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Changes are afoot

July 20, 2009

The Table Together was initiated as the focus and outlet for a year long study for seminary on the subject of my choosing.  I chose women in ministry. I have reached the end of my studies for a seminary class, but not the end of my studies on women in ministry.  In fact I feel like I am just beginning.

But here are some things that are ahead.

  • The Table Together is going to be my primary blog for personal reflection, writings and insights regarding women in ministry, and seminary studies.
  • There will be some changes taking place over the next week or two or three weeks (however long it takes or when I get around to it).  Summer break is approaching.  In particular there will be changes to the “About” and Resource pages.  I may even add some additional pages.

I chose in my study to take a direction that would give men and women an opportunity to look at the place of women through the “eyes” of Jesus’ interactions with women in the Gospels.  The companion in our effort was to recognize how we read scripture makes a difference.  The Blue Parakeet is giving us solid footing as we look at God’s word. If you are new to this blog or want to review where we’ve been a good place to start is to check out the “Category Cloud” and click on Jesus and Women and The Blue Parakeet.

I pray for God’s shalom and love to be with you.

Next Blog Post — Monday

July 17, 2009

For those of you checking in on the blog this week expecting to see a blog post.  It has been a day of seeing my daughter off on her return to Pullman after a visit, followed by writing a “final” for my seminary project.  Two classes down, one to go.

All that to say and invite you to check in on Monday.  A change is afoot for this blog and I’ll explain.

The experience of pain

July 16, 2009

Some thoughts

This is not an easy subject for any of us.  We all have our share of suffering in the world.  Some of it is suffering that is common to all – it is part of our human experience.  One that Jesus also shared in.  And this is something we need to recall.  When I think back on my first year of seminary, I felt that part of me was in a flat spin (imagine a fighter plane from Top Gun).  There were several aspects to this – part of it was my own awareness and acknowledgement that I had held myself back because I am a woman.  And the other part was because what I expected did not take place.  I realized the invisible wall that reflected that as a woman people just didn’t quite know what to do with me, this was alongside a system that values expertise and qualification for ministry.  At some point the one hand that encourages and affirms spiritual giftedness and discipleship as qualification for leadership and ministry is confronted by the hand that determines leadership and ministry by expertise and proficiency.  No wonder some feel “in” and some feel “out.”

When I began my study I figured I would interview men and women about women in ministry leadership.  I was hopeful that women would want to engage and interact and share with one another about their experience.  Months later I finally feel I am now at a place where maybe I know enough to ask questions and I still wonder what questions should be asked?  What questions will be answered? As a woman responding to God’s call I am realizing that suffering marks our journey.

Paul described the Church as a body and said, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (I Corinthians 12:26).  I wonder how are we doing in this regard.  Do we even think about those in the body of Christ that are in pain and suffer because who they are as part of the Body is not welcomed or acknowledged (and yes this applies to many areas)?  For women that have been affirmed in their ministry calling and had doors open for them what is it like to think that other women leaders do not share their experience?  Do we rejoice with and for women that have opportunities to let their gifts utilized when that may or may not be my experience?  Could a disconnect take place among women leaders that is more than generational?

In several conversations this year I have become deeply aware of how painful it is for women responding to God’s call when that requires adapting and fitting within the constraints of an existing system that expects women leaders to fit within certain roles or expectations.  Nancy Beach recently wrote about this on her blog as she sat at an airport after speaking in two cities in Canada.  From June 20, 2009 she wrote:

In both cities, I had the privilege of speaking to women leaders in the church.  These were women of all ages, both staff and volunteers, who fill a variety of roles in their ministries.  I was recalling today that in the past 10 months I have led workshops for women leaders in Chicago, London, Bristol (England), Melbourne, Sydney, San Francisco, La Mesa, Dallas, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.  Every one of these events surfaced similar issues, and frankly, a lot of pain.  It seems that once women are given permission to describe what their experience has been trying to lead in the church, they are freed up to express a level of disappointment that still catches me by surprise and troubles me.  I’m amazed at the stories I have heard, and even more astounded that these same women continue to faithfully serve, persevering for the cause of Christ.  Many of them are hugely under-valued and under-utilized (and under-paid if they are paid at all).  Some of them are shamed for ever bringing up issues about title or job description or salary, told that if they were true servants, they wouldn’t be displaying such prideful character.  My emotions vary from anger about the injustice to sadness for my sisters in pain to inspiration for their determination to continue in ministry.

