Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
In addition to this virtual worship post, Hannah will be on WALH radio today as part of the Quaker Hour. Tune in at 10 am or 3 pm.
If you feel led to continue contributing financially to Ada Chapel during this time that we are not meeting, please mail offerings to our treasurer at 2418 Wilson Rd. Wilmington, OH 45177.
Happy Mother’s Day to all who are celebrating today. And for those whose hearts may be heavy today, know that you are loved.
Ross and Violeta. All of those who are sick, or who have loved ones who are sick. Healthcare workers, grocery stores workers, and other essential workers. Our neighborhood and our community. The family and friends of Ahmaud Arbery. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our leaders in all levels of government. People in the recovery community. Parents of small children, and parents who will be homeschooling for the rest of the school year. Everyone who is feeling discouraged. All of those who have lost jobs, or who are struggling financially during this time. 2020 graduates who are missing out on their graduation ceremonies. The young people of WYM who won’t get to go to camp this summer.
Hymn- Faith of Our Mothers
Meditative Moment (Followed by silent worship)
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”- Frederick Buechner
John 20:11-18: But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Something that I have heard a lot of women in different levels of church leadership talk about in recent years is how this story of Jesus commissioning Mary Magdalene to tell the eleven disciples that He had risen absolutely changed their lives. A lot of these women grew up in faith communities or in environments where women had to play by different rules than men. Men were the only ones allowed to preach. They were the only ones allowed to be elders, or to serve on certain boards. They were the ones making all of the big decisions, despite the fact that most church-goers are women. Women could teach Sunday school to the young kids, but not to the older ones. A woman could be a missionary alongside her husband, but single women certainly didn’t belong in the mission field. In some extreme cases, there were even rules about women singing or playing an instrument in front of the congregation. These women all possessed gifts of leadership, and some had even discerned calls to ministry at an early age. But they were told over and over again that they had misheard God, because He wouldn’t call a woman. Or that they needed to rein in their personalities to fulfill these institutional gender roles. So, when they read this story of Jesus calling Mary to go evangelize to the others, and Mary obeying—it gave them permission to listen to God’s voice and to follow His call. Mary Magdalene was living and evangelizing in a time where women were viewed as nothing more than property, so if God could see value and giftedness in Mary, and use her voice to proclaim that Jesus was risen—then why couldn’t God use them? If God would call Mary, then who was to say that they didn’t also have a call to say yes to, or a message to tell the world?
I, on the other hand, heard this story a million times growing up and never thought it was anything special. Now, understand that I am not saying that I don’t think that Mary Magdalene is great role model for Christian women, nor am I saying that I disagree with the idea that God calls both men and women to be ministers. I am a female pastor serving Ada Chapel– a meeting that has the pictures of five women who we consider to be our Founding Mothers on the wall. If I had issues with women in church leadership, I’d be the world’s biggest hypocrite. I can say that I wasn’t empowered by Mary Magdalene’s story as a young girl for no reason other than that I am a very lucky woman.
I can say that I never thought twice about the idea that Mary Magdalene was called by Jesus to be an evangelist or a preacher, because of the Quaker meeting that I grew up in. I saw women doing a variety of important things there every single Sunday—speaking from the pulpit, teaching Sunday school to all ages, serving on various committees, voicing their ideas, leading music, and hiring pastors. In fact, I didn’t even know until my late teens and early twenties that some churches had all of these various rules about how women could and couldn’t live out their faith—and this is because of my mom. My mom was and is very strong in her faith. I learned how to unapologetically love Jesus and how to serve Him with faithfulness and with integrity from her. My mom was always encouraging me to pay attention and to learn as much about God as I could. She urged me to read poetry in front of the congregation and to get involved in youth activities. It never once occurred to me that the voice of God could be superseded by a human being, because I was surrounded by people who demonstrated equality. Until I got older, I never realized that some people didn’t share the picture of God that I had—that God created all of us in His image, loves us all fiercely, and makes room at the table for everyone.
Unfortunately—perhaps due to the polarization that we are experiencing here in the United States—equality has gotten a bad rap in the Church. Some churches see equality as this secular idea that has no place in a religious institution. It’s a hippy-dippy feel-good idea that lacks a Biblical basis. And then on the other end of the spectrum, some churches embrace equality—but it becomes distorted. In these situations, equality becomes something that only applies to the people in power, and to those who think and look like the people in power. So, with few good examples of what equality might look like in a faith community, and our own individual predetermined ideas about what equality does or should mean—talk of equality can bring forth debate, and lots of questions. Does equality really belong in church? Do we really need to talk about it and promote it our faith communities? Does equality have any impact on God’s bigger plan for us and for the planet?
