I did the message at both services yesterday since the pastor was out of town. It used the text from Luke 15:1-3 and 11-32 (the Prodigal Son parable). I talked first about our prodigal relationship with God but then also talked about the Father’s love and compassion and that we’re supposed to have that same love and compassion for everyone else–running out into the streets to welcome and put rings and sandals on all who are lost.
After the late service, there was a lady who was a visitor who came to the door to shake my hand and “put me in my place.” Here is what I remember about our conversation:
Her: I’m from the Church of Christ. Young lady, you need to read First Corinthians 14 and learn your place!
Me: Well, we were glad you could join us today! (great big smile)
Her: Where’s the minister today?
Me: Well, he’s on vacation.
Her: Aren’t there any men…?
I just stared at her.
Her: You need to read your Bible and find out your correct call from God.
Me: With all due respect, Ma’am, I believe that I have found my call from God.
Her: You read First Corinthians 14 and find the right one.
Me: Well, thanks for coming (even bigger smile.)
She walks out the door and I burst into tears. She went on from there to talk to another church member who informed her that our denomination has been ordaining women for a good number of years now. She told him that he should read his Bible.
All afternoon, I received many encouraging words and apologies from church members who were sorry that this woman said these things to me. I’m fine, of course. I’ve heard these arguments before and I’ve struggled with the Scriptures before. When you’re a woman working in a southern church, you are confronted from time to time by perfectly nice people who do not think that women should preach or teach in church. I had just never faced this sort of belief and attitude within the safety of my own church’s sanctuary.
Now she is a woman who is perfectly entitled to believe what she wants to believe. But so am I. And I’m a woman who believes that God does not issue me a call based on whether or not I am male or female. Who is she to sit in the same room with me for an hour and try to tell me that I haven’t heard my call from God correctly? What gives her the right to make a determination about how well I know or don’t know the Bible based only the fact that I’m a woman who stood in the front of the church and spoke?
Our choir director came to me after the whole thing, when word had gotten around about what our guest had said and he came and said, “I heard you had a visit from Satan this morning.” Everyone around me kind of laughed and he said, “No, listen, Satan comes to every church on Sunday morning. He made himself known this morning.” I understood that he wasn’t making a joke and calling this particular woman Satan, but rather that her words were intended to sow doubt and discouragement.
In Genesis 3, when Eve met the serpent in the garden, the serpent sowed doubt: “Did God really say that you weren’t supposed to eat that fruit? Are you sure that’s really what God said? Are you sure that God would really want you to not eat that wonderful fruit?” In the same way, this woman was perhaps asking, “Are you sure you have heard your call from God? Are you really sure that you know that God wants you to speak his word? Are you sure that’s what God would really want–for you to do it?”
Well, I’m a little wiser and a little more resolute in my beliefs, rather than doubting or discouraged.
I’m not saying that this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me–or even a terrible thing at all. It’s not as if I really have any reason to feel marginalized or angry. After all a great many groups of people besides women have been treated far worse than this. I don’t think it needs to be a huge issue–I know that it’s not for our church. But I do think that I have the right to feel that I am just as worthy of a call from God than anyone and I shouldn’t have to feel like maybe I’m doing something wrong just because I’m a woman. I also can look at the whole Bible and see that God has used women throughout the ages to bring about his truth, his justice, and his kingdom to earth.
Oh, and I’m giving the message at next Sunday’s early service. The Scripture? First Corinthians 14.