Who am I talking to?

Who is God?

We come to the table for women’s equality from all parts of the globe, from all backgrounds, and with different preconceived theology.  To help us understand who we are and what we bring to the table, work out these questions in your mind.  Certainly there are right and wrong conceptions, but I doubt that a roomful of theologians would agree on all points.

  1. How do you view God?
  2. What is the basis for your faith?
  3. Why do you choose to worship God?
  4. What do you expect of God for yourself?
  5. What do you expect of God for others? Why would it be, or why is it, different from what you expect for yourself?
  6. How does a just God relate to his human creation?
  7. How does a just God relate to his male creation?
  8. How does a just God relate to his female creation? If God relates differently to his female creation than He does to His male creation, why is that?
  9. What justification would God give for making His female creation submissive to males? (Knowing that God does not have to justify anything to us).
  10. What would better benefit the Kingdom of God – Male domination or male/female equality?
  11. Why would God choose to love all mankind in the first place?
  12. Why would God choose to love me? Why would God choose to love you?
  13. Does that look different because you are male? Does it look different if you are female?
  14. Is God male? Is God female? Both?
  15. How do you view God? Has it changed as you thought through these questions?
  16. Did Jesus change God, or does Jesus reflect God?

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Luke 13:34).

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The Nashville Statement and Denny Burk

He said he was going to do it, and he did. Denny Burk, president of CBMW, has issued the Nashville Statement which is a manifesto against same-sex marriage. But Denny doesn’t stop there. He reinforces their heretical theology of man representing Christ in a marriage and the wife representing the church in their marriage.  The Nashville Statement begins this way:

WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

In this one sentence, they say that men and women cannot divorce, are intended to have children (even if they are 60 years old and just got married again?), and that they must be male and female. They also make the heretical statement that they have choroused over and over that the husband represents Christ in the marriage and the wife represents the submissive church. That is unbiblical. It is unChristlike.

Nowhere – nowhere – does Jesus say that after his death, men would represent him in a marriage and the wife would represent the church. He had plenty of opportunity to say it, but he didn’t. Jesus never glorified males over women in any form or fashion.

Denny Burk, recently chosen president of CBMW, reminds me of the Saul before he became the Apostle Paul. Following is a repeat of my post on Burk’s Vision for the future of CBMW:

Many preachers would love to be compared to the Apostle Paul, but few want to be compared to him when he was Saul.

I can’t get Denny Burk’s “My vision for the future of CBMW” out of my mind. If you haven’t read it, you need to do so. He reminds me of Saul who persecuted the first followers of Jesus known as people of The Way.

Just as Denny Burk feels a clear vision about the importance of the Danvers Statement, a clear vision began forming in Saul’s mind as he held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen.  It took Saul to a very dark place where he was willing to go to any extent to carry out that vision.  After the Damascus Road, he suffered the same treatment from the Jews that he sought for people of The Way.

The church in every generation needs to be taught what scripture says about the complementary differences between male and female and how those differences impact family and church leadership. (Denny Burk)

Saul went to the high priest asking him for letters that he could take with him to the synagogues so he could round up anybody they knew who were of The Way.  Then Saul went from house to house, dragging out both men and women and throwing them into prison. Saul stole the letters from those prisoners when they wrote back for help from their families. Now he had names of others whom he could rout out and throw in prison. All because these people were following Jesus who said, “Love your neighbor. Treat others like you want them to treat you.”

Burk wants to renew this war against women with “resources, conferences, etc. in order to equip churches and organizations to face these current challenges.” They already have those resources plus they have locked egalitarian books from being sold in Christian bookstores. What more do they want?

This is what Denny Burk wants. He wants to spread the net further and encompass all gender and sexual identities. He doesn’t seem to understand that even if a Christian has strongly held objections against homosexuals and transgendered people, it is not right to embark on a crusade against your fellow man. Christians should never be complicit in exacting damage to those we disagree with or see as less than ourselves.

Saul’s destruction began with holding the cloak of those who stoned Stephen. Denny Burk is holding the cloak of those who began the destructive Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and who wrote the Danvers Statement in 1987.

