Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
This first verse of the hymn by Walter Smith pretty much sum up for me the mysterious prologue that we find in the first chapter of John.
It’s mysterious, often a text used at Christmas, though it contains no manger, no baby…none of the other stories that tell us of Jesus first days; for that I am glad. Because while they are important, the birth narratives leave me with a one time event…celebrated since for sure, but it was still a one time event.
John paints the picture for us of a Christ who is eternal, a Christ who has been since the beginning of time. John paints a picture of a God who is limitless in power and time. John paints a picture of a Christ who is continually creating new things, and that is good news.
It is good news because even though there are still many who don’t recognize, understand, or receive him, Christ still creates the opportunity for us to embrace his light and so be called the children of God.
It’s good news because God is invested in the story of his people still to this day, the message is not simply a message for a specific time and place, but also for us today on the brink of 2014, if we allow him Christ will create something new in us.
We too have seen his glory and we too receive grace upon grace. That’s something to celebrate this Christmas and New Year, isn’t it?
As you can see I have not updated this week. I am taking a very short Christmas hiatus. Posts will continue next Sunday/Monday with the next lectionary reflection, followed by Wednesday’s post on Women in Ministry.
(As in all the churches of the saints,34 women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?) 1 Corinthians 14:33b-367 NRSV
This is one of two major texts that are used in the church against women in leadership of a church (or teaching/having authority over a man).
Before we discuss any topic covered in the scriptures we must first note that in the world of biblical interpretation there exist two very important words which are, exegesis and eisegesis. It is important that we understand the meaning of these two words before we get into examining our biblical text.
The word exegesis means; exposition or explanation especially: an explanation or critical interpretation of a text
Eisegesis can be defined as the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas
The way my New Testament instructor explained the very important difference between these two words this way: with exegesis in order to get the meaning that was intended for the original recipients you must draw the meaning OUT of the text. Using eisegesis, you are trying to interpret the text using your own bias and experience or agenda, thus you are putting meaning INTO the text.
So if one wants to be faithful to the meaning of the biblical text, one must employ exegesis not eisegesis. This can be a difficult task when approaching a scripture to understand a point like the role of women in ministry in the church.
One further word on exegesis is that if one wants to understand the meaning of the text, they must also understand the context to which the text is written. Sometimes this requires further research into the culture and history of the time the text was written. As with any letter, a writer does not always provide detail that is already known by the recipient, but we can acknowledge that the assumed information does have an impact on the substance of the text.
With that said we move on to the text in 1 Corinthians 14.
The passage found in 33b-46 seemingly prohibits women from speaking the church setting, saying that women must be silent in church. This text itself makes no specific mention of women teaching or having authority over a man, it simply states that she must be silent. The previous verses in the chapter indicate that Paul here is addressing order in worship. He talks about the fact that everyone has something to bring to worship and that it should be brought in an orderly fashion. Specifically, he refers to speaking in tongues and prophecy. The verse directly preceding (v33) the verse about the silence of women states that God is a God of order and not chaos.
It is a confusing portion because earlier in the same letter as recorded in chapter 11, Paul indicates that women also prophesy in church and it seems to be normal practice. Clearly in chapter 11 of the scripture, women are actively involved in the life of the church.
So what does Paul mean when he says here that women must remain silent? He indicates an unreferenced law, and then goes on to say that if a woman wants to ask a question she should wait until she gets home to ask her husband.
The problem with the text is that it does not tell the modern reader what is wrong with asking a question in church, or what kinds of questions were being asked. It also does not address whether or not this is a command for all women, for all time.
As I indicated earlier, context is important and in the context of the time some suggest that Paul’s command may have had something to do with the Oracle of Delphi. At the oracle, there was a prophetess called the Pythia who was believed to speak on behalf of the gods. She was not really a fortune teller, but rather people would seek her advice on making critical decisions. It is said that she would fall into a trance and begin babbling as she spoke to the people. (Sounds similar to the picture we have of those who spoke in tongues).
Therefore some would suggest that because this was part of the Greek culture and the Corinthian church was located not too far from the oracle, that the women were confusing the speaking in tongues in the church with the prophetess of the oracle and were asking inappropriate questions for worship.
Whether or not the culture of the oracle had an impact on Christian worship at the time cannot be proven or disproven by the text, because the information is not explicitly given, however it is worth considering the culture at the time.