I am trusting that God, who knows every one of these stories, will be faithful and provide wisdom.  And in the meantime, I will continue to gather these women together in a room if only to let them know they are not alone, their issues are shared by others, and their ministry matters more than they could possibly know.

This work among women leaders is not a calling I ever sought – in fact; I have only entered this arena reluctantly.  But if God has used me this past season to bring any encouragement to these incredible leaders, then I am profoundly grateful for that privilege.  So many of them are now heroes to me.

http://nancybeach.typepad.com/nancy_beach/2009/06/major-flight-delay-and-thoughts-about-women-in-leadership.html.  Assessed 7/16/09.

Throughout this year I have begun to realize I am not alone in my experience of suffering.  And part of my experiences as a woman in the Church responding to God’s call is part of the cross I carry in following Jesus.  What I experience, Christ has experienced in greater measure.  We need one another.

The Blue Parakeet – Story & Wiki-stories

July 15, 2009

Before we once again delve into The Blue Parakeet I want to mention something Chris commented on regarding to Jesus’ interactions with the Samaritan woman.  He graciously and importantly reminds us that Jesus related to her not as the person she was or the person that others saw her to be, but the person Jesus saw her as.  The self-worth extended to the woman was not a projection of what she might realize or become, it was sourced in who Jesus knew she was.  (For his exact words please check out the comment area from the Samaritan Woman, Part Two).

Chris’ insights reminded me of a story in Tales of the Resistance, the middle book in a children’s (for young and old) trilogy by David and Karen Mains about the kingdom of God.  In the story “The Most Beautiful Player of All” the “King” is in disguise but he makes entrance or actually he interrupts a play about a king.  Everything is upside down in Enchanted City so work and daily life happen during the night and everyone sleeps during the day.  Power is unreliable and there are often power outages.  The setting for this chapter is a play performance.  Of course during the play a power outage occurs, the disguised king makes his way forward providing his own light.  He leaps up onto the stage and the leading character, Thespia standing with the king in the middle and the actor-king to his left saw in his light those in the audience who were gathered near the front.  The ones who had moments before been dressed in worn clothes, with visible wounds, dirty and with matted hair were now clothed in warm clothes, wounds healed, clean and healthy.  She saw the poor and outcast in the audience as Jesus, the King saw them.[1] Thespia is transformed because of her encounter.  He invited her to follow him, “For the real kingdom is wherever I walk and whenever anyone walks with me.”[2] I am realizing just what a perfect complement this is to The Blue Parakeet.

If you have not read Scot McKnight’s book, The Blue Parakeet I encourage you to pick up the book at a local bookstore or on Amazon. To catch up or review prior posts click on the Blue Parakeet under the “Category Cloud” in the right column.  One aspect of this blog has been to “read together.”  How we read the Bible is of course crucial to our understanding of God and our understanding of our relationship with God.  Sometimes without realizing we begin to think about the Bible being God’s gift to us and we forget what we read in John 4, when the Samaritan woman was conversing with Jesus her frame of reference was the Torah and Moses.  Jesus informs her (although she doesn’t fully realize it yet) that he is the gift of God (John 4:10).  The gift of God is not a book, but a person.  Clearly this is something we need to remember.  I think reading The Blue Parakeet strengthens this reminder.

In Chapter Five: “The Plot of the Wiki-stories” McKnight asks, “How does the Bible work?”[3] In the previous chapters we read and have discussed that the Bible is a story.  McKnight reminds us at the beginning of this chapter that he is not saying that the Bible is make-believe, a fictional account about God.  Far from it, but he is reminding us that is it a story about God and his ways.  It is a story because it has three features that stories have: a plot, characters and authors who tell the story.[4] So as you and I read God’s word we have an opportunity to notice and pay attention to the basic elements of the story.  The way the authors tell the story.  What is the plot (What is happening?  What are the specific elements?) And what is the theme?

