Friday, December 18, 2015

Luke 1:39–45 Affirmation of Women in Ministry

KEY TEXT: Luke 1:41-45 And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

KEY THOT: In this passage, we see two women used mightily by God to be his channels of salvation--Elizabeth, six-month pregnant with John the Baptist the forerunner of Christ, blessing Mary who had just conceived the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. There is no greater ministry in the story of redemption and no man can ever play the roles fulfilled by Elizabeth and Mary. This is the strongest argument against male chauvinism in the church. 

Even when Jesus was going around ministering with his twelve disciples, they were accompanied by women who served and supported the team: "And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means" (Luke 8:1-3). And if that is not enough to convince some who believe in the superiority of the male species, the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection were women: "Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles" (Luke 24:10). 

When God created the first humans in his image, "male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). God's image is not just reflected in the male only but in "male and female" together. It takes both to reflect God's glorious image fully. As the only female among the US Republican presidential candidates, Carly Florina quoted Margaret Thatcher in saying: "Margaret Thatcher once said if you want something talked about, ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman,” God has built within women the capacity to work, as borne out in many poor countries supported by micro-financing enterprises. While the men talked, the women worked. 

Mary received a triple blessing from the Spirit-inspired Elizabeth when they met up: Mary was firstly blessed among women because of her unique role as "mother of my Lord" (v.43). She was doubly blessed because of the fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ. And she was triply blessed because she "believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45). It's not just because she is a woman that she is blessed (that would be feminism); she is blessed because she is part of God's redemptive plan to save all mankind.

As a faith community, we are unique in affirming the role and significance of women, unlike some other religions, where women are just non-persons or even just a property owned by men. The church has to be counter-cultural in its attitude towards women because of the demeaning attitude of men in many Asian cultures. In the church, we need to affirm women's role in ministry, for very often, they have outperformed men in ministry because of their innate dedication to serve as the nurturer in the family.

Father, deliver us from cultural bias and blindness and help us raise the dignity and profile of women in ministry among us. Amen.

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