The Femininity of the Church

bride-of-christ

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation, by water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride.
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food.
And to one hope she presses with ev’ry grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder the world sees her oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Through toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth has union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O blessed heav’nly chorus! Lord save us by Your grace
That we, like saints before us, may see You face to face.

 

 

“The Church’s One Foundation” (Lutheran Service Book, 644)
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Hannah’s God

woman-crying-6

Had God forgotten Hannah? Was He just too busy with other, more important things? Maybe Hannah had sinned sometime in her past, earning her the punishment of childlessness…or at least had made some bad choices way-back-when that landed her here. She knew how the other woman looked down on her and wondered why she had the “woman’s curse.” Or worse. Maybe the LORD had just struck her barren for His own sick enjoyment, so He could laugh at her suffering and mock her childlessness, like her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, did. All the time.

Sure,  Elkanah said he still loved Hannah…she might’ve even been his favorite wife. As much as a wife who can’t give her husband any children can be favored over the one who does, anyway. You know how men are. He probably just liked her more youthful figure, compared to Peninnah’s stretched-out, well-used one. But a husband’s love, while wonderful, just didn’t fill that void.

And then one day, just after the annual sacrifice at the tabernacle in Shiloh…Hannah lost it (again). She was frequently depressed and didn’t want to eat or be around the family. But this time, she was DONE. Cracked. Bat spit crazy.

Only this time, they were all out in public, for God and everyone to see. Pastor Eli was sitting right there, on the bench next to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. And Hannah just brazenly wandered right up to the Doorway of God’s Own House! By herself! She didn’t even notice Eli, what with all the sobbing and incoherent mumbling going on as she poured out her heart, directly to God, laying it all drenched in tears and snot, right on His front doorstep.

God answers her prayer and gives her a son, Samuel, whom she then gives back to the Lord to serve in His house. In the next chapter, she sings a song of thanksgiving.

Yay, Hannah! What an example of an effective prayer! You should pray like that if you really want to see results.

No.

Actually, I think Hannah would be pretty horrified to hear our version of this story, the one praising her for her such a powerful prayer that God rewarded her by granting her plea for a son. What you need to do, then, is be like Hannah.

But she wasn’t given Samuel as a reward for being such a powerful pray-er, who managed to say just the right words and suddenly change the Lord’s mind about her barren state. And she wasn’t given a baby because she was just so pathetically desperate for a child that she promised she’d give him right back to God as her special gift to Him.

Hannah prayed to God, not because she thought her tears and sincerity would convince Him to do what she wanted and give her a child, but because she knew that He was the one from whom all good gifts come — including (and especially) the gift of children. She prayed to the LORD because she had a God who gives good gifts.

If her “pouring out her heart before the LORD” was anything like my pouring out my heart before the LORD, the world is probably better off not knowing what she said with all her groanings too deep for words. It’s bad enough being barren. Being barren with a husband who had another — very fertile — wife (who even mocked your childlessness)…that’s got to be a real special kind of torture.

Hannah probably told Him about Peninnah’s hurtful taunts and her utter hatred for her and all her stupid kids, and how it killed her to see her husband being fatherly with them. How she hated everyone for their polite questions and unhelpful platitudes, and their whispers and gossip. How she’d wait and pray and try-not-to-hope but couldn’t-help-hoping that this time it would happen…and then have those hopes-shattered-into-tiny-little-pieces as her period inevitably returned. Every. Single. Month.

Why God?? Why not her? Why all those other women? When would it be her turn? Didn’t He love her? What had she done wrong? She must’ve done something to deserve this shame-filled fate. She poured out all the doubts and fears and feelings that she had kept pent up for so long. ALL of them.

When she had confessed everything to the LORD, there was nothing left to get in the way of faith anymore. So she made a vow. Notice how this part gets recorded in Scripture, possibly because, unlike the sobbing confession, Hannah’s speech was now clear and quite lucid. “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV)

Oh, but there’s more! Hannah’s brazen faith didn’t even back down when, after watching the whole scene, Eli called her a drunk and told her to go sober up. She had just triple-dog-dared the LORD God Almighty to remember her and give her a son. It was nothing for her to now give His Holy Priest the what’s-what, explaining to him that she is not drunk (thank you very much), but that this is what a woman praying to her LORD “in anxiety and great vexation” looks like. The stunned Pastor Eli could only respond by sputtering out a perfunctory absolution and quickly sending her on her way.

And her faith Amen’d even that!

