Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mother's Day and Pentecost Sunday on the same day this year signals a kairos moment

ROOTING OUT DOMINATION. Heading toward Pentecost Sunday that just happens to fall on Mother's Day this year (May 11, 2008), I'm thinking about women in light of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost that is recorded in Acts 2, Joel's prophecy is fulfilled: "even upon my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy." If it is true, as Phoebe Palmer Knapp declared, that "Pentecost laid the axe at the root of social injustice," then one injustice that was cut at the root was the domination of women by men and patriarchal societies.

REDEFINING WOMEN'S SIGNIFICANCE. Pentecost, it seems to me, affirmed what Jesus had been teaching and demonstrating. Jesus pointedly, dramatically and repeatedly challenged his culture and the religious practices in which men dominated women, relegating them to objects and property to be possessed and used. That Jesus regarded women radically differently is clear again and again throughout the four Gospels. It is illustrated powerfully when...

(1) Jesus forgives a woman caught in adultery in John 8;

(2) Jesus commends the woman who washed his feet with her hair in Luke 7:36-50;

(3) Jesus talks with and brings salvation and liberation to the Samaritan woman in John 4;

(4) Jesus redefines the role of women from being significant because they bear children (it was considered a curse to not be able to bear children; Jesus liberated women from this ungodly burden) to being holy because they do the will of God in Mark 3:31-35.

COMPANIONS AND FIRST WITNESSES. Women were among Jesus' traveling followers, some considered “patrons and benefactors.” The Gospel writers point out that women were the first to witness the Resurrection. In Acts, Luke makes clear that women were with the male followers of Jesus in the Upper Room as they prayerfully anticipated the promised gift of God that was given on Pentecost.

CONTRARY TO THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE. Theologian Walter Wink points out, "It is clear from the four Gospels that Jesus in no way condones, verifies, reinforces, or allows for the domination of women by men in either intimate or social relationships, or in his Kingdom. Jesus breaks the very spirit of domination that has been central in the spirit of the world from ancient times and is still prevalent today--sometimes being justified in the very name of Christianity! "

REFLECTOR OR TRANSFORMER OF CULTURE? Unfortunately, the historical church has not followed Jesus' example and teaching. It has not followed the breakthrough that was proclaimed and realized at Pentecost. The church, by and large, has acquiesced to cultural patriarchy and patterns of domination. Relatively few communions today have given full weight to the message of the Gospels and fulfillment at Pentecost regarding women. Still, the Gospels speak and Pentecostal liberation awaits all who will listen, believe, and act in the way of Jesus' given Spirit.

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