Saturday, December 22, 2018

Women and Christ's Gospel

An observation about tomorrow's Gospel lesson, Luke 1:39-56, which speaks of Mary's encounter with Elizabeth in the Judean countryside. Both women are pregnant: Elizabeth, past menopause, is bearing her son John the Baptizer; Mary, a virgin, bears Jesus, God "in human flesh appearing."

When Elizabeth greets Mary, she is able to identify the Child in Mary's womb as the Savior and to call Mary blessed for being the theotokos (the bearer of God in her womb) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth is the only member of her family who can give witness to what's happening.
  • Zechariah, her husband, has been struck mute by the angel who told him that Elizabeth would give birth to a special son; his muteness confirmed for the old man that all that had been prophesied was true and that his son would be the forerunner preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. 
  • John the Baptizer is still in his mother's womb. 
But neither John nor Zechariah, though among the living, can speak. Zechariah gestures. John the Baptizer leaps for joy.

It's up to Elizabeth, led by the Holy Spirit, to verbally articulate the family's faith in the God Who was now definitively acting to fulfill His promises for a Savior.

Matthew tells us that when Joseph, Mary's fiance, was first told of Mary's pregnancy, he didn't believe it. He believed that she'd had sexual relations with another man. Only the intervention of a vision from God persuaded him that Mary was telling the truth, that she was a virgin and that the Child conceived in her womb was from the Holy Spirit.

The point is that from the beginning of Jesus' invasion into this sin-darkened world, it was women who believed and proclaimed the truth that this Jesus was (and is) the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord's anointed, "the Word made flesh."

And it was to women that God first revealed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

It was to the same women who had gone to Jesus' tomb to anoint His body that God first entrusted the Easter message: the good news that God the Son, Who had sacrificed Himself on the cross for human sin, despite His own sinlessness, had now overcome death and was alive again, able to give this same victory over death to all who trust in Him.

So, I grow impatient with those who say that the Holy Spirit couldn't possibly call women to ministries of Word and Sacrament.

It's there in the Gospels: While men were mute, disbelieving, or fearful, women faithfully, boldly, and joyfully responded to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus Christ, then proclaimed Jesus as Lord. How dare any segment of Christ's Church stand in the way of women doing what God the Holy Spirit ordains?

There are more Biblical arguments for the ordination of women to the ministry of Word and Sacrament than this, of course. But here, in a salvo of joy, we meet one such argument, I think, in the narrative of what the Church has historically called, the Visitation.

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Image result for the visitation Elizabeth Mary Jesus of Nazareth



BC said...

I said something very similar to this in my sermon today; that if I didn't proclaim Christ and the mercy, love and power of God, Mary & Elizabeth would show up and push me out of the pulpit!

Mark Daniels said...

Thank you for your comment...and for reading. God bless you!