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Where are we going?

April 6, 2009

We often want to know where we are going.  In fact we often ask a companion question, “Are we there yet?”  Both of these questions are relevant to our journey of The Table Together. Today’s post recaps what we have focused on, the “why” behind the focus, and where we are headed.

Over the past several weeks I have brought an intentional focus to some of the interactions between Jesus and women.  We are often so familiar with the Gospel stories that we take for granted what was extraordinary in that day and time.  I know I have.  In paying attention to these interactions we begin to recognize the affirmation and elevation Jesus provided for women. In fact the heart of Jesus reveals a tender place for those marginalized and on the outside in society. I also am realizing how inclusive the Gospel writers were in the composition of their texts. Quite often there is a story reflecting something men could relate to, followed by something women could relate to within their present circumstances. Luke actually does this often; let’s look at the flow of Luke 13 and 14 to see how he did this:

· Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”

· The parable of the mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19). The reference to a garden would naturally catch the attention of those that are farmers (men). [1] Especially since the mustard plant was considered a weed and not welcome!

· Followed by the parable about yeast (Luke 13:20-21). Kneading yeast into the flour to make bread is something women would relate too because of household responsibilities.

· Luke 13:22-29. The two previous parables concerning the Kingdom of God, spoken to specific groups of people reflected by gender are now brought into focus as he addresses both men and women in response to who will be saved (verse 23). Luke records Jesus as stating, “Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” There is no distinction between men and women, poor and rich.  The picture here is one of an inclusive community comprised of people that are learning what it is to love God and love others — a covenant community if you will.

· Luke 13:31-35 is Jesus lament over Jerusalem. The words Jesus speaks reveal a depth of emotion and yearning, an expression of deep compassion. “How often have I desired together your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Verse 34). Here Jesus uses “mother language,” the care of the female for her young to express the depth of God’s compassion.

· Luke 14:1-6 Jesus heals again on the Sabbath. This time the one healed is a man. “Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.”

We often focus on Jesus healing on the Sabbath, but miss that Jesus healed both women and men. In doing so He drew attention to women and elevated their status. In this section a parable addressed to one group of people is complimented with a parable the “other” gender would relate too. As you read or study Luke you will notice how often this occurs. Jesus uses feminine language to convey the depth of His compassion for Jerusalem.  Does this surprise us?

As we have looked at “Jesus and women” and “women and the Bible” we have also been looking at “women before us.” It seems clear that Jesus has intentionally stretched out his hand and made space for women. That women were included as disciples – Christ followers and accompanied him on his journeys is noted by the gospel writers.

While these stories and even their implications might be recognizable among Christ’s followers today. I wonder if we fully recognize the new community Christ was revealing.

Questions remain, I’ve heard them and I grew up with them. They are in the back of my mind when I study and as I write. They have been asked sincerely by those seeking to know and to grow and by those whose minds are made up.

    · Women were permitted to be leaders in both the Old and New Testament only when adequate male leadership was lacking.

    · Women “always” desire to be in authority over men. This has been inferred, attributed to the Fall and Genesis 3:16. The irony is that I have heard this from women (not once from a man), and I’ve even thought and said this myself. Is this a descriptive or prescriptive? Is this a reflection of our fallen nature or is this truly who we are as those experiencing Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross?

    · Eve was the first to sin, women cannot be trusted, and we are inferior to men.

    · Women are permitted to minister if they are in ministry together with their husbands. There are examples of this in Paul’s epistles. Is this a standard?

    · What do we do with the “tension” present in God’s word? Even Paul seems to say two different things at times, what do we do with passages in Romans, the letters to the Corinthians and Paul’s instructions to Timothy for the church at Ephesus?

    · God is hierarchal by nature and therefore within the Church there is hierarchy in relationship and governance. What I’ve just written has been expressed in different ways but the gist has been that the Son is submitted to the Father, the Spirit does the work on behalf of the Son, under the authority of the Father. Therefore the wife is submitted to the husband and within the Church women are under the authority and covering of men.

In the coming weeks ahead we are going to look at these things.

I am inviting and asking women to share their stories – their experiences as a woman in leadership in the Church. We want to hear your voices.

We also want to hear the voices of men in leadership that have welcomed women. What difference has that made in their lives and the life of the Church? If there was resistance how did you find a way forward? Do we presume women leaders are welcome or are we actively demonstrating an inclusive community modeled upon Christ’s example?

I know the way ahead is not easy, but as we understand that Jesus announced the presence of the Kingdom “now” – in the present tense while realizing the final fulfillment was yet to be, I pray we will find courage individually and corporately. That we will be filled to all the fullness of God, that we will yet become the expression of Christ that His body is intended to be and to become. Perhaps then we will have the answer to the lingering travel question, are we there yet?

[1] Kenneth C. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2008], page 194. Bailey cites several examples where Jesus addressed men and women through different parables and teachings.


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