she was definitely "uppity."

So let us praise her and her sisters -- yes, let us praise the women who marched and prayed, who argued and wrote, who filed complaints with the EEOC and who majored in Theology when everybody told them they'd never get a job as a pastor . . .

Yes, let us now honor uppity women.

For just like this woman, they make God look better.

1 comment:

Pastor Greg said...

In as much as this Sabbath School lesson naturally segues into a discussion of women's ordination, let me offer a few thoughts:

1. The issue is not women's ordination; it is woman as pastors.
That's because the argument for women's ordination is essentially an argument that women can be pastors, i.e. the pastor's role is a spiritual gift (like that of an apostle, a prophet, or a teacher) -- and how do we recognize this particular gift? We ordain the people who have it.

The argument against women's ordination, on the other hand, is essentially an argument that women do not have the ability, authority, or apostolic example to serve as pastors -- and since they cannot serve in this role, then the church cannot recognize that role by ordination.

2. The church's current policy is not sustainable.
Simply put, it angers the people who think women should be ordained (since it does not allow women to perform certain aspects of a pastor's job) . . . and it angers the people who think women should not be ordained (since it still allows them to perform most roles of the pastorate).

3. It is time for women to be ordained.
I'm puzzled by the idea that women have what it takes to be surgeons, fighter pilots, and kindergarten teachers -- but they just aren't up to the job of the pastorate.

Then too, Union constituency sessions are hardly hotbeds of radicalism -- yet both times this issue came up, the Union constituencies voted in favor, three to one.

Women have been gifted by the Spirit, in other words -- and it would seem the majority of our church members are ready to recognize that gift. It's time to move forward.