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Monday, January 30, 2012

Look Who's Talking

Scriptures that Keep Us Awake at Night

“Look Who’s Talking”

Rev. Beth Anderson

Messiah UMC

January 29, 2012

1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 14: 34

One day after worship here at Messiah, a man who was a somewhat regular visitor stopped me while shaking my hand and said, “Pastor Beth- How do we know the bible is the Word of God?”

We stepped aside and I said, “Mike, This is an awesome question. I believe we look at our faith like a table with four legs—and one of those legs carries the most weight… the strongest leg of the table is scripture, but the other legs also help our faith to stand strong- those other legs are tradition, experience, and reason. The living core of our faith is ‘revealed in scripture, illuminated by our tradition, it is vivified in our personal experience- and it is confirmed by reason.”[1]

For some- the answer is clear- they say—read the bible. There. You’ll find your answer.

Sounds simple? But I don’t think it is. If you really read the bible- you’re going to get more questions…

Scripture will convict you and challenge you—Scripture may just even keep you awake at night.

This week we’re addressing one of the scriptures that you all sent in:

One of you shared that this scripture is one you’ve struggled with-

She said: This is a great idea for a sermon series. Here are my troublesome passages:

1 Timothy 2:12 - I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

She said, “You could also use this:

1 Corinthians 14:34

women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

So now- Let’s hear a fuller context of these scriptures:

First: 1 Timothy—you’ll find it in your pew bible on page_1086. This occurs within a section of scripture where Paul is giving instructions concerning prayer—starting at verse 8 he says:

1 Timothy 2:8-15

8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Now this has a lot in this- and we’re not going to unpack everything here.

I can guarantee - Not all of your questions will be answered today.

(And thank God for that! Because God keeps growing us and giving us new questions!)

Now Let’s hear the fuller text of 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40 it’s in your pew bible on page_1050

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Good Order in Worship

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

37 If any think they are prophets or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.

38 Those who ignore this will themselves be ignored. 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Both of these texts refer to specific instructions to these communities of faith concerning how they should pray and how they should order their worship.

The Epistles are letters from Paul to the early and growing church.

They teach us how the church addresses its own growing edges—how the church is figuring out how to be church.

We’ve been church for over 2000 years and in many ways we keep learning how we are to be church.

What do we do with scriptures like this - these scriptures that keep us awake at night?

How do we read the bible? Isn’t this the Word of God?

Is it as simple as- the bible says it- that’s it?

One the most important things when reading scripture is to ask ourselves some questions:

What kind of scripture am I reading? Is this a psalm- is it poetic? Is it liturgy for worship? Is it historical? A parable? A prophecy? A letter?

Are we reading the scripture within the proper historical and cultural context?

In 1 Timothy, Paul writes a letter to Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus and instructs him on the forms of worship, organization of the church, and various responsibilities of the community of faith.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church at Corinth. Paul’s first visit had lasted nearly two years and his converts were mainly Greeks. Sometime before 2nd Corinthians was written he paid them another visit[2] to check some rising disorder[3]. They had also been visited by Apollos[4], perhaps by Peter[5], and by some Jewish Christians who brought with them letters of commendation from Jerusalem[6]. Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. It was a place full of activity, rapid growth, and change. Within all this diversity there were also competing false gods and cults distorting and luring people from the truth of the faith. Women associated in the cult of Dionysus wore particular clothing and hairdos and often appeared to go mad or show up in church services. [7] Paul’s instructions come to the church of Corinth in the midst of this diverse context.

While we’re reading Paul’s instructions to these communities- we should make sure that we understand these instructions in accordance with all Paul’s other instructions.

Who was Paul’s intended audience?

What was going on in their context?

Was Paul addressing a specific conflict to a particular group of people or was he giving instructions for all people throughout all time?

Culturally women were second class citizens and did not have the same rights as men. And yet, they had a prominent role with Jesus and in the early church. Christ treated women differently than the culture and set a new standard for how they should be treated.

His letters provide clues that women engaged in various activities to build up the church.

