Women in Leadership

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of prophets are under the control of the prophets. 33 God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. Like in all the churches of God’s people, 34 the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says. 35 If they want to learn something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to talk during the meeting.

O (Observation): My first reaction to this text is that somewhere in Paul’s setting, a group of women that were following some other deity were disrupting what was going on at the local gathering of Jesus-followers. He resorted to a general call for women to be quiet. Probably responding to a particular situation in a particular time in a particular place.

Perhaps the worship setting was becoming disorderly and folks had a hard time focusing on worship or hearing the teachings for the day. Perhaps this was a call for orderliness to a particular community. For Paul himself lifts up females in church leadership in other parts of his writings.

Not only does Paul lift up female leadership in the church, I seem to remember Paul writing something else about men and women…

Galatians 3 – “27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A (Application): What are we looking for when we approach scripture? Tradition? New life? Forgiveness? Hope?

We can look for all of these and more.

Yet when it comes to female leadership in the church, we are stuck. And if we are okay with female leaders, we are not okay with paying them fair and equal wages.

God is revealed bit by bit for us. In our leaders – both female and male…and those who are still discovering their identity.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us towards your perfect light. Amen.

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Suffering With One Another

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:22 …the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.

O (Observation): As I have been sharing recently, Paul is talking to a church community he established, in which different members of the body of Christ are lifting themselves up over one another. Some are being given raised or lower status…which is NOT what Paul (or Jesus) stood for. Paul reminds his folks that if we compare the people who follow Jesus to a body, the lesser known parts are given raised status, not because they are better, but because they are unknown and hidden. Thus, we do elevate certain parts that need to be elevated. Not because they are better, but because we cannot tell their story without aiding them in their status.

The goal is that all would be recognized as important and of worth to God.

I see a parallel here to the Prodigal Son story. The elder son thought it unfair to have a feast for the prodigal son upon his return. But the feast wasn’t about the prodigal son deserving anything. Rather, that story is a story of God’s abundant grace. Paul also focuses on the grace for those who need it most. For the parts of the body that are visible and recognized, much like the elder son, are given recognition and a bountiful gift.

A (Application): Our society – in some parts – seems it more responsible to give aid to those who already have it and to ignore the plight of those who “don’t.” When it come to providing care for the downtrodden in our society, we would rather stand by the belief that our hard work and efforts are what should get us by. We don’t like “entitlements.”

Of course that word is a loaded word. It ends a conversation before it can get started.

I believe hard work is good for the soul : )

I also believe that every story matters. The stories of the downtrodden are hardly the same between any two people.

One person is a young adult, in college, who is gay. That person’s parents kick them out, but that person doesn’t have health coverage.

One person became gravely ill and had to use their retirement savings to pay medical bills. He is only 65 years old, but is now healthy and is expected to live another 20 years now.

One person is born with a physical disability, and needs continual care for the whole life long. Her parents do everything for her, but it drains them financially.

Who do you know that needs lifting up? Who do you know that could use the care that our society – as a whole – can help provide?

These folks don’t “deserve” the lack they have.

If we extend the care we give to one another as the body of Christ – lifting up the soft-spoken and hidden folks – should we not also help those who love all around us? That is our witness.

Let us lift up one another. Out of love and care of our neighbor.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, you lift me up, so I can help others to be lifted up. Let me be your hands and feet. Amen.

Of the People

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 9:19 Although I’m free from all people, I make myself a slave to all people, to recruit more of them. 20 I act like a Jew to the Jews, so I can recruit Jews. I act like I’m under the Law to those under the Law, so I can recruit those who are under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law). 21 I act like I’m outside the Law to those who are outside the Law, so I can recruit those outside the Law (though I’m not outside the law of God but rather under the law of Christ). 22 I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. 23 All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it.

24 Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize?

O (Observation): Paul talks about his approach to ministry. He adapts to the culture and the people’s practices. He doesn’t forget his identity in Christ, but he lives as a servant of Christ, always.

A (Application): St. Patrick was lauded for his approach to mission. He entered Ireland a second time (first as a slave, second, as a bishop). As bishop to Ireland, St. Patrick chose to appreciate each different clan and their dialect as a unique gift. He never made them learn Latin, nor follow all of the practices he picked up in Europe, in his seminary studies.

Patrick loved the people and appreciated them. He never forced his ways, yet still proclaimed the Gospel.

In what ways do we obscure the Gospel? When do we cover it up? When do we let it shine?

