How do women lead at The Journey?
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How does Hannah lead us to women’s roles? (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10)
How does the story of Hannah lead us into a discussion of women’s roles? The key is in Hannah’s prayer for divine reversal and the continued prayer and action today of women who want to see change in a world that still devalues women.
The Old Testament book of Samuel narrates the story of the first kings of Israel. The story begins, however, not with nobility but with an act more noble than a king. A childless woman named Hannah prays to God for a baby. In her desperation she vows to give her child back to God. Through the womb of Hannah came a king-maker who she called “Heard of God,” Samuel. What do we make of such a powerful story of a woman’s courage and vow keeping today? Hannah’s noble act of courage, leadership, and her prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 of divine reversal for her and for the marginalized in society in all times prompts me to recount seven principles about how women live, love, and lead at The Journey.
Women live in the image of God.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that both men and women were made in the image of God. In God’s creation, then, women and men differ in body but are equal in value.
Women love and are loved.
Many biblical stories show women loving God and neighbor. In the gospels, we also see Jesus showing us how to treat women. Jesus loves, respects, honors, and treats women equally as image bearers of God and in their full humanity.
At The Journey, women love God and neighbor. We love women. We love to hear and learn from the thoughts of women. We’re inspired and spiritually directed by your faith in God, integrity, grit, compassion, and joy.
Women support and are supported.
The Journey supports women here in this congregation and our world who are standing up for equal treatment, pay, and respect as humans.
The Journey supports you and cries out to God with you. We lift up our voices together against injustice, abuse, harassment toward you, other women, toward children or anyone being oppressed. Together we can discern what the gospel says to do about injustice and collectively act.
Women believe and are believed.
The Journey prays with women living with abuse and offers free clinical counseling. We call you to courageously report abuse and find safe places to live, to find hope and freedom, apart from an abuser. We love you, support you, and we believe you. Meanwhile, no Christ follower need live in fear of false accusations. Energy of parents and young men and women should instead be spent learning and training how to treat one another with love, respect, and honor as fellow image bearers of God.
Women protect and are protected.
Women are great protectors of children and the oppressed. So also The Journey does not turn our face away from the faces of women and girls living with abuse. The church stands with you, calls on God to protect you, and does everything humanly possible to be the answer to that prayer of protection.
Both men and women are called to raise our voices to protect one another by carefully and responsibly using the voice God gave us. Christians must be leaders in society in protecting and treating women with honor as image bearers of God.
Women respect and are respected.
As a college student, I was called out by siblings and friends for some things I said and did to disrespect women. It’s important that we lovingly and directly say, “Not OK,” to a young man or woman who needs mentored in how to treat others with love and not as objects of violence, hate, or lust.
I am a male who loves and respects all females. I love my wife and our two daughters, my mother and sisters, women in our church and world. I love my son and have taught him to respect women. Both he and I are learning valuable lessons daily about how to improve how we treat women.
The Journey supports women working and men changing diapers. The Journey supports men dropping off and picking up children from school, reading books to children before bed, and showing children how to wash the dishes and fold their clothes.
Women lead and follow the leader, Jesus.
At The Journey, women lead in every way. Women help make important decisions for the church, teach all ages and genders, lead congregational worship, prayers, read scripture aloud publicly, baptize, lead communion, and preach to the whole congregation.
Women do not require the empowerment or permission of men to lead. Women are not empowered by males but by God alone who makes women in God’s own image. Just as Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene followed Jesus, so also women at The Journey follow the leader, Jesus Christ.
If we’re going to fill the earth with God’s love in the coming generations, we need the additional fifty percent of the population, women, to be ministers and missionaries along with men.
Women lead here in the Spirit of Hannah. Women lead in proclaiming the amazing gospel of the God-King who came through the womb of the beloved woman Mary, just as Samuel came through the womb of Hannah. And no man can ever take away this equality, image of God, love, protection, respect, voice, and leadership of women.
Transcript of Sermon: “How do women lead at The Journey?”
The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ
October 14, 2018
Sermon by Greg Taylor
Scripture Reading by BreAnna Lees
Care for some good news from heaven today? In The Journey Bible project, we come to Samuel. If you want to open your Bible to Samuel, go ahead and we'll have the scripture reading in a moment, but never mind first Samuel, second Samuel, that's just old scroll divisions. Samuel is a continuous narrative about how Israel unravels when they ask for a king, but the story doesn't begin with a king, doesn't begin with nobility, but begins with a noble act of a childless woman named Hannah.
She asks God for a baby. She prays to God that she would have a baby. In her desperation, she can't have a baby, she prays to God and then vows to give the boy back to God, if she can have a baby. Through the womb of Hannah then comes a kingmaker she calls Shmuel. It sounds like Shema, which means, "to listen.” "Heard of God," is what Samuel means.
But how would all this play out with Hannah? When we meet Hannah, she's weeping. When we meet her in chapter one, she's weeping, and we weep with women like Hannah today who face the many challenges, like Hannah, and need divine reversal. Let's pray.