Paul answers and illustrates these questions pretty well in his first letter to the church in Corinth. He says: Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? And later in that same passage, he continues: The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
We see here that Paul does not view equality as something that is problematic, or that is only for certain folks—rather, he views it as part of God’s original design. We serve a God who does not build walls—He knocks them down. We serve a God who does not draw lines in the sand—He erases them. We serve a God who does not say that the house is too crowded, and that nobody else can come to the party. Instead, He ensures that guests will be able to keep filing in. He gets out the extra table leaf, props the doors open, and pulls out the chairs that go to the card table. He digs around in the pantry to find more chips, and puts on another pot of coffee. Our God is not a god who operates on the basis of competition. He is not a god who assigns winners and losers, or who has an in-crowd and an out-crowd. Nobody is better than anyone else, or more worthy to be there than their neighbor. Everyone belongs in the Kingdom of God. That’s the beauty of it. Everyone is loved. Everyone is redeemed by grace. Everyone is valued. Everyone is home. And everyone gets to play a part. That’s simply who God is, and how He wants His world to be. As followers of Jesus and people who pray “thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”, a good place to start the process of adopting God’s world order would be in our own institutions.
And—in what I think might be my favorite part about this passage—Paul doesn’t leave us hanging out to dry on that last question. That one about the impact of equality. Does it really affect followers of Jesus if we don’t value equality? In short, yes. Paul tells us that we need each other. That we are interdependent, that we are all in this journey of following Jesus together, and that our differences make us better.
The things that tend to separate us in life—gender, race, ethnicity, political views, marital status, country of origin, legal record, age, wealth, education level, disabilities—in God’s Kingdom, they bring us closer together. They give us different perspectives, and help us to see a more complete vision of God. All people bring different skill sets, different callings, and different passions to the table. And when we ask people to leave, to rein themselves in, or to go sit in the corner while the “important” people talk, we do them and ourselves a disservice. In doing that, we erase them, and we attempt to erase the work that God has called them to do.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that the Church might attempt to erase God’s work. Whether that’s intentional or unintentional, I’m not sure that it matters. Its still wrong. God doesn’t give people parts to play hoping that those parts won’t pan out. We are all called to be Kingdom people, and to take part in the hard, but beautiful work of establishing the love and the wholeness of the Kingdom of God here on earth. And who are we to try to stop that? To say that what God wants to be done or said has no legitimate space to be experienced, seen, or heard? Inequality makes us all suffer. It makes us miss important things. It breaks down spirits. It makes us smaller, more tribal, and unable to fully participate in the work that we are called to do. Equality makes us better able to serve God and to serve others. It makes us more Christ-like. While inequality does not.
Church equality is not just about gender issues. That goes without saying. In the Church, we struggle with inequities of all kinds. I’m not intentionally trying to ignore any group by focusing on women. Mother’s Day being today simply presents us with a unique opportunity to talk about the role of women in the Kingdom of God. In some churches, Mother’s Day is the one day a year that women’s voices are heard. In some churches, Mother’s Day is the one day a year that women are recognized for the labor that they do for the Kingdom, for their families, and for their churches. In some churches, Mother’s Day is the one day a year where the idea that women are people who are included in the Body of Christ and who are called to share the Gospel is spoken out loud. On a day that so many churches celebrate and acknowledge women, it only seems right to bring attention the fact that the Church is weaker on the 51 other Sundays throughout the year when these same women are only given the space to sit in the margins. The same could certainly be said for others who are marginalized, except that not all of them get recognition.
So today, I’d like to invite you to think a little bit about equality. Is equality important to you, as far as your faith is concerned? Why or why not? Are you happy with how equality is demonstrated at Ada Chapel, or at other churches? Why or why not? Does the idea of people attempting to erase God’s work make you uncomfortable? How might things have gone differently had someone tried to erase Mary Magdalene’s preaching of the resurrection? Do you think that God might be calling you to a form of ministry, but you are struggling with how you might fit into that picture? Do you feel worthy of belonging? Do you feel worthy of your call? Do you ever find yourself having a hard time listening to and taking seriously people who are different than you? Who in your life who has been marginalized might need to hear some words of encouragement today—who might need to know that their labor is not without its fruit? What does the table of the Kingdom of God look like in your life right now?
I know that those are a whole lot of questions, but please take a little bit of time this week to consider one or two of them, and to pray about how we might be able to build a bigger table and to let more people in. Be well, Friends.
Hymn-The Church in the Wildwood
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving every day. Amen.