McKnight outlines it this way:

  • Creating Eikons (Genesis 1-2)

Theme:  Oneness

  • Cracked Eikons (Genesis 3-11)

Theme:  Otherness

  • Covenant Community (Genesis 12-Malachi)

Theme: Otherness expanded

  • Christ, the perfect Eikon, redeems (Matthew-Revelation 20)

Theme: One in Christ

  • Consummation (Revelation 21-22)

Theme: Perfectly One

So when we read God’s Word, the Bible, isn’t part of the joy, adventure, and learning to see how the different authors relate to the plot and theme and how they emphasize one element or different elements?  God is the one directing the “story.” McKnight stresses that “the most important thing to say is this: The unity of the Bible is this Story.  It is the Story that puts the Bible together.”[5]

Each “plot” listed above is examined in “wiki” form (shortened explanation format to fit into a chapter, not a book).  I’ll just refer to several aspects for our reading together.  From Genesis 1-2, Scot reminds us that it was God choice to make Adam (Ish) and it was God’s choice to “split the Adam” into two, to make woman (Ishah).  This choice, states McKnight “is profoundly important for understanding the unity of the Bible.”[6] This is why we are taking time to look at it, because as a Biblical scholar – one who studies, teaches and writes about God’s word, he wants us to not miss something extremely vital –we are created for oneness. The model for this oneness is the Trinity itself.  “God wanted The Adam to enjoy what the Trinity had eternally enjoyed and what the Trinity continues to enjoy: perfect communion and mutuality with an equal.”[7] In fact we know that God goes to great lengths (and it probably took a little bit of time) to reveal and for Adam to know that there was not an equal.  Not until there is Ishah. What if we focused on communion and mutuality within the Creation story instead of evolution and creation (especially 24/7)?  A little different perspective begins to emerge and this itself is a wiki-story that is actually a plot thread running throughout Scripture. Quoting McKnight:

“The loving oneness of God finds earthly expression

in the loving oneness of Adam and Eve.

When Eikons are at one with God, self, others, and the world,

the glory of the One God illuminates all of life.”[8]

In this chapter each of the wiki-stories (plots) reveals the overarching story of the Bible.  For our study an important connection is revealed.  We would all agree and we testify that Christ is the perfect Eikon (image).  In Christ, through Christ, by Christ oneness is restored.  Community is a crucial aspect in the kingdom of God.  McKnight affirms that the “Bible’s story has a plot headed in the direction of a person.[9] The community referred to is created by and formed in Christ (that person).  So here is the connection he makes, I agree with and suggest that we need to hold this against and within all other wiki-stories that have emerged through tradition.

“Everything God designed for Eikons is actually lived out by Jesus.  Everything Eikons are to do comes about by being ‘in Christ’ or by become ‘one’ with Jesus Christ.”[10] The becoming one that is in the beginning and was ‘cracked’ by sin only becomes reality in Christ, when we are once again united with him, both as individuals and within community.  “The story of the Bible then aims at Galatians 3:28:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,

there is no longer male and female; for you are one in Christ Jesus.”[11]

We know that we are still in process.  The final wiki-story of consummation spoken of in Revelation 21-22 is still ahead of us.  We need to remind ourselves that the sub-title of the book is to “Rethink How You Read the Bible.” I think that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ whether they are in churches affirming women in ministry leadership or qualifying women within certain roles or expectations often read Galatians 3:28 through the lens of other Scriptures, thus pushing these words to the side.  I wonder what the difference would be in our churches if we structured ourselves and asked are Paul’s words real in our practice.  Would defenses be lowered?  Would openness and safety be present?  Would we be able to discover a dimension of oneness that reflected the intent of Genesis 1-2?  Wouldn’t God “smile” at our efforts?

How do we listen to God?


[1] David and Karen Mains, Tales of the Resistance [Waverly, PA: Lamplighter Publishing, reprinted 2000], p. 50.  Originally published in 1986, they were reprinted in 2000.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008], p. 66.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 67.

[6] Ibid., p. 69.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., p. 70.

[9] Ibid., p. 75.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. Galatians 3:28 New Revised Standard Version.

