Paige Patterson, the SBC, and Women

Growing up in the South, we were surrounded by Southern Baptists. They went to church a lot; Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night. They would typically ask if you would want to come with them. We did go to a few Vacation Bible Schools with neighborhood friends. It was a good way for mom to get us out of the house during the summer. The first time someone asked it I was saved, I told the story of falling out of a whitewater raft and the guide pulling me to safety. This was clearly not my scene

SBC

The practices and habits of Paige Patterson regarding the counsel he gave women are alarming. However, if we are surprised it’s only because we haven’t been paying attention. After all, he and other leaders of the SBC have been making similar proclamations in sermons for years. I’ve had several people come into my office, fleeing their Southern Baptist tradition because they were told either not to get divorced for any reason or that they were unworthy of God’s love because they were divorced. I’ve seen the revelation on a person’s face when they discover that women can be in leadership in our tradition and in fact, many of our churches have more women in leadership than men. I’m amazed that so many are just now becoming aware of this abuse of the scriptures and people’s lives so that the privileged males remain in power. After all, Patterson leads a school where women are not allowed to teach men and they must take homemaking classes, all in the name of following the teachings of Jesus. It’s not about Jesus, because these ethics are opposite the teachings of Jesus it’s about control and holding power over another, specifically women. It’s marginalization of one gender so that another may be lifted. “Women can’t preach or teach” is a gateway ethic that promotes the abusive ethic of toxic masculinity running rampant through the SBC.

Beth Moore writes, “I accepted the peculiarities accompanying female leadership in a conservative Christian world, because I choose to believe that, whether or not some of the actions and attitudes seemed godly to me.” There are countless others that have felt the same way. Let me be clear; there is nothing godly about the disregard, disrespect, or abuse of women or any other human being. The central themes of the Scriptures are the exact opposite. The Scriptures proclaim that all people are children of a loving God and all people have enormous value. We are equals, partners with God in the ongoing creation of the world.

I’m confronted by two realizations, First, we in the mainline church have got to learn to tell our stories and share our vision of the Gospel in a more effective, compelling way. If we are upset over how other faith traditions treat others, we cannot be bystanders. We have stood by while others have created a narrative of Christianity that is not faithful to the love of God. Inclusive churches where are all are valued are not a new phenomenon. We cannot be passive about sharing the good news.

Second, we must continue to examine our lives and our institutions. I know in my tradition it is often an advantage to be a male clergyperson when it comes to our call system. I imagine on average my male colleagues are paid more than female colleagues. I suspect many of our congregations do not have adequate family leave policies in place. You see where I’m going here; we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back while we are even the least bit complicit in implying that all people aren’t equally loved by God. Mainliners have work to do too and the urgency should be even greater now.

I do not know if leaders of the SBC are taking a longer look in the proverbial mirror. The God I know calls me to do so. It seems if you aren’t willing to be a part of the solution, you become complicit in perpetuating the problem.

One Pastor’s Prayer for National Day of Prayer

What are you praying for today? It is, of course, the National Day of Prayer. This day was signed into being by Harry S. Truman, originally as a Spring counterpart to Thanksgiving. The idea was that Americans, from all faith backgrounds, would take a day to give thanks and to offer prayers for the United States and her leaders.

 

 

Today I’m struck by how this interfaith and ecumenical celebration has been dominated by more fundamentalist Christian messages. To be fair, those of that ilk of Christianity are great promoters and unashamed about talking about their faith, something others streams of Christianity and other religions don’t do quite as well. It’s not a bad thing that a nation as diverse as the United States comes together to pray to their own understanding of the holy. So what might you pray for today for our nation. Here is my prayer list on this National Day of Prayer

That our nation might honestly deal with both individual and systemic racism. This will require each of us to do honest self-reflection on our complicity in acts of racism.

That the church may be a place where people find the fullness of life. The church holds such promise for being a powerful community in people’s lives. The opportunity is present for us.

That we might pay more attention to those who are marginalized and vulnerable in our midst. I pray that we see the gifts and graces they have to offer and that we might see our collective responsibility to care for those on the margins. 

That we truly follow God’s command to care for creation. Many our actions and policies reflect God’s call to care for creation.  

That people of differing faiths come find common ground so that we can work together to bring God’s shalom to this nation and the world. 

