Today’s guest blogger is Aubrey Sampson who is “sharing” a post with us, but make no mistake… a sermon follows.
Ten years ago I was speaking at a church and overheard the following conversation:
Woman: “I am so excited that a woman is preaching today.”
Man: “She is not preaching. She is sharing.”
In the years that followed, as I had other speaking engagements lined up, I was afraid to speak the words aloud—I am preparing to preach a sermon. I safeguarded my calling by telling others that I was teaching a lesson or sharing a message—shrinking in semantics.
The conversation about women in ministry tends to borderline on the absurd. Here are a few things I have been told over the years:
- You can read scripture, but not comment on it.
- You can be up front a few times a year. Any more that, the people might think you have authority.
- The pulpit is a sacred space. Subtext: my feminine voice there would defile it.
I’ve even been asked after a particularly emotional sermon if I was on my period.
I know. I know. I’ve sat through enough women’s conferences and meetings to realize that I should be more Mary-like—quiet, contemplative, and content to sit in the pews, rather than stand behind the podium. But I confess I get annoyed with that version of Perfect Little Mary. Of course she could sit serenely at the feet of Jesus—her sister was doing all of the work around the house!
I prefer NT Wright’s version of the story from Luke for Everyone:
“We would be wrong, then, to see Mary and Martha as they have so often been seen, as models of the ‘active’ and ‘contemplative’ styles of spirituality. Action and contemplation are of course both important… But we cannot escape the challenge of this passage by turning it into a comment about different types of Christian lifestyle. It is about the boundary-breaking call of Jesus.”
When Mary sat at her rabbi’s feet, she wasn’t being docile. She was defying cultural boundaries.
Mary dared to sit in the "public room" of the house – a space primarily set aside for male interaction. And by sitting at the feet of Jesus, she embodied the masculine role of a disciple, one being trained to both teach and preach the word of God. What’s more, Jesus allowed—even encouraged—her scandalous behavior.
When Jesus commented to Martha that Mary had chosen what is “best,” in the Greek it says that Mary is eating the better meal.
In that little house in Bethany, Jesus completely shifted the paradigm of womanhood. The meal he offered Mary and Martha was more than just a chance to stop fretting about the house. He was offering both women an education, dignity, and a completely new status in society.
It is no coincidence that the story of Mary and Martha falls directly after the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a lesson in loving the least of these. Jesus embodies the meaning of this parable, revealing that even women are neighbors, equals, and loved deeply by God.
I never want to put words into God’s mouth, but I like to imagine Jesus saying something like this to Mary: Woman, I have uniquely gifted and enabled you to cultivate, create, teach, preach, fight injustice, prophesy, transform your community, serve your family, communicate, love, lead, and worship me. I went to great lengths for you, not just crossing cultural boundaries, but carrying your shame on the cross, so that you are no longer subject to it. Your womanhood is found in my paradigm-shifting love.
When the itchy tension between my womanhood and my desire to preach begs to be scratched, I am soothed knowing that Jesus is in the process of transforming both. As a woman, I am set free to sit at his feet and learn from him at the kitchen table, the altar, the office, the mission field, or wherever he has me.
Now, when I walk up to the pulpit, I do so knowing that I am not preaching for men. I am not preaching for women. I am preaching for my rabbi— the one who has not banished me to the private spaces— the one who invites me into the public room to be with Him.
When women come out of hiding and embrace the gifts God has given us, we take up sacred space. We shift paradigms. We pull up a chair next to Audacious Mary and together we eat the better meal.
About Today’s Guest Blogger
Aubrey Sampson is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom to three boys—which is to say she spends most days in her pajamas drinking a lot of coffee. On the days she manages to get dressed, she writes and speaks about shameless living, women’s issues, and God’s love. Aubrey is passionate about empowering women to experience freedom from shame and take up all the space God has for them.
Aubrey is a Risk Coach and Blogger for Women at Risk, International, a member of Redbud Writer’s Guild and Shannon Ethridge’s BLAST (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers, and Teachers), and is a featured author in the book Enterprise Social Technology (Greenleaf Group Book Press, 2011).
Aubrey writes about living shamelessly at www.aubreysampson.com
Connect with Aubrey on twitter: @aubsamp
About the Women in Ministry Series
The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to:
- Provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry.
- Encourage women to explore their God-given callings.
Contributions Welcome: Contact Ed to pitch your post idea in 2-4 sentences.
You can stay updated on the latest post each week by signing up for the weekly e-mail list. (You also get a free E-book!)
Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome to leave a comment. However, this series takes for granted that women are called by God into every facet of ministry. This is not the place to debate that point and such comments will be removed.Women have been told “no” in far too many places. This is one place that is committed to saying “yes.” For more about the comment policy or submitting your own story, read here.
Next Week’s Blogger: Stephanie Spencer