I want to thank the CBMW board of directors for their support and for the opportunity to serve an organization that I care so deeply about. I also want to thank my friend and outgoing president Owen Strachan for the faithful labor that he put into this work over the last four years. Owen has built a platform and organization that did not even exist at this time four years ago, and we are the beneficiaries. Truly we reap in fields others have planted, and we give thanks. (Denny Burk)

Saul – now Paul – became a changed man.  Now that he was a follower of Christ, he became the one beaten, jailed, and imprisoned for almost 6 years. Paul was held accountable for his sincerely held belief that he was right and the men and women of The Way were wrong. He staked his reputation and his life on it. In the end, he suffered beatings and imprisonment and death, just as he did to those first Christians.

We look to Paul today for some of the most encouraging, uplifting scriptures to be found in the Bible. He is our hero. But it didn’t start out that way because Saul was wrong in what he thought God wanted.

My prayer is that Denny Burk will see that this rage he has against women and women’s equality, and now homosexuality, is not about what Jesus wants, but is about what Denny wants.

Whose cloak are you holding?

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Rumblings of a new movement

What if every doctrine had to be backed up by at least one scripture where Jesus speaks or acts? If that were the case, the doctrine of male headship would never have seen the light of day. There is a song we grew up with that has these words, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face.” If we Christians would look full in the face of Jesus, no one would claim to have headship over another.

I recently read “Becoming HIS Story: Inspiring women to Leadership” by Mary-Elsie Wolfe.

The author lives in Canada where she and her husband pastor a church. In her book, Mary-Elsie takes us back to basics. It reminds us of why we are Christians in the first place, and who it is that we have chosen to follow and whose name we have committed to.

We see Jesus raising women up out of their culture to something much larger- by his actions along with his words. Mary-Elsie brings us along to see Jesus’ leadership methods as he teaches the different Marys, and Martha, and the Samaritan woman. She encourages us to follow his example as we build up each other.

One part in particular spoke to my heart. Mary-Elsie leads us to consider that “perhaps the last 50 years have already been part of the rumblings to a new movement.”

These rumblings are created by women and men who have decided to follow Jesus instead of elevating men to holy status. It is pastors like Mary-Elsie who will bring this to fruition. Together, across borders, we are reaching out to both and women to look full upon Jesus’ face and to follow his example.

We are privileged to be part of Jesus’ working in our religious culture in this period of Christian history. We are humbled to be HIS story.

Want to rumble? Support CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality)

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We’ve a story to tell to the nations

How can we witness to the world of the saving grace of Jesus, when we deny women in our churches that same saving grace? Oh, women can be saved, but according to current male headship teaching, she is not extended the same grace men are because her Christian service is limited by church tradition and bylaws, and by a patriarchal culture.

Three examples of this that I encountered in the past few days:

  1. Unequal in the church

72% of Christians agree they could worship with a woman pastor but only 9% do! Christian movie provider, Pure Flix, recently discussed this on their blog: https://insider.pureflix.com/news/is-the-american-church-embracing-female-leadership.

Just today I was talking with a woman who assured me that her church (Assembly of God Cowboy Church – we live in the South), promoted women as equals. The Assemblies of God have male headship as their core belief in a marriage and usually we see that when a woman is the preacher, she is usually the wife of the man preacher in the church, and probably does not have any seminary training. But the fact is that this woman believes women should be equal, and does not see that women are denied equality in her own church. There are obviously many like her.

2. Unequal in the law

A federal appeals court ruled on April 27, 2017, that employers can legally pay women less than men for the same work based on differences in the workers’ previous salaries.  In contrast, a business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, Chris Tomlinson, wrote “Society’s message to women: Don’t work.” Actually he should have headed the article “Churches’ message to women: Don’t work” because that is what male headship teaching is telling today’s modern woman.  Tomlinson was referring to the salary inequity faced by female doctors in Houston. This is an example of what is taught in churches bleeds out into society and laws are made and business owners abide by it.

3. Unequal in the faith

Open Doors (World Watchlist 2017) ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith. The United States of America should have been listed for their persecution of the women sitting in their pews each Sunday. Pastors preach from the pulpit, they preach on the airways, in their books, in their blogs, in their conferences, in their seminaries, and write in their by-laws, that women are second class citizens in the kingdom of God. And then they take this message to the world that already persecutes women through their culture, and try to tell them that Jesus came to save them.

