Forty Years of “Unearthing”
Last Sunday, January 1, we opened the Gospel of Luke whose story will carry us through the early weeks of Easter. It was fitting that the first sermon preached from this run through Luke’s Gospel was delivered by Kat Spangler. You see, Luke uniquely testifies to the role of women in the Gospel story and in the life of the early church (you might remember that Acts is part two of Luke’s Gospel). Further, Kat’s sermon included words from the prophet Anna who greeted the infant Jesus when his parents brought him to the Temple.
All through Luke’s Gospel, women have a prominent role—from Elizabeth being the first to declare the lordship of Jesus (1:43) to a group of women being the first to proclaim the news of Jesus’ resurrection (24:1-9). Between those two events, the writer of Luke brilliantly weaves together a story that gives voice to both women and men. There is obvious intention on the part of the author of Luke’s Gospel to include both men and women. Often, a story featuring a man is followed by one featuring a woman, like the story of Anna and Simeon greeting Jesus in the Temple. In his first sermon, Jesus highlights ancient stories about Naaman and the widow of Zarephath. Jesus heals two people in a synagogue on the sabbath, one a man, the other a woman. Jesus heals the servant of a centurion (a man) and then raises the widow of Nain’s son. A Pharisee (man) invites him to dinner where a woman shows-up to wash his feet. And throughout the parables, we find images of God both in the father who welcomes home the prodigal and the woman who finds her lost coin.
Not only that, but Luke 8:1-3 makes it clear that women followed Jesus just like the twelve male disciples. In fact, Luke names three of them—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, while adding the detail that there were many more women. Indeed, they not only followed Jesus, Luke 8 makes it clear it was these women who funded his ministry.
Acts continues the story by highlighting the roles of Priscilla (one of the first theology professors of the church), Lydia (helps Paul start the first church on European soil), and Philip’s four daughters (each have the gift of preaching).
Perhaps it’s no surprise that some scholars even speculate that Luke was written by a woman!
Justo González argues that for centuries the church glossed over all these references to women in Luke’s story and, thus, much of what Luke has to say on the matter of gender “lies hidden under layers of interpretation that we have received from earlier generations.” González adds, “It is therefore urgent, for the good of the church, that we continue unearthing what has been hidden.”
Speaking of “unearthing” what was hidden for too long, this month UBC will celebrate forty years of ordaining women. In January 1977, UBC ordained our first woman deacon, Virginia Lou Mullins. For forty years, UBC has understood that women and men are called to serve together. Our congregation understood what Luke was telling us. There is a place, a need, for everyone in the church of Jesus!
On Sunday, January 22, we will ordain three deacons, two men (Ed Hopson and Herb Oldenburg) and one woman (Dee Bishop) who will join previously ordained Karen Walker as our four newest deacons. This will be a day to celebrate the many gifted people who call UBC home and a reminder that we are all called to serve one another and our community.
We have a lot to be thankful for as a church… and, truth be told, we still have a lot of unearthing to do as we discover the wonder of the good news Jesus brought for ALL people, which includes the calling for ALL to join in bringing God’s salvation into our world!