It is my opinion however, that due to the allowance of female prophets earlier in the text and the consideration of the culture, that this text alone makes a weak argument against women taking a leadership role in the church.
However we must also consider 1 Timothy 2, so tune in next week.
I just finished watching the 2 hour season finale of Survivor. I have no idea why, other than seeing it a couple times when there was nothing else on so I felt I needed to watch the finale. The whole premise of the show is to be the one left standing at the end and win a million dollars. In order to do so, you probably have to have lied, manipulated, ganged up on other people and other deeds that if it were not a game, we would find detestable qualities to have as a human being. Having said that, everyone who goes into the game knows how it is played out and they know that in order to win you have to look out to yourself and no one else otherwise you could be the one voted off the island.
It seems to me that if the story of Jesus birth were to take place in our day and time, Joseph and Mary would be met with as much scepticism as I am sure it was in it’s own time. Part of me believes though, that at the very least Joseph and Mary would be offered a deal to star in their own reality TV series. It’s not everyday that someone claims a virgin birth.
I think if it did become a reality series though, we would find ourselves rooting for Joseph in all the drama, hoping that he would vote Mary off the island so to speak. After all he is the one who needs to make a big move, or he is going to be the loser. He considers it briefly, he might divorce her quietly…but instead an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary is his wife.
Joseph never causes his big upset, and as the Christmas story is told he is often neglected. Here we have a guy who could have made a name for himself in the community by getting rid of his betrothed, but instead he takes the advice of the Angel even though it is not a great game strategy for Joseph’s advancement, he makes a sacrifice, because he is a man who honours God above himself, and isn’t that the kind of life we are supposed to live?
If the Word of God forbids female ministry, we would ask how it happens that so many of the most devoted handmaidens of the Lord have felt constrained by the Holy Ghost to exercise it? … The Word and the Spirit cannot contradict each other.” Catherine Booth (co-founder of The Salvation Army)
(I’ve had this beginning post written for a long time, but never done anything with it but have now decided to introduce a series on this blog on, Wednesday’s. Check back for regular posts on the weekly lectionary readings every Sunday or Monday)
Whether or not a woman should be allowed to preach, teach, or hold any sort of ‘authority’ position over a man is certainly not a new argument in the church. Recently I saw a video with pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife who believe that it is role of the male to be the spiritual head of the family and his female counterpart should be at home with the children wherever possible. THIS is the biblical model according to Driscoll. In the short video posted on YouTube the controversial pastor and his wife argue for traditional family roles, misquoting (in my opinion) 1 Timothy 5:8 (without giving reference).
I get the impression that Mark and other pastors who share his views have a hard time with churches like The Salvation Army that commissions and ordains female clergy; I am one.
Before I entered The Salvation Army College for Officer Training (CFOT), I considered all the arguments for and against female clergy. I prayed about them, researched them and consulted many trusted Christians, male and female, those who belong to the army and friends who belong to other churches. Some of the people I asked, do not believe a woman should become a pastor/preacher or hold any teaching authority over a man (an all-girl Sunday School class would be fine). While most affirmed that they believe in the egalitarian model for ministry, that is, a woman can hold the same spiritual position as a male.
Some of the arguments I find against female church leaders are laughable at best, such is the case with pastor Doug Batchelor’s 28 Fundamental Arguments Against Women Ministers.Premise 9 as summarized by Jared Wright in the article says that: “The word seminary shares the same root as the word semen, so it’s interesting that so many women study in the seminary”. Other arguments include, but are not limited to; when the bible says honour your father and mother the father is mentioned first, and, we cannot argue based on God blessing churches that have female pastors because God can bless even when it is not his ideal. If these arguments were developed further they might be more of a threat, but one cannot make a legitimate argument based solely on etymology, because as we know the meaning and importance of words change with time.
The more concrete arguments are rooted in scripture, and therefore must be examined and taken more seriously. As a child of God who also happens to be female, I want to ensure that I am being faithful to his word and not just popular opinion.
I’ve been very serious about my search because more than the strong feeling of being called that I have to preach and teach the Word of God, and despite the arguments on either side of the debate, I want to make sure that the way I live honours God. If that was to mean that I could not preach, no matter how strongly I feel about it then I would indeed still have to be silent.