That people of faith be allies to and advocates for those in the LGBTQ community. 

Remembering that Jesus healed those on the margins, let us not forget those on the margins when talking about healthcare. 

May we reclaim what it means to be a neighbor.

Lord, in your mercy, hear your prayer

Good Friday- At the Foot of the Cross

Good Friday is a difficult day to understand and a difficult day to experience. This is where our journey has taken us, to the day that Jesus will lose his life for the thing he was most passionate about: The Kingdom of God

We often hear the story of the crucifixion as a composite of the four Gospels. Our challenge is to hear it as Mark tells it.

It was nine o”clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let  the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o”clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

Mark 15:26-39

The story of Jesus’ death is hard for us to really grasp because we know how it ends. We know that on the third day that Jesus will rise again, that on Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We marvel at the good news that life always triumphs over death.

But for those at the foot of the cross on Friday of The Last Week, they do not know this yet. For them, the story ends. Jesus dies and the way of life, the new life for all people that Jesus is so passionate about, has  been taken away.

There is a  large crowd, but notice in this crowd the disciples are nowhere to be found. They have all fled, most likely out of fear. Just the night before, Peter did as Jesus predicted, denying knowing him three times.

Mark tells us that there are three women who are present at the foot of the cross:

Mary Magdalene- thought to be the most important of Jesus’ female followers

Mary- we are told the mother of James the younger and of Joses

Salome- a common female name in the first century

It is clear that Jesus and the earliest Christians gave women a status that they could not achieve anywhere else in society

As they watch the man they followed crucified, being put to death in the worst way possible, what is going through their minds, their hearts? We are told that darkness comes over the earth. Darkness is symbolic with suffering. Not only is Jesus suffering, but those who are at the foot of the cross, notably the three women, are suffering. Heartbroken. It seems as though death as the final word. It seems as no new light will break forth, which is the worst kind of darkness that any of us can experience.

Today, we acknowledge the darkness. We are reminded of the brokenness of the world.

Even In the midst of death, God’s will is always life. God’s will is always for more and more light to break through. There is always more to the story when God is involved.

 

Thursday- A Difficult but Important Meal

I can’t help but wonder if the Passover meal that Jesus shares with his disciples seems odd to them. In Mark’s Gospel, it is the twelve disciples who seem to be the last to understand what is going on around them. Jesus has been trying to teach them about his upcoming death, but they don’t seem to get it. They are simply relaxing and enjoying a fulfilling meal when Jesus starts to give a speech, telling them that one of them will betray him and that this is his body and sharing a cup that is supposedly a new covenant. I don’r know about you, but after a big meal my attention span is pretty short.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl[with me.  For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 

Mark 14:17-23

Jesus is teaching a lesson about spiritual fullness and what keeps us from being the person God has created us to be. Each of us is held captive by some view of self, neighbor, or the world that cuts us off from the grace of God.

Each of the disciples, like each one of us, are held captive to something that kept them from true discipleship. Jesus knows they will not be at the foot of the cross the next day. They are held captive by their own fears, their own doubts, their own concern for self.

But Jesus invites them to be set free, to be a part of this meal, of this moment. Even Judas is invited, because all are welcome.

Today’s work is to be open to Jesus’ generous invitation to share in the bread and the cup. Partake so that you may be set free.

 

 

Wednesday-Unconditional Grace

We come to Wednesday of Jesus’ Last Week. Tuesday had been a long day, filled with a lot of teaching and a lot of tension. Wednesday begins with Jesus and his disciples at a house in Bethany, the home of Simon the Leper. Bethany was not far from Jerusalem, about two miles or so. We don’t know if Jesus is staying there or simply sharing a meal, but he is there with his disciples and with some other people who have gathered in this home. The focus of the story becomes a woman who is not named.

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Mark 14:1-9

The storm clouds are gathering over Jesus. The authorities have managed to convince on of his own followers to hand him over on a trumped-up charge. He is eating in the home of Simon, a leper. By the way, eating at the house of a leper probably would not have cast Jesus in the best light, be he is there. Where else would he be?

An unnamed woman brings an expensive jar of ointment of nard and she breaks it open. Nard had a very pungent smell, somewhere between mint and ginseng. Imagine this scent filling the room as she proceeds to anoint Jesus’ head with the ointment.