The Samaritan Woman, Part Two

July 14, 2009

John 4:1-42

Verse 9-10: The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”…Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Thus a profound, intriguing, and life changing conversation begins.  One thing you begin to notice in the book of John is the conversations that are part of the overall telling.  Dialogue is front and center throughout the book.  These conversations are uniquely honest and welcoming.  I love how this woman begins to sort through what Jesus is telling her and how she tries to wrap her mind around it.  Rather than keep things to herself, she begins by trying to clarify just exactly what Jesus could possibly mean.  He is telling her about living water, but she is standing before him and he has asked her for water.  What is this all about?  Where could you find living water that you would never be thirsty again?  Would living water mean that her life would not be so hard?  Would she be able to “bottle” this water and provide for her needs?  I can imagine the many thoughts that must have fired as she hears Jesus tell her about living water.  But would any of this have gone anywhere unless Jesus had asked her for a drink of water?  He was willing to receive water from her “defiled” leather bucket.  What takes place in the conversation is initiated because Jesus was willing to receive from her and therefore he empowered her.  A woman.  A Samaritan.  A Samaritan woman.

The conversation that ensues between them covers a wide range of areas.  They discuss (or she brings up) the contrast between Jewish and Samaritan belief and, political issues and concerns.   In some ways this is a reflection of our many conversations with one another.  But verses 14-15 provide insight into what drives the conversation.  Jesus has told her that those that drink from the well will be thirsty again.  We are physical beings that require water.  He is helping her to see that the water he refers to is not something a bucket can hold by telling her the water he will give is something from within that will be gushing up to eternal life. This is it, she wants this, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus has touched a deep place in her, and she is responding to her own thirst, perhaps not quite recognizing her full need or what it is Jesus is offering her.

We recognize that what this woman seeks is something we all tend to seek.  Sermons regarding this portion of Scripture recognize this and realize this woman represents more to us and for us than her gender.  Perhaps in some ways we hold her gender in one hand and yet sweep it aside with the other to focus on the living water Jesus offers.  To be certain we see in the honest boldness of the Samaritan woman the common experience of humanity.  We want what we believe to fix what we know deep within is lacking.  We want the daily grind eased.  We want our happiness fulfilled, we yearn to be known and not considered second-class.  We desire justice for ourselves.  We suffer from an inner discord we know originated in the Fall.  Carefully Jesus begins to show her and reveal to her that religion isn’t to be about goods or services provided.  And in the process he does not reject her or her questions, he listens and reveals.

As the conversation continues it suddenly becomes personal and she faces a choice and it comes amidst a command.  Jesus tells her to “Go, call you husband and come back” (Verse 16).  What will she do, will she lower her head, ignore what he has told her, will she lie, or will she say nothing and just go and get the one who is living with her?  Does Jesus know what he is doing when he tells her to “Go?”  Here in this moment – it really is about as dramatic as any real-life television show, only it really is real.  Here this woman, someone who has been marginalized for her nationality, her gender, and her lifestyle is given an opportunity to confront her shame and her sin.  In this rather bizarre setting, one that breaks all social protocols, Jesus empowers this woman, “Go.”

He tells her something remarkable – that is worshiping God isn’t confined to a particular mountain where the Samaritans worship and neither is in going to be centered in Jerusalem, but true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.  The Father is seeking for those that will.  Jesus continues, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Verse 23-24).  Perhaps a connection is beginning to take place for the woman between these words and what living water might just be.

Here amidst this story John includes the first of the “I Am” statements.  In response to the Samaritan woman’s comments that she knows that the Messiah is coming and when he comes he will proclaim all things (vs. 25-26), Jesus tells her – he reveals the very core of his identity to this woman.  Men in the Church do you see how profound this is?  Women in the Church do you see how profound this is?

I am pondering and wondering what the link between this revelation is, the empowerment extended to this woman, and her own fulfillment.

Can’t you just imagine the scene as the disciples return from the village?  John mentions that they were astonished (and he must have known!), but no one questioned him or asked why are you talking with a woman (verse 27).  Again we need to recognize just how profound this was.  One structure is being broken, a paradigm is shifting.  Its inclusion in the gospel texts is not just a coincidence.  Although he asked her for water, thus fitting within acceptable social and cultural roles and expectations, what is about to take place reveals the same level of empowerment that Jesus had offered the disciples.

Remember he told her to go?  Jesus has given her a new understanding, she has been “un-masked” by his genuine concern, by asking for water from her he demonstrated sincere need, rather than intent that would take advantage of her.  And now with the disciples present she leaves her water jar and returns to the village.