Whether God gave Hannah a child after this is beside the point. Hannah’s Canticle (foreshadowing Mary’s Magnificat) is not sung in celebration over her son’s birth or his being given to the Lord, but in praise of Her God, from whom all good gifts come. He doesn’t operate like other gods. In fact He does all sorts of things that Gods aren’t supposed do— even in the Old Testament! Hannah’s God is the One who strengthens the weak, feeds the hungry, gives children to the barren, and raises the poor from the ashes. He kills and raises to new life. He is the one who gave her barrenness and He is the one who gave her Samuel and his other brothers and sisters.

 

 

 

 

 

Demeaning Women

So often when the issue of women’s ordination comes up the traditionalist response is to circle the wagons and defend itself with the Law. How dare a woman even think of usurping the Office? It’s bad enough to have a lay man reading lessons and/or assisting with distribution. A woman? Perish the thought! The idea of a woman in the chancel for any reason except receiving the Lord’s Supper is practically blasphemous, her presence there almost desecrates the holy space. Women are to be seen and not heard. Women are not to be in any positions of authority, ever. And we should just get used to it, because that’s just the way it is.

 

Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. Maybe I’m particularly “feminist” to see and hear things that way. But the tone and the implication is definitely there: women’s ordination demeans the Office of Holy Ministry.

 

I see things differently and so rarely (if ever) hear it the other way around – women’s ordination demeans women. Everything gets stuck around defending the Office from the onslaught of women’s ordination that the women get forgotten. I’ve gotten beyond being offended when I see or hear about women in the Office. Now, to me, it’s just sad. And even more sad are the men who defend it.

 

There are so many issues that feed into this problem and so much that could be talked about with it, but I’ll just save that for the book one day. 😉

 

Suffice it to say that women have been particularly set apart to be receivers – even our anatomy is designed to receive. And it truly breaks my heart to see women to think so little of themselves and of the vocation of lay-woman that they aspire to (and obtain) that of pastor. The Office of Holy Ministry is dignified apart from the specific sinner in it, male or female. But like a law student who strips on the weekends or that transgendered man who had a baby a few years ago, it’s just sad when women turn from the dignity of the vocation of laity to that of pastor. It’s beneath them.

 

“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (St. Mark 10:45) Laity are the ones who are served, and it’s very difficult to receive others service – even (especially?) that of the Lord God Himself through the means of the pastor. If the pastor needs any assistance, it should be men who sacrifice their receiving time for the sake of the rest of the laity’s receiving. Women (and children) should be the last ones expected to sacrifice in such a way, men should do everything necessary to avoid that situation – not because the women are in any way less capable of assisting in the leadership of the service, but to guard the sanctity of their precious vocation.

 

So I think we need to find a new way of talking about this issue. One that is less defensive, one that is more Christ-centered. One that is more Lutheran.

You can do it!?!?

"So what then would be the Gospel answer be to women's ordination? You can do it. In Christ there is neither male nor female."

Madre peeks her head out of her purple-festooned October blogservance of Domestic Violence Month.

Huh?

What in the world is THIS? Marie? Marva? Julie? Dot? No, Petersen.

To the question of whether women can/should/ought/may/are permitted to be ordained, Petersen adopts a strawman argument of the standard liberal, gospel reductionist position that uses Galatians 3:28 as its primary hermeneutic on this issue and spins that as "Gospel". 

Surely CyberStones knows better.

The Gospel response on the issue of women's ordination is not the antinomian, "You can! Go for it – you're FREE!" It is that women are too important to be ordained. God, in His infinite wisdom has gifted us in Christ with vocations that are specific to our sex. 

Sure, in Christ we are all the same – baptized, forgiven, saved. That's how God sees us – in Christ. That's all that matters, that we are in Christ, that we are baptized and clothed in Christ's pure white garments. Whether we are red and yellow, black and white, XX or XY, employer or employee, Hoosier or Gopher (or even Tiger), what matters to the Father is that we are in His Son.

That covers the relationship between us and God. We still live in this world where we relate to one another. Our generous, thoughtful, loving Father hasn't left us to fend for ourselves here either. He gives us vocations, places us in relationships with one another, where we care for and serve each other, living out the baptismal faith that we have been given. One of the ways He does this is by carefully knitting our mother's and father's DNA together at the moment of conception to create us as male or female. He doesn't just flip the cosmic coin – heads you're a girl and tails you're a boy. He made me female in full view that I would be given certain feminine vocations. He made my brother male, fully cognizant that he would be given different male ones.

Sure, for some vocations the male/female thing doesn't matter: citizen, student, employee, child (as opposed to parent), etc. But for others, it does: daughter, wife, mother; son, husband, father…pastor. These just aren’t given to be done by a person of the opposite sex. 

