Category Archives: Women

Wake up, Deborah!

And God gave them judge-leaders. Whenever God raised up a judge-leader among them, God was with them and saved the people from the hands of their enemies.
Judges 2:16.18

Deborah, a prophet, was the judge-leader of Israel at that time. Judges 4:4

Yesterday I preached on the story of Deborah and Jael. But before I begun, I read the following statements to the congregation and asked them to raise their hands if they recognised the phrase; if they had heard them before, whether spoken explicitly or implied.

1) Women must submit to men, in particular their husbands.

2) Girls must dress modestly to avoid causing men to sin.

3) Women are created for different roles to men: their ultimate calling is to serve their families by keeping things clean, having supper on the table by six, and, most importantly, making babies.

4) Women can’t preach in church, that is a man’s job.

5) A woman must not have authority over a man.

Our congregation at MCC Newcastle is very diverse, with members coming from various Christian traditions, and yet most of them had heard these statements at some point. Almost everyone raised their hands for points 3 and 5.

Then I asked for those who knew the story of Deborah to raise their hands.

One person.

And that’s when I could feel the anger starting. The good kind of anger, a kind that lent passion, nuance and humour to words I had fairly emotionlessly written earlier. The kind that finally gets it.

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Tabitha and the Good News

tabitha

I have been a bit absent from blogging recently.

I have a chapter deadline for my thesis coming up, and I’ve started to get involved again in church. Last Sunday I preached for the first time since I’ve been back in Durham, on the story of Tabitha.

You can listen to it here

When I started to research her, I found a lot of stuff that sounded like this:

AH, Tabitha. Now there was model for Christian women! Always meek, always quiet, never seeking attention, never trying to rise above her situation. Humbly working away on her sewing for the poor, traditional women’s work, rewarded by God for her submission. If only more Christian woman could be like her…

And the more I read the story, and the more I researched the background, the more I thought, EH?

Tabitha is introduced as a “disciple.” This is the ONLY place in the Bible where a woman is described in this way. The term “disciple” is different from the term “believer”. To be a “disciple” in the book of Acts is to be either one of the followers of Jesus in his time on Earth OR to be someone that guides others into the faith. To be a disciple in the early church is to be a leader.

Tabitha’s body was laid in the Upper Room. This was a mark of great respect reserved for someone of importance.

When I picture Tabitha, I see a large-hearted, generous woman. A woman with her own resources – although she is a widow she can afford to buy cloth and give it away in the form of clothing to other widows. When I picture her, I think of the woman of valour described in Proverbs 31. I see a woman with chutzpah.  A strong woman . A woman who is always busy, who has time to spin and weave, to provide food for the poor, to invest in property. Who gets up early to start the day productively. Who has strong arms capable of planting a vineyard. Who has time to laugh and cry alongside the hurting, to make a banoffee pie, to dance, to pray and worship. To spread the good News through acts of service to the community. To be a church leader.

She must have been tired at the end of each day.

But a good kind of tired.  The satisfaction of having done God’s work.

Listen to the whole preach (10 mins) if you have time…and if you want to hear the weirdness of my recorded voice!

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Hell Fires or Living Waters?

Recently on Twitter, I have been having a debate with someone I don’t know from Adam about sexuality, compassion and sin. I realise that Twitter arguments are not a good idea in general, but it has sparked off some serious thoughts about the ways in which Jesus talked to people – and the ways in which Christians are encouraged to talk to people – who live outside of the church context, in a position of vulnerability, or are marginalised for various reasons. I have already posted about the ways in which certain types of evangelism have made me uncomfortable in the past, but this is about more than evangelism. It is about relationships, and it is about the way we choose to share the Good News with others, and the need for compassion.

Because it is supposed to be GOOD News.

Here is a summary of the conversation:

(Context: Someone I follow posted about the Church of England’s recommendation that couples in same-sex relationships should be “given recognition and compassionate attention from the church.” M. replied to this, saying “those who wrote the report are fools who ignore what God has clearly said”)

Me: What’s so wrong with being compassionate with people?

M: It is not compassionate to encourage someone in sin

Me: No-one said encourage. They said recognition and compassionate attention. The church has ignored, misunderstood and hurt gay people.

M: There’s no such thing as gay people, just sexual sinners

Me: Oh ok, that’s made all the hurt go away. You’ve found the solution!

M: (summary). The hurt is necessary so that people will see their sin. Better they are caused pain in this world than experience the pain of Hell.

Me: We are called to be loving, not hurtful. Hurtful attitudes are not Christian. We need to be like Jesus with the woman at the well, not like Pharisees.

M: Jesus exposed that woman’s sin. She was an adulteress and he told her so.

Me: Go read that story. He used no such word. He told her of living waters not hell fires. We must imitate this. Telling her of living waters was extravagant and disruptive love. She changed for that love, not for fear of hell fires.

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