She does not proclaim the kingdom of God is near, she performs no healings, she casts out no demons, but in every sense her words are the words of an evangelist, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!  He cannot be the Messiah can he?” (Verse 29).  The people of the village listen to this woman; her truth-telling on herself moves them to seek Jesus out.  Later in the story we learn just how profound this woman’s message was (in Christian lingo we would call it a “testimony,” but there is no way around the fact that this woman is listened to by the men in the village and because of her boldness and transparency an entire village is transformed.  This isn’t preaching is it?  Her words become the “gateway” – the entrance point, a threshold for the entire village to hear what Jesus has to say.

In these simple actions, though I think we realize in some ways how very “un-simple” these actions were the Samaritan woman had to acknowledge her own sin.  Then the opportunity came to risk, to risk not being listened to or perhaps even ridiculed when she returned to the village.  Her risk involved being a witness to men, ultimately introducing them to the Messiah.  Because of her actions, recorded in Scripture men had an opportunity to expand their horizons beyond a prophet in the mold of Moses to a Messiah who was a Savior.

That this story and the words and actions of the Samaritan woman are included in the Canon, what Christians affirm as the living word of God must bear implications for the community of faith.  We dare not lose sight of the Samaritan woman’s gender as we recognize the vast impact and significance for men and women and children.  Nor should we miss that in this story (and others like it) Jesus elevates the status and position of women.  And in this we realize a gender wall is no longer a barrier.  A woman who was an outcast receives living water even as she goes and witnesses to her village.

May grace abound.

The Samaritan Woman, Part One

July 13, 2009

John 4:1-42

Perhaps it surprises you that a story about the Samaritan woman and Jesus would find its way into a blog discussing women in ministry leadership.  But maybe then it might not.  If you’ve not read through this story in John I would invite you to take several days and read it through the eyes of the different people in the story – Jesus, the Samaritan woman, the disciples, and the townspeople.  One thing I have noticed is that with Jesus there are always surprises and these surprises are usually not a random coincidence, but intentional moments when Jesus reveals more for us concerning the kingdom of God; what it is from God’s purpose, not ours.  Once again this is true in the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

The challenge for us in familiar stories is to not lapse into reading along familiar thought patterns that lead us to get to the end of the chapter so we can close our Bible and say we’ve read God’s Word.  Or to think we already know what it says.  This is much easier than we think.  Amazingly enough there were many years (too many) when I would “just sort of read the gospel accounts” but I was thinking “the real meat of God’s word” was in reading Paul’s epistles.  Strange isn’t it, I was reading Jesus in the gospels through the lens of Paul, instead of the other way around.  As I’ve talked with other Christians I find they do (or did) the same thing.  I realize now and say with conviction that I think Paul would have frowned on this.   We find new understanding as we read this story with tradition rather than through tradition.

This is a story with nuances, to the right, to the left, front and center, and from underneath.  In other words it is not a story that you read once and say “I’ve got it” and now know all there is to know about the Samaritan woman, the well, and Jesus.  It is a story of revelation.  It reveals to us something about the kingdom of God and how God and people operate in this kingdom.

It starts off by Jesus taking the direct route “home” instead of taking the round-about way.  When you or I need to get somewhere and need directions we use Google maps or Yahoo maps or even a “real map” to get us from point A to point B.  Almost always, unless you specify in your request the route that comes up will be the one that is the most direct, meaning it is going to get you there faster (unless of course you hit traffic, which is likely in the Seattle-Tacoma area) or the shortest meaning you travel the shortest distance in miles.  When you are familiar with the way to go and the roads along the way, you can take an alternate route and often avoid heavy traffic.  My husband and I did this when we were traveling back to Gig Harbor from Oregon on the Sunday after the 4th of July.  Less traffic=less stress and a much more enjoyable ride in the car.