A group at the table begins talking, probably loudly asking why in the world is she wasting this ointment. It’s worth about 300 denari, which would be the equivalent of almost a year’s income for the typical laborer. It’s worth a lot of money. Some at the table perceive her to be wasting it. But that is the last thing that she is doing.

Typically, you wouldn’t use this type of nard but she does. Jesus defends her for using it. She gets it, she understands where this week is heading. He says, “let her alone she is anointing my body before its burial. Whereas the disciples don’t understand this unnamed woman does understand. She understands that Jesus will lose his life for his cause, for God’s cause. She acts out of the fullness of her own heart. She was willing to give up everything she had to honor this man. This is why so many refer to this woman as the first Christian. She believes who Jesus is before anyone will discover any empty tomb.

This unnamed woman understands the nature of God, understands what Jesus’ life has been about even when those who have followed him closely do not. She knows that God’s grace is priceless and it is not meant to be stored up. It is meant to be freely poured out, freely shared because it is so abundant. There is enough to go around, there is no need to limit it, no need to place to conditions upon it.  Those at the table think that the woman has wasted what is valuable This moment is valuable for the value comes not from what it in the jar, but what happens in this moment between the woman and Jesus is a moment of extravagant and unconditional grace.

There is enough. Where God’s grace is concerned there is always enough.  As we travel with Jesus on the road to the cross, we are reminded that what is really important is to see the mystery of grace reveled to It is revealed to us every way,  in moments large and small. that it is abundant and unconditional. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday-Jesus’ Final Exam

 

We come to Tuesday of Jesus’ Final Week. Much of Tuesday will be spent teaching in the courtyard of the temple. Mark’s Narrative of Tuesday covers almost 3 chapters, a total of 115 verses. It is by far the longest of the days in scripture. Almost two-thirds of the time is spent in conflict between Jesus and temple authorities, with the authorities questioning his authority and his knowledge of Jewish Law, on things like resurrection, marriage, and taxes. In many ways, Tuesday is Jesus’ Final Exam before both those who follow him and those who fear him. As things become really heated, a scribe steps up and asks Jesus a question. Here is where we pick up our scripture for today

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Mark 12:28-34

The truth is that we the most important commandment. Many non-religious people can tell you the most important commandment. We struggle to live this commandment. Let’s be honest, it’s a tough commandment to live up to. Knowing it and living it are two entirely different things. Jesus could not have given a more difficult answer to live up to

I love this interaction between Jesus and the scribe. The scribe is different, he is taken by Jesus and really wants to know what Jesus thinks. I suspect if he has paid close attention that he knows what the answer will be. In some ways, the answer to love God and love our neighbor is so familiar to us that it has become cliché. Jesus is answering this question in the most challenging, yet life-giving way possible.

“You are not far from the kingdom of God” is Jesus’ response to the scribes’ answer. That is his to answer to me and you during this Holy Week, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of the God.” Our challenge is to draw ever closer to living into God’s way each day.

Monday- Turning the Tables

As we begin the second day of Jesus’s Last Week, he has entered into Jerusalem and drawn a big crowd for his parade which proclaims that the kingdom of God, God’s way of life is here. He concluded that day by going into the Temple in Jerusalem and looking around. The temple was the holiest place, it was the place that people believed God on earth. It was the center of both religious and community life.

 

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

Mark 11:12-19

What lengths would you go to get people to pay attention? Jesus desired to gain the attention of temple authorities and religious people. So he shuts the temple down. He drives out the buyers and the sellers, overturns the tables of the money changers, overturns the seats of the dove sellers and does not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. All of these are regular daily activities in the temple. If he wanted to get people’s attention, shutting the temple down is a pretty good way to do it.

The temple was intended to be” a place of prayer for all nations.”  Instead, only the few were allowed to come in and do business in the temple. Religious leaders of the day had turned it into a place of commerce for the select few. It hardly resembled what God intended for it to be.A place of justice had been turned into an unjust place. Jesus moves his demonstration and the arrival of the kingdom of God  from the streets of Jerusalem to the temple.

The assumed reality is  the Roman imperial power and the corrupt religious officials have created a power that cannot be broken. The truth is something much greater. The kingdom of God is here. Jesus has spent his first two days in Jerusalem making this truth evident.