Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Learning From Women

Wednesday in Advent 2
December 8, 2010

The Lord be with you

I believe my denomination is correct in its position that the office of the Holy Ministry is reserved, by God, for men. That being said, there is a problem in this position that exceeds the counterculture nature of it. What do we make of Mary, the Mother of our Lord?

Granted, Mary did not hold the preaching office. Granted, Mary was not ordained. Granted, Mary did not lead any local congregation. But those observations are about who Mary wasn’t, not about who she was.

Of course we know that she was the theotokos, the “Mother of God.” She has been called “blessed” by every generation. She was humble. The list of things we know is quite impressive. But one that is often overlooked is that she was a great theologian.

We see that reflected in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56). Books have been written about it. Churches have sung it. It has inspired countless believers. And this great theological song comes from the mind and heart of a young woman.

One conclusion we can draw from this is that women, like men, can make deep and profound contributions to theological discussions. Of course women, like men, can also make worthless and even heretical comments in reference to the same discussions. The simple fact is that the gender of the speaker does not determine the value of the comment.

It is also worth recognizing that one false step does not a raging heretic make. We should always be thankful to God that St. Paul did not write, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and perfect doctrine” (Ephesians 2:8). This is not permission to believe false doctrine. God never gives us that permission. It is, though, recognition that we poor fallen creatures do hold false views (along with true views), and those false views do not keep us out of a saving relationship with our Lord (unless they are whoppers like teaching that Jesus was just a really good man).

The reason I bring this up is that I’ve just read a book by Barbara Brown Taylor, an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church. It is a text for my upcoming January seminar on preaching. While I would not say that I agree with everything in the book (she is, after all, and Episcopalian and I am a Lutheran), the book has much to commend it. The name of the book is: The Preaching Life.

Half of Barbara’s book is a collection of thirteen of her sermons, by which she illustrates the narrative style of preaching she describes in the first half of the book. I truly enjoy a good sermon, whether hearing it or reading it. I have to say that Barbara’s sermons are a very enjoyable read. If you are a preacher you will probably enjoy the entire book. (I especially found valuable the chapter titled: Imagination.) With this book you can learn a style of preaching that communicates to today’s people. If you are not a “preacher,” I bet you would still enjoy the second-half of the book.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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