Heading back to Galilee, Jesus is taking the direct route which takes him (and the disciples) through Samaria.  If we read this through the lens of a 21st century American Christians looking back we miss how remarkable this was, but for Jesus it was no big deal.  Although it was Jewish custom – a matter of keeping oneself pure to not have interactions with Samaritans, and therefore avoid going through Samaria, Kenneth Bailey reminds us that for Jesus defilement came from within, not from without.[1] Therefore Jesus takes the shortest (and the quickest) route by going through Samaria.  Before we go on we need to let this sink in.  I grew up when Christianity was identified through outward actions and appearances (even going forward to accept Christ was an outward action).  These were not necessarily wrong.  The original motivation behind them for all intents and purpose were genuine efforts and expressions of an inner life.  But as is often the case with our Christian life (down through the centuries) the passing on often changes the intent.  For me this meant or I perceived in my innate intuitive sense that outward appearances and actions defined who I was as a Christian.  In our call to be separate from the world we have often not realized the guiding principle that defilement comes from within, not from without.  By taking the direct route into and through Samaria Jesus is mapping out a lifestyle that flowed from an inward life that informed the outer life.  Some remarkable things happen in ministry as a direct result.

But this does not mean that the route they took was easy.  From the text we learn that Jesus was tired and thirsty.  As a side note, we often think that to be effective ministers or witnesses or “just plain” Christians that we have to be happy, upbeat, have it together, or be successful.  This entire story results because Jesus had a physical need that he could not meet for himself.  It’s about noon and Jesus is tired and thirsty.  The disciples have left him and gone into the village to get food.  So he is waiting and sitting on Jacob’s well (which had a cover on it to keep out dust and dirt as well as children and small animals, the hole in the center was so the leather bag could be lowered to fill with water).  A woman comes out to draw water.  You and I go and get water whenever we want.  But in most of the world there are certain times of the day when water is drawn.  Noon was not one of those times.  John informs us that a Samaritan woman comes out to draw water.  If it is not the “usual time” to draw water why is she drawing water now?  Many of us have heard in prior sermons or Bible studies that this woman was drawing water at that time of the day because of the type of woman she was – the explanation to this comes later in the story.  But the point is the time of day identifies this woman – she is in all likelihood a social outcast, coming out to draw water when no one else would be present (in the heat of the day) or she has come out intentionally because she knows that travelers will be at the well and she wants to encounter them.[2] Women have often been seen as the “temptress” (Regretably this view affects authentic human relationships within the Church and we should deal with it).  But it is possible  in this particular situation the application may indeed apply.

But this does not faze Jesus, he is thirsty and he asks her for a drink of water (Men and women should pay attention).  Bailey notes that this type of encounter recorded by John is not something that would happen even today in Middle Eastern cultures. Jesus initiates the conversation with a woman, who just happens to also be a Samaritan.  What we are reading and therefore witnesses to thousands of years later is just down-right remarkable.  By engaging in conversation he is also putting aside hundreds of years of hostility between Jews and Samaritans.  Please just stop and think about this. There is more here than just Jewish and Samaritan relations that are being affected.

Jesus asking demonstrates a powerful, not to be missed principle of mission.  Today in the church there is a great deal of talk about being incarnational—being the hands and feet of Jesus in our present situations—responding to others as Jesus would.  Bailey points out that Jesus does not begin by explaining why she needs him and his message (don’t we often do this?).  Instead he acknowledges his need and asks her for help.  Bailey quotes from Daniel T. Niles: “He was a true servant because He was at the mercy of those whom He came to serve…This weakness of Jesus, we His disciples must share.  To serve from a position of power is not true service but beneficence.”[3]

Up to this moment there are two people at the well.  A man and a woman, who is about to find out is no ordinary man.  But here the Son of man, the Son of God is in need and he asks a woman to meet that need.  He could have waited until the disciples returned.  Jesus could have maintained protocol.  But he did not.  Tomorrow we will continue in John 4, but I think this quote from Daniel T. Niles, a Sri Lankan theologian bears further reflection.

“The only way to build love between two people or two groups of people is to be so related to each other as to stand in need of each other.  The Christian community must serve.  It must also be in a position where it needs to be served.”[4]

There are two areas I invite us to specifically consider, first within the Church – local and the broader Church– how does this quote apply between men and women?  How are we as the body of Christ related to each other as to stand in need of each other?   Honestly I question whether this is so.  How do we develop relationships between men and women?  How should or how could the Christian community mean and women serve one another?  If relationship and service are connected, what is revealed?  Do men in the Church value the gifts and abilities of women or is that only within certain roles or expectations?  Do men serve in the Church, but only in certain roles or within certain expectations?  What happens when men or women express their gifts and abilities that are outside the preconceived roles or expectations?