I don’t know how they do it with a straight face. “Submit graciously to your husband.” These women live in a culture of complete ownership by their husbands. Shouldn’t Christians be bringing them a new message of Jesus and freedom and hope? Even the Apostle Paul did that. His culture was male headship but look what Paul said to the men. He found it necessary to remind husbands to love their wives. And then he goes one step further and tells them that since they would not give themselves a black eye, not to give their wives one either. He told them to be better than that. He gave them something to strive for – a new way for husbands to treat their wives. No more beatings, and food and care for their wives. But we tell husbands that their wives are to submit graciously.

We tell this story to the nations: Wives, submit graciously. Women, you cannot serve as God calls you because we have decided to limit your service.

It is 2017. 72% of Christians say they could worship with a woman pastor, but only 9% have that privilege. What are you going to do about it?

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How the Resurrection comforts us today

Grief. That overwhelming feeling of loss that comes from the heart and chokes up the throat and brings hot tears to the eyes. We’ve all experienced grief of some sort. Some more intense than others. And more than likely we feel that our grief is far worse than we ever imagined it would be.

We have just come from Resurrection Sunday where the story is so familiar to us, causing us to lose the sense of grief surrounding those days. So, let’s go back because this resurrection story began before Jesus’ death and is actually our story today.

Lazarus, Jesus’ good friend and brother of Martha and Mary, was ill and about to die. Immediately the sisters sent notice to Jesus. Of course they wanted him to heal Lazarus as they had seen him do for other people. Isn’t that what friendship and love is about? I have a need that my friend can fill, but I haven’t heard from him. Did our friendship mean as much to him as it did to me?

Jesus got the message that his friend Lazarus was dying, but he made the decision to not go the Bethany to heal him. He gave some strange reason that fell flat on their ears. He even promised that “this sickness will not end in death.” But Lazarus died.

Then Jesus went to the tomb where he was buried.

In a reversal of roles, Martha ran to meet Jesus while Mary stayed behind receiving friends and neighbors into their home and being consoled. Jesus told Martha to go get Mary. The Teacher had something that he wanted her in particular to see. Martha remembered what he had said about the resurrection, but it was important for Mary to see this.

Running toward the garden where Lazarus was buried, Mary could hardly see because she was crying so hard. She was confused because here Jesus was after Lazarus died, and after her belief that if only he had arrived in time, they would not be here mourning her brother’s death.

“Where have you laid him?” Jesus saw her tears and then Jesus wept.

Those around him said, “See how he loved Lazarus!” But I don’t think that was why Jesus cried. I think Jesus cried because he knew the intense pain that Mary and Martha were going through. Remember, he knew already that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, so why would he cry for Lazarus?

Grief. Jesus could have healed Lazarus and he could have saved Mary and Martha from going through this loss. He knew their prayers, just as he knows our prayers when we are facing a loss. Jesus didn’t have an eternity to show those around the tomb about the Resurrection, so he used the 4 days to signify to us that we will live again – not on earth as Lazarus did, but with God in eternity.

Last Sunday was Easter. Two weeks after my husband died. I went to church. When I got there, I got so choked up that I started crying. There were so many people coming in early and I slipped through the greeters and went to our Sunday school classroom to take back two lesson books I had and realized that I just couldn’t do it. The last time I had been there, Don had sat by the window sipping his coffee and everything was all right. I left and met the young associate pastor in the hall and he just wrapped his arms around me and held me. I told him that I had thought I could do it, but I just couldn’t. As I was leaving, he said, “Don’t forget this Sunday is about the Resurrection.”

Our prayers of healing are never wasted. Jesus wept over Mary and Martha’s grief and I believe he understands our grief when we lose someone we love. And I look to the resurrection story to believe that we will see our loved ones again.

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Stepping into the Christian era

He is Risen and now what? Let’s not be too hasty lest we pack Jesus away with the plastic Easter eggs. In the last chapter Destination, the garden, we saw how Jesus went out of his way to tell women that he was the Messiah. As we will see, there was a reason for this.

Jesus has been called “the new Adam.” That first Adam has been the bane of all mankind and so has Eve. But the Resurrection changed everything. Here was the new Adam – a spirit that gives life.

