There is so much going on in the world, and I’m posting about some interior processing that’s been on my heart and mind as I try to articulate for myself what it means to be a minister. What it means for me to be a minister. I apologize for looking inward, when so often we would better serve one another by engaging outward, but this is where I was a week or so ago. Where are you?
The blogosphere sometimes grants us too much insight into the mind of our fellow human. While touring the series of tubes this week, I came across a blog entry by a Quester, written after they’d been at the church a few months. Their entry gave, in a sentence or so each, their impression of each of the pastors of our church. Pastor Leah, read the entry, speaks to the inclusion of women in the church. There’s nothing wrong with this, really. It’s surely something to speak for, but if I were to pick something to be known for, I’d hope what comes across is more along the lines of empowering people to live like Jesus, rather than “wow, she talks about women a lot.”
Here’s the deal: I speak about women in the church because it needs to be spoken of. I’ve never before operated in an environment where the equality and humanity of women has been as openly contested as it is in the Evangelical Church. All my work in non-profits, education, and academia at least publicly recognized and assumed that women were coworkers who had something to contribute, and whose expertise was not questioned because of their gender. In those environments, I spoke, advocated, and formed partnerships advocating for racial justice and equal opportunity hiring and access to education, health care, and housing. I feel that I’m still learning the language to speak on behalf of women, and therefore it is more present in my current discussion and writing. I also believe working alongside Christ in actively praying (which doesn’t just mean pretty words but must also mean action) that the Kingdom come on earth as in heaven means advocating together against all forms of injustice. Injustice present in the pervasive institutional and systemic racism and racialization that taints society, church and theology. Injustice that is present in the social class hierarchy that persists in our supposedly democratic society where the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Injustice that is present in our immigration policies. Injustice that is present in the sexism that affects both men and women in our country as they apply for jobs, worship in our communities, and raise children as single parents. Injustice that is present in the assumed mantle of unacknowledged heterosexual privilege in our church and society. If we hold one of these things above the others, if we omit the humanity of our brothers or sisters in whatever form, we occlude the vision of the Kingdom.
Jesus, in his life, modeled the pathway to achieving God’s Kingdom: giving power away. At every opportunity, God’s only son hesitated to take credit for Himself, and instead pointed all glory back to God. At every opportunity to seize power for his own purposes, and allow his followers to become enamored with him for his own ego’s sake, he instead washed the feet of those around him. Power and privilege have been barriers to the Kingdom since before Jesus’ day, and he was occupied with dismantling the systemic, institutional, and religious structures that together constructed an order contrary to that of heaven. If we do the same today, it means that the power and privilege each of us hold, whether by virtue of race, gender, socioeconomic status, class, sexual orientation, religious identity or nationality must be something we are willing to give up. It means that rather than glorifying our own selves, we will point all instead to the God who created us for the very sake of God’s own glorification and honor. It means that we give up the right of self-worship, and instead lay down our lives for our Lord, and our fellow person.
Is this something we are prepared to do?