Secondly, as more and more church fellowships desire to serve in the community in what ways are we serving from a position of power and/or privilege (we know what to do and how to do it, so we are going to help you out) or something we do that ultimately makes us feel good?  Yes I am suggesting that we need to recognize our tendency to serve from positions (or expectations) where we are in control and lay it down.  Starting with our initial efforts we can develop relationships that result in allowing us to be in position to receive from those we are serving, thus upending the power structure of privilege.

How are we developing relationships with those we serve?  How are we placing ourselves in a position of need to receive from those we desire to minister too?


[1] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2008], p. 201.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., p. 203. Bailey quoting Daniel T. Niles in This Jesus…Whereof We Are Witnesses [Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1965], p. 23-27.

[4] Ibid., p. 204.

I Have a Confession…

July 1, 2009

Before anyone gets carried away and starts scanning this post for some juicy tidbit, relax and take a deep breath. In fact take another one. If there is anything I am learning and becoming aware of through my study of women in ministry it is that we need to pause often and take deep breaths. As we do may our breaths become prayers exhaling our frustrations, concerns, questions, and burdens and may our inhalation be breaths of the Spirit to receive God’s affirmation, assurance, peace and rest.

So what is my confession? It has been nearly 2 months (really) since I posted and more than 2 months since I was consistently posting. My confession is to tell you that I hit a wall. I began my study of women in ministry as part of my Special Study class, a year long course for my second year seminary studies. I had fulfilled my required number of hours but I did not feel it was completed. And yet, I was tired of seeing and facing barriers, tired of hoping people will read my blog and begin to see the “issue” of women in ministry from a different vantage point. But the truth is I extend myself when I write. It comes from within me, words that are read are heart-words from me to you. They are a combination of pastoral insights as well as an attempt for people that have questions about women in ministry or simply do not agree that women should be in ministry to see the “issue” from a new perspective. Not a debate in which camps shout words back and forth, but to see the issue from a Kingdom of God by centering and focusing on the community with Jesus, which included men and women.

My confession is that my scars were re-opened and I didn’t want to feel pain. There are times when I am nothing short of a “woos.”

So here we are picking up words again, looking again into God’s word for discovery and direction. I am beginning to recognize how radical God’s ways are, the status quo is challenged and it is most often challenged when those in leadership (the Pharisee’s and the Council in Jesus’ days) think they have it right. I wonder if our eyes, those in the corporate Church at-large have our eyes fixed on self-preservation rather than on what Jesus ushered in and announced in word and deed.

One of my summer classes is the Doctrine of Christ. I deeply appreciate that we are given multiple ways of looking at who Christ is and what he did. One of our books for study is by Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar at Asbury Seminary. First things first, his scholarship simply blows me away. He delves and digs into academic scholarship, the written word of God, the various interpretations of others and provides you with insights that further your comprehension of Christ and cause me to worship more deeply. He writes:

“Jesus sees his miracles as bringing about something unprecedented—

the coming of God’s dominion.  Note that Jesus interprets God’s reign

in terms of changed human lives, not cosmic or political change.  He

sees himself as one who is bringing in and bringing about change within

the lives of individual human being so that they can relate to God and

others as God intends them to do.”[1]

The in-breaking of the kingdom of God was here and now for Jesus because He represented and enacted God’s rule and He entrusted it to a small band of followers that included men and women. I was raised to see God kingdom as in the future—after Christ returned, after the new heavens and earth. Honestly, although I wonder at times what we have lost, I genuinely desire to work for what might be gained. Not individual fulfillment but upon what God intended in what Christ fulfilled.

In several weeks my Special Study will “officially” conclude and yet it really will not. I will continue to study. And this blog will continue to receive attention. I pray that women in ministry will find places to testify to their calling and will be encouraged to stay the course and keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.

Where do we go from here? The next two posts will focus on the Samaritan woman from John 4 and then we will turn our attention to “listening” from Scot McKnight in The Blue Parakeet.


[1] Ben Witherington, The Christology of Jesus [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Augsburg Press, 1990], p. 165.