Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Advent: a woman's place

I won’t lie to you: there are days when I struggle with calling myself an Evangelical. 
                      Today, for example. 
Yes, the Church of England’s General Synod recently voted to exclude women from ordination in the role of bishop.  Yes, an acquaintance, who has since been hidden on my social media feed because I seriously can’t take anymore, posted a youtube video from the previous (not Obama v. Rommey, but Obama v. McCain) election in which a male pastor explained why and how, “biblically,” women in governmental leadership positions equal a nation under God’s judgment; and, that women should never, ever, ever be permitted to preach.  Yes, the church I recently committed to attending (the last bastion of hope in my local vicinity) has ousted all female pastors for personal reasons, and hired a plethora of young, married men in their stead.  And yes, recently I had a conversation with a friend who assured me that her marriage would be recognized in God’s eyes because she had been married by a male leader.  For, to be married by a female pastor (oh, that they even have the audacity to call themselves that!)  makes any covenant illegitimate in God’s sight. 


Why is the faith that I love so dearly, so harmful and restraining for women?  How is it that we can read the exact same scriptures, and cite experts in the field, and come to such polarizing answers?  How can it be said that women have no voice; yet Jesus Christ gave the honor of first missionary to a woman, instructed women to proclaim the gospel after he rose, and allowed a woman to study at his feet as the other male future-leaders did?   

How can women be so excluded from God’s plan of redeeming creation that we have been relegated to our husband’s dreams or callings?  Or at best, to the tents of the other women? 
Dear one, you know this topic is my heartbeat: the God of the universe is the same God of women.   I hope I am clear in my pursuit: not a female over male, to counteract the current systems, but female with male.  Serving together, teaching and learning from one another, ministering to each other, living the gospel together for the benefit of each other.  Because God made women, as He made men, in His own image.  And in Christ, all are free to worship Him thus; and teach about Him thus; and show the world who He is.   Because we all have the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit as our male counterparts.  There simply is no scriptural way to duck this truth.       

And where do I land after another gender-equality rant?  Where do I go when I am so weary of only hearing God's Word taught by male voices?  To whom do I turn when, yet again, all I'm told is that based on the sole fact of my gender I am exempt from decision-making, as though "female" is a reasoning-handicap?  When I am counseled to lay aside my calling and dreams thereof, so that I may invest all time and energy into my husband's calling. 

I go, dear one, to the only place one can: to Jesus, the only one who has the words of life.   

And because we are so close to the celebration of Divinity incarnate, I am focusing for the next few weeks on the nativity story.  More specifically, I am purposing to enter into this advent season devoting myself completely to the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55].  Highly liturgical, perhaps.  But in these nine verses, sung by a newly pregnant teenage girl, I find so much hope and honestly and beauty and high theology that anticipate and reflect the coming of Christ Jesus.  These verses allow me to focus on the fact that before anybody else knew…before Joseph or Herod or Pilot or the Pharisees…a young woman was told about the advent of the Messiah.  This Jewess had no clout, no platform, no worth outside of her immediate family (and even that hinged on her virginity).  Yet, it was to her—and ONLY her—that the angel Gabriel imparted the news that changed everyone’s forever. 

                The Messiah is come.  God’s promise would be fulfilled.  
And yet, He did not announce it to a high priest or to judge or king or prophet. 
                Almighty God told one woman. 

It was up to her to tell the rest of her world.  Just as it was up to a Samaritan to tell her village; and as it was up to a woman to break tradition, enter the male part of the house and purpose to learn at the feet of the Master, so that she might teach others.  Just as it was up to a woman to announce the resurrection of Christ from the dead, so it was up to this one woman to announce the impending insertion of Immanuel into human history.
Never, ever, ever doubt, dear one, the impact one woman -- in love with the Lord and completely submitted to the Holy Spirit -- can do:
                change all of eternity. 
For the glory of her Lord, her soul will magnify His name.

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