Tuesday, August 21st. Mark 15:40-41

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.  Mark 15:40-41


When I entered the seminary, in the fall of 1983, I was fresh out of college.  It did not strike me as unusual that roughly 50% of my class were women.  Fairly quickly I learned that the Lutheran Church in America first ordained a female pastor in November, 1970, followed quickly by the American Lutheran Church in December, 1970.


(I also learned, especially when a male professor had an audience of male students, with a wink and a nod and a bad joke, that there was significant lingering resentment about the long lost days of yore when the seminary was the ultimate good ole boys club before they let women in to play.)


A couple of years ago, when I was working in our synod office, I had the responsibility of putting together teams of people to work on specific projects.  I wanted those teams to reflect reality, which meant that they had to reflect the diversity of people in our synod.  But it was hard to find those voices.  At one point, (in 2009, after 39 years of ordaining women), I looked at the list of clergy in our territory and discovered that only 17% of our pastors were female.


One Sunday I was scheduled to preach at a little church out in the country.  They had lost a previous (male) pastor as a painful consequence of misconduct but had been well served by a gifted (female) interim pastor.  In their search for a new pastor they had identified a strong (female) pastor with great leadership gifts who was willing to come and serve in what promised to be a difficult setting.  They would be voting on her one week later.


I got to the church quite early.  It was just me and the person who unlocked the door and started the coffee.  I went out to the sidewalk as the first car drove into the gravel parking lot.  “Good morning,” I said with a smile as I met the older couple that got the prize for the first people to arrive to church that day.  They smiled back as we exchanged handshakes.


The mood dramatically shifted when I next said, “I hear that you’ll be voting on your new pastor next week.”  The woman’s face darkened when she barked back at me, “Well I wish the Bishop would read his Bible and send us a MAN to be our pastor like the Bible says.”


I honestly can’t remember what I said in return.  I was…flabbergasted.  I was angry.  And I was instantly convicted by how much I take for granted as so many doors magically open for me as a tall white male in a society that continues to struggle against God’s gift of the diversity of creation.


2000 years before, women had played a central role in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Over against the cultural norms of the day, Jesus went out of his way to bless women, heal women, listen to women, serve and be served by women.  Women stood closest to the cross.  Women were the first to the tomb.  Women were listed among the leaders of every church Paul started.


2000 years before, the letter to the Galatians had circulated among Christian communities which included the strong message:  “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”


Oh that such faith would come….


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, our eyes see but are blind.  Our ears hear but are deaf.  We, though all standing together at the foot of the cross, continue our incessant game of divide and conquer.  Thank you for the courage of those who confront us in our blindness and who lead the way in celebrating the gift of diversity.  Thank you for the boldness of their witness and remind us that their work begins anew each day.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


3 Responses to “Tuesday, August 21st. Mark 15:40-41”

  1. Linda Mercer Says:

    Performing Mark’s Passion Story By Dr. Philip Ruge-Jones

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CDT

  2. Sharon Salo Says:

    From adversity comes strength and that may be the reason women have proved their resilience and work ethic as well as their peace-keeping, nourishing, enabling, and loving ways. I honor and cherish all the males in my life, even when they are difficult and needy. They do so much to help and keep me happy and they deserve our appreciation. All people need to recognize and foster justice.

  3. John R Says:

    several years ago I had a similar experience. It was the weekend of the first MLK holiday, and I was ushering handing out the bullitens. I was shocked by the number of angry comments I heard when the saw MLK’s picture on the buliten.

    As you say, it amazing the human potential to not listen to Jesus.

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