How does Paul feel about women in the church?

St. Paul Welcomes Bishop Praxedis from the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome

In his letter to the Romans, Paul commends women including Phoebe[8], a servant of the church at Cenchreae (SEN-kree-uh), Paul says, “welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.” Paul greets Priscilla, Junia, Julia, and Nereus’ (NEE-ruhs )sister.[9] He praises Junia as “prominent among the apostles” and she has also been imprisoned with him.[10] Paul praises Mary and Persis for their hard work.[11] In his letter to the Philippians, Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche (Sin-'tee-ke) fellow workers in the gospel. [12]

Within 1 Corinthians Paul has spoken about women in chapter 11 and focused on men and women and how they should pray. Paul gives instructions for women to cover their hair when they pray and prophesy. It is clear that women are praying and indeed prophesying. “Nevertheless, how can a woman pray or prophesy in church when veiled if she is to remain silent in the church?”[13]

In the case of 1 Timothy, scholars such as Gordon Fee have interpreted the Greek and found that “in this context [it appears] that the instruction is against her being ‘up front,’ talking foolishness, or being a ‘busybody’.”[14]

Teaching was where much of the problem in the church of Ephesus occurred.

Paul wants Timothy to help straying elders.

Here, Paul is prohibiting women to teach in what are most likely house churches, but in other churches, they prophesy[15] and likely give teaching from time to time.[16]

Today, we seek to understand what kind of teaching this text is referring to; have some women been taught by false teachers, by cults and are perpetuating errors?

Paul directs that women are not to teach men, which continues the cultural placement of women as “being submissive in every way.”[17]

And we remember this is the same Paul who announced “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[18]

We also need to take in to account the fullness we know of God when we read scripture.

Does this mesh with everything else in God’s word?

Does this fall in harmony with the person and the life of Jesus Christ?

When we begin at the creation story we remember that God made male and female in God’s own image and they were placed to work together in harmonious partnership. [19]

The Hebrew scriptures are filled with the prophets who call us to justice and to speak out against inequalities- especially we see equality in Joel who says that all your sons and daughters shall prophesy.”

Women are prominent throughout the Old Testament -women who held power in the faith Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Jochebed (JOK-uh-bed), the daughters of Zelophehad (zuh-LOH-fuh-had), Deborah, Ruth, Abigail, The Shun-a-mite woman, Esther, and many more.

These women were courageous, spoke up, and are vital to the story of our faith.

Powerful, called women are seen in New Testament as we see Mary answer a call that God has placed in her life to have the Word incarnate come to birth through her, Elizabeth, Martha and Mary and many others who are named and unnamed.

Jesus speaks to women, he reached out to them, he eats with them, trusts them, he teaches and disciples them.

The very first person to spread the good news that Jesus had risen was a woman!

Jesus could have chosen to appear to any number of people upon the resurrection, and yet he chose a woman!

He chose Mary Magdalene –to be the first evangelist who preached this good news of salvation!

Hmm…Maybe reading scripture is a little more complicated than- “the bible says it, I believe it..”

I realized I was a United Methodist—in a sense- because of this…

The bible offers us some wonderful inspiring texts, but also some incredibly challenging ones.

Some of the conclusions I heard growing up didn’t seem right given my own reasoning and experience. For a long time, I thought I was alone in this.

Then I wondered into the chapel at Birmingham Southern College and began reading the hymnal, reading John Wesley sermons, and I realized- here was a place where you didn’t check your own mind at the door, where your own story of who God had formed you and was forming you to be-was actually valid and not discounted!

I wasn’t alone- there were others! In fact 2000 years of Christian tradition and 300 years of Methodism--people learning and growing and discerning scripture! It’s a Christian tradition filled with women deaconesses, elders, deacons, missionaries, district superintendents, and bishops… and more on the way!

When I heard God calling me into ministry- I said- there is no way- God is calling me!

Does God know me—and all the baggage I bring?

Yes- God does—for God formed my inmost being and calls me wonderfully and fearfully made and knits me together!