The feminist sinner in us sees that list and notices that one sex's list is longer than the other. NO FAIR! We see that extra little opportunity for one team and start ticking off reasons it should be shared by both sexes. I can speak in public, I can write a sermon, I can lead a worship service, I can administrate a church, I can teach confirmation, anything a man needs to do as a pastor, I can do just as well.

What we forget is that in our insistence that we are just as good and capable of pastoring as men, we ladies are dissing the vocations that God has given us. We completely miss the very important gifts that God does give us as women.

What is so special, so unique, so Gospelly about being made women is that we are made to be receivers. Like men we are made human to receive love and care from God. Our confessions explain faith as receiving gifts from God. But women were created to also receive love from the men for whom they are given. That's what submission and having a head is about – trusting that the men given to love and care for us are doing so. 

Look at all the gifts God has for us to receive on Team XX from GOd and from our men! Why would anyone want to give that up to be one whose vocation is specifically to give out God's gifts for His people? Contrary to the popular idea, it is indeed more blessed to receive than to give – particularly when the gifts are God's forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ.

And that's the Gospel answer to "women's ordination".

Domain Invasions

I’m a woman who firmly believes that the backside of the entertainment center is a male domain. At least in every household I’ve lived in it is. Audio RF serial red yellow white input output video3…it’s all just a dialect of Geekery* to me. 
My eyes glaze over, I don’t understand it, and I really, honestly don’t CARE to
either.  As long as the TV turns on when I hit the power button and all the
gadgetry else works properly, I’m perfectly happy leaving the tangle of cables
back there a mystery.

Except when the designated household male has his own projects during the
move-in process that take priority.

So I plugged a bunch of thingamajigs in the back of the
TV-watching-cool-stuff (I had resourcefully made a cheat sheet before unplugging
everything).  I crossed my fingers and everything turned on!  (Wait,
it gets better…)

…Except that I couldn’t receive any actual shows through the Tivo.  So
I went into the Tivo setup and figured out that since we had changed zip codes,
it needed to be reset.  That involves it connecting up with the internet,
most easily via a phone line.  

I dug around and found the longest piece of phone cord known to man
(Ok…just 20 feet, but that’s still pretty long!) and plugged it into the
nearest phone dealie and told Tivo to update.  No dice.  Oh yeah, we
don’t have local phone service.  That’s a problem.  Ok.  I’ll
just hook it up to the cable modem thingy with any one of a bunch of colorful
network cables (I picked green, my favorite color).  Nope.  Nowhere to
plug it in on the Tivo.  Just the USB holes – and no matter how much you
poke at those, network thingies just don’t fit (and I’m thinking it probably
wouldn’t work anymore even if I did manage to cram it in there).  Now what?

I couldn’t imagine being the only person who ever had this kind of problem,
so I went to the Tivo website for help in getting this stupid machine working –
preferably BEFORE the NCIS premiere tonight.  I researched the problem (I
love research) and found a solution.  It needed a doohickey and then
everything would be peachy-keen.  But only a select few doohickeys would
actually work.  Remembering that the computer store (aka CompUSA) sells all
SORTS of doohickeys and whatchamacallits, I looked up the different doohickeys
that were recommended on their website.  Score!

All by myself (sans any male geek counterpart), I went to the computer store,
found not one but two of the possible doohickeys that would work. 
One regularly priced $80, and one on sale for $29.99.  I got the cheaper
one, of course.  I got home, plugged whatchamacallits into the doodads it
looked like they’d fit into, crossed my fingers again.  Woohoo!  It
worked.  Tivo updated, NCIS recorded.  And I got a deal.  

All is good in at Casa de Madre.  Now that I’ve mastered this
mystery of the masculine domain…on to barbequing! 

*Geekery – The strange and wondrous language of "computerese"

On covering your head

I have been asked to give my take on this topic a a few times so here are
my incomplete thoughts and conclusions.  Have at it!


The interesting thing about this 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 is that it s not primarily about
wearing veils or hats.  In a sense,
women have two heads, the one on top of their shoulders, and the spiritual one
given by God to care for her as a father/husband/brother/pastor/elder/etc.

1 Cor. 11 is about keeping the Order of Creation.  Covering the head is
not just having something on top of your head, but showing headship and
submission.  A man praying and prophesying in church (part of the OHM)
whose head is covered (under another’s authority) is not showing his proper
authority as a man and a leader.  A woman doing so with her head uncovered
is failing to show submission to those in authority over her.