P (Prayer): Lord, helps us to shine your light on the world this day. Amen.

Playing Politics

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. 11 My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. 12 What I mean is this: that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? 14 Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! 16 Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. 17 Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.

O (Observation): Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians) is all about how to help the different factions of the followers of Christ to get along and to be of the “same mind and same purpose.”

They tend to identify with the one who baptized each of them: Apollos, Paul, Cephas, etc.”. Yet the one doing the baptizing is NOT the focus. Paul reminds them of this. Paul reminds them that in Christ we are baptized. And that is enough. No one else need be identified in baptism.

A (Application): Everything is political. I’m not just talking about parties or independents… I’m talking about “lowercase ‘p’ politics.”

We all struggle with three main desires: Identity (Who am I?), Belonging (Where do I fit in?), and Purpose (Why do I matter?).

Unfortunately, we want to “play politics” and to shape these desires by pointing people to ourselves. We want to define who people are (by what they don’t have). We want to define where they belong (by telling them you don’t want to be “one of those”). We want to define someone’s purpose (by what they can do for “me”).

This is exactly backwards. And Paul knows it.

Paul wants them all to be identified as being “in Christ”.

Who am I? You are God’s child.

Where do I belong? You belong to God, in the body of Christ.

Why do I matter? God will do great things through you, just like Jesus taught the apostles.

Do you believe this?

P (Prayer): Gracious God, define our identity, belonging, and purpose. Thank you. Amen.

Living Sacrifices

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S (Scripture): Romans 12:1 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

O (Observation): Whether one subscribed to giving sacrifices to God – or not – one is now called upon to give one’s own life as a sacrifice…a LIVING sacrifice. Every action taken is to give thanks to God. Just like a sacrifice would be used.

This changes what we do. Our minds – transformed through renewal (God’s doing?) – affect our actions. It’s a repeat of “repent and believe.” That phrase starts with God’s people having their minds renewed, which leads to living into a new belief: that God’s people are one in Christ Jesus.

A (Application): How many of us love as if we are living sacrifices? Are we a pleasing gift to the Lord? I have my days and moments when I can say boldly and confidently, “Yes!” Equally, I can find days and moments when I hide in shame.

We all do. We have these moments where God’s Spirit shines brightly through us, and then we don’t.

So, we live lives seeking to be healed and to seek forgiveness from one another. This reminds us of our humility. Out of our humility, we come to God, broken and weak. And we are renewed as we remember the waters of baptism flowing over us…as we remember that we are part of something bigger (the body of Christ).

May we see that our lives are not our own, but God’s gift to the world. May we live into these roles of living sacrifices, for the sake of the world.

P (Prayer): Lord, protect us and heals and make us whole. Amen.

Bound Together for Ministry

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S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

You serious, Clark?

(Ok, I know Christmas has come and gone, but this quote from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation popped into my mind writing this devotion. Really, John? You serious? I don’t know ’bout dat.)

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S (Scripture): Matthew 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, 3 “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

4 Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. 5 Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6 Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me.”

O (Observation): John, of all people, should know who Christ is! Not only is he Jesus’ cousin, but shouldn’t John – the messenger – know of whom he speaks?

Nonetheless, Jesus’ response is not anger or frustration; rather, he invites John’s disciples to come with him to hear and see what Jesus has been up to. In this way, they will “see and hear” for themselves, and believe.

And to support the fact that Jesus is the promised one of God, he quotes Isaiah: the blind see, the deaf hear, dead are raised, the Good News is proclaimed. Jesus is the Christ – the promised, the anointed, the holy of God.

A (Application): Lots of promises and hopes in our world. We like to see these promises backed up with results / proof. If not, we become very skeptical. Perhaps this is what was going through John’s mind? Or maybe John knew, but his disciples needed some prodding.

What we are left with – in the wake of Jesus’ ministry – is hope for the hopeless and affliction for the comforted.

We seek God’s hope in this world full of criticism and self-righteousness. We seek healing for those born into challenging circumstances. We seek hope for the young people in our country being inundated with all kinds of narcissistic and self-indulging behaviors encouraged by so many. We pray we can learn from our older generations, that we might glean wisdom from their experiences and understand where they have seen God’s handiwork in their lifetimes.

Jesus walked this earth. His witness and the Spirit that burst forth at Pentecost still affect us this day. May we continue to hear and see the work of the Christ in our midst…and may we be the hands and feet through which the Christ continues His work.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to hear…to see. Amen.