Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sermonizing II

When I was thinking about why I am uncomfortable with the word sermon, this thought came out of nowhere: Girls Don't Preach. I thought, Seriously? Is that what this is all about? It's amazing how certain verses that have never been used against me can still haunt my subconscious, just waiting for the right moment to jump out and make me wonder how they were there the whole time.

To begin with, I know that women preach. I spent the last weekend at the house of a great example. In fact, most of the pastors I know are women. And although my upbringing was fairly conservative Christian, I also come from a family of independent, self-sufficient women. Not to mention the fact that I have no trouble ignoring other biblical injunctions (the kosher rules and condemnation of homosexuality, for example). So why do I feel constrained by a few verses about women?

I decided to take a second look at the verses that are most frequently cited to keep women out of leadership roles, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. It turns out, in the Message translation, the passage doesn't even apply to me:
Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God's Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking.
Last time I checked, I wasn't married, so no big deal, right? Of course, I had to look at the version from my youth, the NIV:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 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.
That seemed more familiar. But again, I do not have a husband at home to inquire about anything.

More importantly, it is clear that I do not follow the letter of this rule, let alone the spirit. I don't feel led to speak often in meeting, but when I do, I don't stay silent! And the verses really don't say anything about writing sermons on a blog.

It worries me that I can let a few verses that I don't even really remember hold me back from doing something I feel led to do. I am also frustrated that there are many churches, even young, growing churches in the city where I live, that would not allow women to preach based on these words.

Earlier this week, I watched our new president being sworn into office. I had tears of joy in my eyes as I witnessed that historic event, but I also have to admit that I cringed a little whenever anyone mentioned that this is the first African-American president. I know it's true, but for some reason I don't want anyone to say it.

I think part of my negative response is because I know that if we acknowledge the racism and sexism that still exist in our culture, that means we have to do the work to fix it. I don't want our new president to have to bear the burden of being the first African-American president. On a much smaller scale, I don't want to have to do the work of proving that I have something Spirit-led to say, even though I am a woman.

But all of this has to do with how other people see me, not how God sees me. I sometimes hear the voice of God in the most unlikely places. For example, in lyrics by Ani DiFranco:
i got no illusions about you
guess what
i never did
when i said
when i said i'll take it
i meant
i meant as is
God knew who I was when she made me. If God gives me messages for other people, I figure she knows what she's doing. And in looking up these verses, I found a command that speaks to my condition: "When you speak forth God's truth, speak your heart out." (1 Corinth. 14:39). I am going to try.

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