So in addition to my regular lectionary postings which happen on Sunday or Monday, I will also take Wednesday evenings to discuss other topics such as this. This is the first post of a Women in the Church series. Check back next Wednesday for a look into the scriptures on the topic.
There’s a chorus we sing in church sometimes that goes like this:
There’s a miracle in the making
one for you, the Father is working even now.
Your prayers have been heard and the answer is on the way.
There’s a miracle in the making for you today.
It’s a nice little chorus but, if I want to tell the truth, I have to say I sometimes wonder about miracles. I know that the fact that I woke up and everything in my body is functioning the way it should is a miracle but, I’ve never seen a real life, big, miracle. When my Grandma got pancreatic cancer in 2001, I wanted a miracle. I was not ready to lose her, she was still pretty young by today’s standards. I prayed everyday in faith for that miracle and it never happened.
So on the days when I experience more doubt than faith the first section of the passage is of no help…or is it?
You see there are times in life where we are all going to feel disappointed with God.I like to think that in this passage, John was not simply sending his followers so they could see for themselves, as some suggest, but that he himself…the very forerunner of the Lord is experiencing doubt. He feels a bit disappointed, wouldn’t you if you had been thrown in Jail for doing what is right?
And that is where we find John, sitting in jail, and he wants to know if his whole life’s work has been for nothing. John might have been disappointed with what he had seen of this Messiah so far, perhaps he was feeling the let down of his expectations not being met.
We go through that too don’t we? Especially at Christmas time. We might feel the same questions arise in our minds as debt becomes the elephant in the room for many families, those who are living with less become more visible, and our own struggles seem even more pronounced at this times of year. Maybe you’ve felt a little more lonely at Christmas time, because as you go through the mall and watch happy families walking together, and you’ve just lost yours. Maybe you overhear someone talking about a great big bonus they have gotten at work and you just lost your job. Our struggles are many and Christmas as much as we hope, doesn’t erase them and we can be in dire need of a miracle.
So maybe this passage is meant to comfort us because even John asked those hard questions. Even John wondered if he had wasted his time with Jesus. Maybe one of the things this passage is meant to tell us, is that it is OK to ask our questions and Jesus himself will receive them and answer them.
The fact remains, that though he didn’t come in a way that we expected, Jesus did come as Immanuel God with us. The lame walk, the blind see, the dead live again. Maybe your miracle doesn’t look like that, but I believe if you are brave enough to ask God if he is really there, if this life is really worth it…then you will receive your answer and your sight!
I’ve never been much for concerts or other live shows; while I do enjoy music I can’t stand the crowds. I have been though, one year I took my sister to see Tom Petty perform with the city symphony for her birthday, the other time my sister and my dad and I went to see Larry the Cable guy’s comedy routine.
For those of you who regularly attend concerts or live shows of any kind you know that before the main event you will have to first endure the opening act. The job of the opening act is to warm up the crowd, to get them a little bit more excited for the main event.
The opening act is not usually as well-known or loved as the main event, but usually they are pretty good. Sometimes people even catch their own big break opening for others. The fact remains though, you don’t usually go to a concert or show to see the opening act, you’re there to see the head-liner…
I’ve been using the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for just over 2 years now, its use is uncommon in my faith tradition; though I am sure of a few who use the 3 year cycle. One of the things that I’ve never fully understood is why, for such a short season, do the advent texts focus on things like apocalyptic texts and John the Baptist instead Jesus actual birth. You know, the manger stories, the wise men, shepherds, angels and glory in the highest. Why all three years, do we have to sit through the opening act when we could go straight to the main event?
Perhaps it’s because we the crowd, need to be prepared…we need that “opening act” so that we truly appreciate the main event. Maybe because John knows something that we could not understand without him, he needs to help us to understand seeking God and his kingdom must begin with repentance. He is affirming this in a community of repentant hearts.
Advent is not about making sure the tree is trimmed just right, or hanging our stockings. It’s about preparing our hearts to receive the King of kings and Lord or lords.
John knows he is not the main event he knows there is a greater one to come…I can almost picture him saying something like this.
“You like what is happening now? You think this is good, just wait. Something way better is on the way, I’m not even worthy of taking his shoes off. I’m just getting you a little wet here with the water, but there is a mighty one who is coming and he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Then Jesus appears on the stage and the crowd goes wild…..WOOOOOOO