The principles being explained in 1 Cor. 11 with women’s headcoverings are
for woman to show that she is under the authority of her head and modesty (which
itself expresses being under authority).  In Paul's time, an uncovered
head and/or "short" hair on a woman usually signified that a woman was
a prostitute.  It was apparently popular for high-society women to do
fancy, expensive and time-consuming things with their hair and wear jewelry
which had a tendency to draw a lot of attention to their vanity.

The way that principle, of showing modesty at least, was carried out until
recent decades is to wear a head covering of some sort.  For whatever
reason, that tradition has fallen away in much of the U.S.  Women in some
LCMS congregations do continue it, and wearing headcoverings of some sort seems
more common in conservative evangelical and Eastern Orthodox churches.  It
also seems to be pretty common in churches that are primarily African-American.
 I’m not sure why more women don’t wear hats in church, but it seems to have
fallen out of fashion about the same time hat-wearing in general (for both sexes)
became less fashionable and feminism began to take hold.  

A comparable "sign" of that relationship today might be for a woman
to wear a wedding ring, not nearly as obvious and while it indicates a certain
relationship it certainly doesn’t necessarily signify a woman being under a
man’s headship in today’s feminist society, but that’s about as close as we come
now.  Wearing a headcovering has different connotations today than it did then.
  Submitting to husbandly and fatherly authority itself is rare and
frequently misunderstood, even moreso the public expression of it with a
headcovering.

Do we wear a tasteful hat that matches our Sunday dress and can be worn out
to brunch after the service?  Or just keep a lace
mantilla in our purse
to pull out and secure with bobbypins for the service?  Or can we artfully
wrap our heads and hair with colorful scarves a la
Erykah
Badu
?  Or why stop at covering our head in church, why not on a daily basis?
  Don't we confess submission to authority every day?   If we're really
going to be modest, is the "Little
House on the Prairie"/Victorian 18th century
style of dress the
way to go?  Or should good, modest Christian women wear a hijab,
which is probably more along the lines of what Paul was talking about anyway?

When we approach this issue as a matter of Law we can err in two major ways:  
1. despising the spirit of the Law, being covered under another's
authority, and 2. taking pride in our "pious" obedience of said law.

In my opinon, the point is not to make wearing a headcovering
a law like the Muslims do, but emphasize modesty in dress and
headship/submission in the Order of Creation.  In Christ, we are free to
cover our heads with a husband, free to submit to him and trust him to care for
us above himself, and free to dress according to our beliefs and priorities.


So what do you think?  Am I wrong? Convince me.

Lookie here, a giant barrel of fish…Lock ‘n’ load!

So I go visit the ELCA website to see what’s going on in "Lutheran"
land and run across an ad for The
Cafe
, the ELCA’s new Women’s E-Magazine.

Wow.  I don’t even know where to begin.

For convenience, I’ll start with the current issue.  There’s a long,
3-page article on forgiveness
I guess I’m a little naive, because I actually dared to hope that somewhere in
that article that there would be the Gospel.  I really did think that I’d
see "Jesus" mentioned in it.  Even I was a little
shocked to find not even one occurrence of either.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty about the psychological benefits of
forgiveness, how forgiving can significantly improve our physical health, and
even an invitation to celebrate International Forgiveness Day (August 7).

Even in the "Faith Reflections" (I can hear Bloghardt-the-Reflector’s
prettyboy Skywalker brain approaching the brink of explosion already), there’s
precious little, if any, Gospel, but plenty of the Law.  Jesus does get
mentioned in this "devotional" ditty on forgiveness — in it, the
author quotes the Bible where there are references to this Jesus guy.

The author, an ELCA "pastorette", does bring up Baptism and the
fact that we receive forgiveness in it, once for all time.  But she does
so, making it sound as though our own forgiveness was a one-time deal that we
don’t really need to bother with giving much thought to anymore.  She talks
about the Lord’s Supper too…but in a way that advocates open communion and
reduces it to a community meal that spans class, race, gender, ethnicity, etc.
where we receive the power to forgive rather than where we faithfully receive
into our bodies Christ’s own Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

The articles are on FORGIVENESS, ladies.  How in the world can a
Christian even begin to talk about forgiveness without talking about Jesus, who
won our forgiveness, or the Cross where He did so?  This was a perfect
opportunity to share the Gospel in its purity and sweetness.  And they blew
it
.  That’s what I get for forgetting that no woman who knows the
Gospel would ever be a "pastorette". 

 

Since finding this tonight and the wealth of things to discuss and false
teachings to expose, I plan to spend quite a bit of time springboarding from
their articles over the next few weeks.  Watch for more frequent Missives!