Easter’s Other Women

Luke 24:1-12 – Easter – for March 27, 2016

“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.” (Luke 24:10)

empty-tombEaster has devolved into a slurry of candy bunnies, lilies with a shelf life at the supermarket, a little time off from work, and a tease for the looming, longer summer vacation. Eggs, real and plastic, are painted by the dozen, hidden, and hunted.

Where is Jesus?

That was also what they wanted to know at the first Easter.

I read Luke’s account of the empty tomb again. Was it for the hundredth or five hundredth time? I’ve studied it, analyzed it, de-Greeked it, and have dutifully compared different translations of the third Gospel’s twenty-fourth chapter. Inside warm, cozy churches and outside at chilly sunrise services where plumes of breath appeared like smoke announcing a new pope, I’ve preached it honestly, preached it poorly, and—until this last week—would claim I knew the passage well.

There was no denying my surprise at the 10 times (in the Common English Bible version) Luke’s passage included the words “they” or “the women.” And I admit bewilderment at Luke’s solitary use of “the other women.”

According to Luke, the women visited the tomb after the crucifixion to care for his dead flesh with “fragrant spices.” They find the tomb has been opened. They enter that tomb. They can’t help but notice . . .

Where is Jesus? Continue reading →

If I Had A Hammer

Judges 4:1-7 – The 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 16, 2014

“I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.’” (Judges 4:7)

Jael and Sisera have different bedtime plans . . .

I’m in over my head with Judges. I’ve spent hours reading and wondering and studying about Adam and Eve’s creative fling in the garden, Moses’ trudge toward the promised land, and David’s royal travesties and triumphs.

But I haven’t dwelled in the Biblical pages of Judges for much quality time. I could only talk about the history in a general way. Can’t easily explain the theology. Not sure when it was written, or by whom.

Frankly, given the brief glimpse of Judges provided in this week’s “lectionary lesson,” I would’ve preferred to spend time with Jael, a woman mentioned later in the book’s fourth chapter. Not long after meeting Deborah, the “star” of Judges 4:1-7 and the focus of Judges 5, the strong-stomached Biblical reader will be introduced to another woman named Jael. Jael served God’s, er, “good” purposes with some common—common, if you’re part of a tribe in the desert—household items. The final verses of chapter 4 with Jael were edge of the seat stuff compared to Deborah’s mild opening.

But . . . Judges 4:1-7 was the official reading. And so the opening of Judges’ chapter four involved the serene, let-me-share-insights-with-you Deborah. As the prophet Deborah sat under a shady palm tree in the lovely Ephraim highlands, settling disputes between . . .

Hey, hold your holy horses! What about Jael? What did she do?

Glad you asked! Continue reading →

Singular Women

Proverbs 31:10-31 – The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 23, 2012

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

Women made me who I am.

Which is likely the case for you unless you’re a test-tube baby! So, thanks Mom. And I have two sisters, one older, one younger. Growing up, I got it coming and going as the middle child and only boy.

In hundreds, if not thousands, of church meetings I’ve attended, often only one male participated . . . me. Once, as a new pastor serving a rural congregation in Wisconsin, we needed money—now!—to replace a furnace. Near the swishing tail of a Holstein hooked to a milking apparatus, a taciturn dairy farmer suggested, “Better talk to the women. They’ve got the money.” He meant the United Methodist Women in that isolated church. The frugal farm wives had raised and saved money for where it was needed:  overseas missions, projects to help the local needy and, on occasion, a large chunk of change for an expensive furnace.

In a paean to a wife and women, the Old Testament book of Proverbs (31:26-27) extols . . .

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Generally speaking, in our sacred scripture, women weren’t highlighted. Old or New Testament, women were property, second-class citizens. (Or maybe third class, if compared to a mob of sheep or crop of wheat as part of your “manly” wealth.)

After reading Proverb 31’s ode to a “capable wife,” I dredged up faded, fractured childhood Sunday school memories about Biblical women. Old Testament-wise, I might’ve only identified Eve and Delilah. Eve—because she appeared early in the story, and railroaded gullible Adam into nibbling fruit. (See, fractured memories.). And Delilah—darn clever for that sneaky babe to trim Samson’s hair and scissor him down to size. (And I’d seen the movie!) Only later in seminary, would I ponder the theological gifts of a Sarah, Ruth, Hagar and others.

As a tyke or a seminarian, I knew the New Testament women better. And yet, even in the much briefer and later Christian scriptures, the exploits of men far outnumbered women. In any list of Jesus’ disciples it’s all men, all the time.

But on my path to and through ministry, women mattered. Continue reading →