The mission of women in the Church has its roots in the Gospels and its fruit in today's world.
Holy Mothers (and One Unholy Grandmother) –
Matthew 26:10-13; Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:55-56;
Luke 8:1-3; Women who supported Jesus’ ministry (8/1/2008)
The purpose of the United Methodist Women is "to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons
through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission
through participation in the global ministries of the church." We shouldn't be surprised that all three of these ideas go back to the earliest days of the Christian faith. Today and next week we will read about women in the early church who became free in Jesus Christ, who supported each other, and who participated in ministry. Today we look specifically at ladies who supported Jesus financially and emotionally. Several Galilean women provided for Jesus and his disciples financially during his active ministry. All the men disciples except John cut and ran after his arrest, but several of the women stayed at the cross to support both Jesus and his mother Mary, and it was the women who returned on Sunday morning to prepare his body for final burial.
Acts 9:35-42, Dorcas (8/4/2008)
Have you tied a knot in one of the prayer quilts that hang each week in the Welcome Center? Have you requested a prayer shawl for a friend who is ill? These quilts and shawls, not to mention baby blankets, children's sweaters and hats, and other items are made by ladies at St. John's for people who need love and encouragement, or maybe just something warm to wear. These quilters and knitters are following in the footsteps of Dorcas, a Christian lady who also made garments for people who needed them. Dorcas is also a special woman because she died and was raised back to life through the intervention of Peter. Peter must have been a powerful pray-er!
Acts 16:11-15, 38-40, Lydia (8/5/2008)
Lydia was a dealer in "purple goods," either the very expensive purple dye made from snail shells, or
the cloth dyed with it. Thus it is normally assumed that she was wealthy. When she became one of
Paul's converts, she insisted that Paul and his group come to stay with her. Now, Paul always prided
himself on supporting himself without taking a dime from his converts; Lydia's church at Philippi is the
only exception. So in addition to being wealthy, Lydia must have been persuasive and stubborn. Clearly
she was also a leader among the converts of Philippi, because before leaving town, Paul went to visit
Lydia and the (unnamed) brothers.
Note that the first few verses are part of the famous "we" passages of Acts, showing that Luke was with Paul on this trip. And while I'm on the topic of infant baptism, note that Lydia's "entire household" was baptized along with her. Those denominations that do not accept infant baptism have not yet convinced me that there were wealthy households in the Middle East with no
Romans 16:1-16, Phoebe goes to Rome. (8/6/2008)
One of my sons is named "Madison." This is an old and honorable BOY's name. Madi-SON, get it?
He is named after a great-great-grandFATHER. After the movie “Splash,” girls started being named
Madison, but my son is quite a bit older than that. It irritates me when people just assume that
my Madison is a girl.
We have the opposite problem with Biblical names. If we don't know whether the bearer is male or
female, we tend to assume that they are men. For this reason, we often make incorrect assumptions about whether
women were important in the early Church. Of the 29 people Paul mentions or greets individually in Romans 16,
ten are women: Phoebe, Prisca/Priscilla, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis,
the mother of Rufus, Julia, and the sister of Nereus.
Phoebe and Junia are especially worthy of note. Phoebe was a deacon (often translated "servant" in this
passage), and an emissary of Paul. I can never decide whether to be amused, puzzled, or annoyed
that exactly the same word is routinely translated "servant" for Phoebe and "deacon" for several men
(e.g., 1 Timothy 3:8). And Paul refers to Junia as an apostle! Some translations transform Junia into
Junias, the masculine form of the name, but the earliest manuscripts (and many later manuscripts) have
the feminine form of the name. The difference between the two names in Greek is about like "Frances" and
"Francis," so we shouldn't be too judgmental about whoever it was who turned Junia into a guy.
2 Timothy 1:5, Lois and Eunice; Philemon 1:1-3, Apphia (8/7/2008)
If women have one role in the Church that has always
been recognized, it is as a role model for
children and others in the congregation. The business of ensuring that the next generation is raised in
the Faith has traditionally belonged to women. Two excerpts from a family history that I just completed
eloquently illustrate the importance of women as role models:
[Elizabeth French Myers] ever lived an earnest Christian life, and I well remember seeing and
hearing her testify one Sunday morning in a Methodist love feast in the old Round Church that stood on
the corner of our farm. I will never forget that scene, though I was only a small boy of four or five
years, sitting beside my father on the men's side of the church, as was the custom of those days. The
great tears were rolling down her cheeks while she was telling how the Lord saved and kept her with all
the care and burden of her large family. That scene and that testimony kept me from skepticism and
infidelity many years later after I became a man, when many times I have said there was nothing in
religion, but about that time that Sunday morning in that old Methodist Church, sitting beside my father,
and Mother testifying over in the Amen corner of the women's side of the church, would loom up before me,
spoiling all my efforts at unbelief. Mother died as she lived, and the last words she ever uttered were
"Meet me in Heaven."
Acts 18:2-3, 18-19, 24-28; Rom. 16:3-5a; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19, Priscilla (8/8/2008)
—from the memoir of the Rev. Madison Dero Myers
[Catharine Shurger Blickensderfer] was a woman of more than ordinary strength of mind and ability,
exercising great influence in the forming of a substantial and solid character in her children, all of whom
became persons of influence in the communities in which they dwelt. She was a sincere and active
Christian, the family connecting themselves with the Moravian church immediately after their arrival in
America, first at Philadelphia, and subsequently at Lititz, where she is buried.
—from a family history by Jacob Blickensderfer
Priscilla and her husband Aquila were a team of powerful workers for the Lord and staunch supporters of Paul. They are never mentioned separately. The church in Ephesus, and apparently also in Rome, met in their house. Remember Paul saying, "I do not allow a woman to teach"? I guess this applied only to public worship, because note that Priscilla and Aquila jointly "explained the way of God more accurately" to Apollos.
Here is some total speculation that I found interesting and maybe you will, too. Only God
knows who wrote Hebrews
; however, three names put forth by scholars are in today's passage:
Priscilla, either alone or in company with Aquila, and their associate, Apollos. Here’s an argument that
may have written Hebrews
Rachel and Leah
The Four Most Important Women Who Never Lived
Women Who Expected Miracles
Mary and Elizabeth
Copyright 2008, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
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