“So it is also written, The first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life.” (1 Cor. 15:45 CEB). In Bible language, this is what is known as typology. It is a doctrine of theological types; especially one holding that things in Christian belief are prefigured or symbolized by things in the Old Testament.

Let’s look again at that garden.  There is Jesus and there is Mary Magdalene. Since Jesus is the new “Adam,” Mary is the new “Eve.” She is the first to witness this new Adam. He called her by her name, thus naming her. She is a freed woman, no longer to be cursed by manmade rules and restrictions. She is freed of the stigma placed upon her by mankind. But it won’t last. Because whenever humans can place a stigma, they will, and they did.

Just as it was not a coincidence that Jesus told the Jewish Mary of Bethany that she was welcomed into the presence of the Master’s teaching; Jesus told the gentile woman that he had also come to be Messiah of the gentiles which included her; Jesus told the woman at the well that he was the Messiah whom the Samaritans had been expecting (believing that they were the true faith); it was not a coincidence that Mary Magdalene was in the garden to see the Resurrected Christ – the new Adam. Everything was leading up to this.

Genesis begins in a garden. And here we are again, in a garden where the Apostle Paul says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The new Adam and the new Eve. And just like the original Eve, this woman Mary Magdalene who was cleansed of all her sins, remained under the curse of man. Not God, but man. So do all of us women who have come after her.

There are no more gardens. We have stepped into the Christian era.

(repost from my Lent series in 2016)

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Part 5. The garden

Chaos. Everybody was running here and there. It is no wonder the stories got mixed up. Some thought they saw Peter and John go into the tomb, some thought they had not arrived yet. Some saw angels, or something that looked like angels. Some saw the guards lying facedown and scrambling up with worried looks and making hasty decisions of what to tell the authorities.

“Where is he?” You can hear the determination in her voice as Mary Magdalene confronts someone she thinks is the gardener. “Just tell me where he is and I WILL GO GET HIM!” This is not some weak woman speaking. She has come to the tomb prepared to roll away a heavy stone, but now all she sees is a gaping hole and the body of Jesus is gone. She is crying, yes, but these are tears of frustration and determination. She was going to make this right. Weak people say “help me” while strong people say “I will do it.”

“Tell me where he is! I will go get him!”

Chaos. So many different accounts of this one event. But there was one thing they all were clear on. It was a woman who Jesus first revealed himself to.

There were men around – the guards who were scared half to death – and possibly Peter and John. But they didn’t get the news. It was a woman. Like all of Jesus’ proclamations, male headship played no part in this resurrection story.

So we have finally arrived in the garden and the world has been turned upside down. Where do we go from here? Do we leave Mary and the other women beside an empty grave? Yes, we do. Not as Jesus did, but as pastors and preachers and other women have determined we should do. Mary Magdalene is mentioned 12 times in relation to Jesus’ death and resurrection. After that she is no longer mentioned. Why not? This woman to whom Jesus made a personal appearance – bypassing all the others around the tomb – is left there.

I was sitting in a doctor’s office while both men and women sat around me, using their iPhones or devices. Tears came into my eyes and I wanted to shout to all there “This is the 21st century for both men and women! Why does the church work so hard to keep women in the 1st Century?” Because the Bible says so? Where?

Where does Jesus say that women must submit to their husbands? Where does Jesus say that women cannot be in authority over a man? It is not there, my friends. We are called Christians because we follow Christ and not some 1st century societal customs that empowered men over women.

We have come to the garden by way of Mary of Bethany who was a Jewish woman welcomed to sit and learn from the Master himself. We have come to the garden by way of the Gentile woman who learned that Jesus was the Messiah for gentiles which included her. We have come to the garden by way of the Samaritan woman who believed that hers was the true religion, and here was the Messiah just as they expected. We have come to the garden by way of Mary Magdalene who declared she would go herself and find Jesus until he said her name and she knew he was the resurrected Christ.

We are at the garden. Who is going to stop you from going and telling?

(my blog post published in 2016)

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Lent 4. Destination, the Garden

If the first thing you think of when you remember the woman at the well is “the man you are living with now is not your husband,” then you have missed the whole point of Jesus’ visit to this Samaritan woman.

The Danvers Statement Affirmation #9 says: “With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.”

No matter what shape the world is in, the writers of The Danvers Statement would never have chosen the woman at the well to be the instrument God used to win lost people to Christ.

But Jesus did.

Everyone knows her story. In fact, hers is one of the longest detailed stories of an event in the New Testament. It was her story. She told it to everyone who would listen. This man she had just met at the well knew that she had had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband.

Jesus was not judging her for that. He was offering her something that no man could offer a woman. He was offering her living water—from a well that would never run dry. And he told her that he was the source of this living water.

This was a woman experienced in the ways of men, and she knew this conversation was different from any she had ever had. She was certainly not the one who would be expected to announce the news that prophecy had been fulfilled and that the long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived. No one would even listen to a woman proclaiming this momentous event, would they? But for some reason, Jesus chose her to reveal his true identity.

She took that message and ran with it.

It was Jesus who brought up the subject of living water. He told her that if she drank from the water he gave, she would never be thirsty again.

She wanted that. She said she did not want to keep coming to the well to draw water. She was probably teasing him at that point as she had no idea what he was talking about. Then Jesus did something surprising. He told her to go call her husband, and then to come back.

Aha! Finally Jesus brings male headship into the conversation! “Go, call your husband and come back,” Jesus said.

The woman answered, “I have no husband.”

Was Jesus was surprised at this? Did he ask her to go call her husband just to embarrass her?  No, its significance is greater than her confession that she was not married to the man with whom she was living. She was worthy in her own right, as a woman, to be told directly by him that he was the Messiah. They engaged in a theological discussion. This woman was not learning in silence. And Jesus did not rebuke her for it. She talked back and told him that she could see that he was a prophet. She declared “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

And he did explain—right then and there—to the woman at the well, a woman who did not have a husband to tell her if what she was hearing was right or wrong. She heard, she accepted, she told.

This story of the woman at the well is found in John 4:4-42 and begins by saying, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It is best translated that “he purposed in his mind” to go through Samaria, because the Jews had found a way, even though it was inconvenient, to avoid Samaria. They thought they were better than these poor cousins, the Samaritans, and for a Jew to deliberately go through Samaria was unusual.

There was something in Samaria that Jesus needed to do in order to complete his earthly work.

With this story of the Woman at the Well, we see how the picture of Jesus is coming together.

  • The Jewish woman, Mary of Bethany, who Jesus permitted to sit at his feet right beside the men, and learn at a time when learning scripture was forbidden to women
  • The Gentile woman to whom Jesus revealed that he was not sent only to Israel, but to all people, which included her
  • The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah, who the Samaritans were also expecting, since they claimed theirs was the true religion of the ancient Israelites.

These are pivotal stories because they show that Jesus gives the voice of the gospel to women just as he gives the voice of the gospel to men. These stories also set the stage for the empty tomb where it was women who first encountered the resurrected Jesus and where the full gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus would unfold. So, yes, Jesus purposed in his mind to go through Samaria, because he had something to complete in Samaria.

The completion of this mission was so satisfying to him that he told his disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” The conversation he had with this woman had an effect on Jesus that was profoundly different from his other encounters with men or women. This is the only scripture passage in the Bible where Jesus said that what had just happened was so meaningful to him that he felt that he had been fed. In other words, mission accomplished.

Verse 42 says “…we no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” These men first heard the words of Jesus from a woman, and then they heard the same message from Jesus himself.

Jesus is headed to the garden tomb and the final meeting with a woman who steps into the Christian era with the news “He is risen!”

It is 2016. What will you do? 

(This is a repost of my Lent series in 2016)

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Lent Part 3. Destination, the Garden

There are four women to whom Jesus tells that he is the Messiah, the Canaanite woman being one of them. Most often we hear of her great faith, but when we concentrate on the faith of this woman, we diminish the message Jesus gave her. She was given the news from Jesus himself that he not only came for the Jews, but for the Gentiles also – and that meant her. Her story is found in both Matthew and Mark.

She asked Jesus to heal her daughter, but for some reason, he was not going to do it.  Jesus told her “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” She was a Gentile, and Jesus was telling her that he was sent to save the Jews only. But if that was the case, I wouldn’t be here writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it. So we see that while Jesus said that, it did not tell the whole story. And then by healing her daughter, he is showing her that he is also the Messiah of the Gentiles. That is Big News! We must never forget that this extraordinary news was told to a woman who had no husband nearby, or possibly not at all.

But right now, this woman did not need some idealistic prophecy of what was to happen in the future. Her daughter lay in bed very ill and she needed help now. So she argued with this man Jesus in whom she had placed her hope. ‘Help my daughter! Surely you have enough power within you to give a small portion to us Gentiles.’

 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”  He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Common English Bible)

This story is very similar to the story of the first miracle when Jesus turned the water into wine. His mother (remember she had first argued with the angel Gabriel when told she was going to have a baby who would be the Messiah?) In the Wedding story Jesus says almost the same thing to his mother as he says to the Canaanite woman.

When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.” Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.” His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did.  The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. (Common English Bible)

Just as his mother had asked for a special favor “even though the time was not right,” Jesus did as she asked. He does the same with this Gentile woman, showing that his right time had no beginning or ending.

Jesus told women his Good News, and he did not tell any one of those women to go home and ask her husband, brother, or father what he meant. He did not tell any one of these women not to tell the Good News of the Messiah. If he had, we would have never heard these stories. The Gentile woman went home and found her daughter healed. The disciples didn’t see that ending. She told it to whoever would listen.

It is 2016. What stories are you telling about your relationship with Jesus?

This is my post I posted last year for Lent.

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Lent Part 2. Destination the Garden

Jesus is headed to the garden, this time to the garden tomb of Lazarus, where something very important is about to happen. There is to be a resurrection, a small demonstration of what is to come.

It is a familiar story. You know it well. You know Lazarus died, Jesus wept, Lazarus came forth from the tomb. And you know that Martha and Mary were at odds with each other because Martha needed help in the kitchen and Mary was sitting down and not helping.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” But every story has a back story and that story is most often ignored because the significance doesn’t fit with today’s male headship teaching.

Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus. Apparently they live together. But it is not Lazarus who appears to be the head of the household, it is Martha. The stories in the Gospels do not attribute one word spoken by Lazarus, either before his death or afterwards. He does nothing to indicate he is the “head” of this family. Jesus speaks and interacts with Mary and Martha, and even this resurrection of Lazarus is overshadowed by Jesus’ talking with Martha, and his special notice of Mary.

Most of the people Jesus comes into contact with have only one story recorded in the Gospels. But Mary and Martha have at least four stories about their encounter with Jesus. When we first find Mary and Martha, Mary is at the feet of Jesus and Martha is fussing in the kitchen.

Mary was learning from the Teacher himself which was an enormously big deal in that time. It was said that for women to be taught the scriptures from men was similar to teaching them about sex – it just was not done. But here Mary is sitting at the Master’s feet alongside the men.

She is also the same Mary who, six days after the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, pours expensive alabaster oil on Jesus’ feet and dries his feet with her hair. Jesus rebukes those who seek to stop her by saying she is wasting the oil that could be sold to help feed the poor. He tells them “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”(Matthew 26:11-13).

Mary and Martha send for Jesus, but he waits until Lazarus is completely dead (it was believed by some Jews that the spirit hung around for three to seven days after death). It is Martha who runs to Jesus when he arrives after Lazarus’ death. If he had only gotten there earlier, Lazarus would have been healed but here he was dead and in the tomb and stinking for four days.

The bible makes the point that “ when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house.” Mary remained at the house with the neighbors who came to comfort her. We know that Lazarus’ death and resurrection is one illustration Jesus wants to make, and we are going to see that there is one more connection to be made.

Here it is:

“After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” Jesus was headed to the tomb where Lazarus lay but it was important that Mary who had a hungering for the Scriptures and the things to come, be there when he brought Lazarus forth from the tomb. Thus, he said six days later, “she has prepared me for my burial.”

Just the facts, ma’am. Women had gone every step of the way with Jesus. They did not abandon him at the time of his trial; they did not deny him. Jesus is headed toward the tomb where at least two Marys will be the first to see him after his resurrection.

It is 2016. Jesus has been resurrected and the New Day dawned over 2,000 years ago. Are you still denying women equality in your church or in your home?

(reprinted from my post in 2016 Lent. Destination the Garden series)

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