Lord, we pray that we can enter into the story of Hannah together, men and women, and that we can grow more sensitive, more understanding about the challenges of people like Hannah, of women like Hannah. Would you please give us good ears and good hearts and good lives to live this gospel message? To that end, would you please pour through me a gift of preaching? I pray this through the name of Jesus. Amen.
The title of my sermon is, How Do Women Lead At The Journey. Our text is first Samuel 1 through 210. The text reads like this, beginning in chapter one verse one, "A man named Elkanah had two wives. One was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year, this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters, but to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her and because the Lord had closed her womb."
The camera that began with Elkanah pans now to Hannah. We find this story is really going to center on Hannah, because Hannah in Hebrew means, “favored.” “Channah” means, "favored," but she didn't feel favored. Because the Lord had closed Hannah womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. In fact, in that culture, we don't believe this today, but in her culture, when you couldn't have children, they believed you were cursed.
This went on year after year, whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her until she wept and could not even eat. We don't know what she prayed, but we can imagine how her heart would become bitter, but we don't know that she had any bitterness from the story, but we can hear this provocation from Peninnah. We can imagine it today, because there's such subtleness in our provocations of people. Why do the blessed seem to provoke the people that don't feel blessed? Maybe it's subtle. "Oh, it's so amazing to have such great children, grandchildren," but we may not pay attention to the person next to us who doesn't feel so blessed.
Well, all this bothered Elkanah, Hannah's husband, so much that he didn't know what to do. He would say to Hannah, "Why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you so downhearted?" What we could only describe as a Beauty and the Best Gaston moment, Elkanah turns to Hannah and says, "How could you not be happy, my dear? Am I not worth more to you than 10 sons?" It didn't help.
He was a guy.
But once, when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up, and now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost. Nate Donley, our youth minister, last week told you about Eli, so listen to that sermon if you haven't. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord's house. In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.
I wonder what her prayer was like. We don't hear this prayer. In a moment, we're going to hear another prayer of hers in chapter two, but we don't know what this prayer is. I imagine it, though, like the prayer of Psalm 22, the prayer Jesus prayed from the Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? My God, I cry out to you by day, but you do not answer by night, but I find no rest."
Hannah, she makes a noble and serious vow to God. She made a vow, saying to the Lord Almighty, "If you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant, but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head." It's called a Nazirite vow.
Hannah was doing what we often do when we pray and we're in a desperate situation. We're in a jam, and we pray, "Lord, if you just get me out of this jam, just this one time, I'll give my life to you." Have you ever prayed that prayer? Unfortunately, a lot of us don't always keep our vows. Unfortunately, some of the things we say in a tight spot, we don't always remember a few days later, when it seems God's gotten us out of that tight spot. But Hannah does, and she goes a step further. It's not just her life, but she gives the life of her very son to the Lord. It's an amazing, amazing act of courage and sacrifice.
Now I'd like to invite you to listen to BreAnna Lees as she reads the rest of the story, as Hannah stands up to Eli the priest, as she receives an answer from God, and as she praises God.
I will be reading from first Samuel, chapters one and two, in the New Revised Standard Version, beginning at first Samuel one, verses 12 through 20.
"As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently. Only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, 'How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine,' but Hannah answered, 'No, my lord. I am a woman deeply troubled. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.' Then Eli answered, 'Go in peace. The God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him,' and she said, 'Let your servant find favor in your sight.' Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer."
"They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, 'I have asked him of the Lord.'”
Verse 24. "When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh, and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli, and she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.' She left him there for the Lord."
First Samuel two, one through two. "Hannah prayed and said, 'My heart exults in the Lord. My strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. There is no holy one like the Lord, no one besides you. There is no rock like our god."
Verse five. "Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn."
Verse seven. "The Lord makes poor and makes rich. He brings low. He also exalts."
Verse ten. "The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered, the most high will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth, he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed."
Thank you Brianna. May God bless the reading of the word.
What do we make of the story of Hannah and her courage, her sacrificial act, her leadership to launch a whole new era from the prophet, priest era of Israel to this whole new era of kings? What do we make of this story? Well, Hannah's noble leadership act of offering Samuel, it's something we find unimaginable. It prompts me to reflect on courageous, noble women today. Hannah's prayer that BreAnna just read about divine reversal for her own social situation, but also for women everywhere that need this kind of divine reversal, who are feeling abused, who are abused, who are experiencing childlessness or experiencing all kinds of challenges that women face, this prayer of Hannah prompts me to think about the divine reversal that's needed today for women.
Also Richard Rohr says that gender battles today seem worse than any other time in his 70 plus years. So the story of Hannah and our cultural story today have all prompted me to lift up seven important principles in ways that women life, love and lead at the journey and in our world.
If we could turn, for a moment, away from our cultural way of framing things between men and women, if we could turn from the bad news and hear the good news through the lens of the gospel today ... That's why we come to church. We hear the story a different way. We hear our cultural story in a different way. If we could turn from that, and even open ourselves up to reevaluate Christian teaching that gives preferential treatment to men. If you could open your heart today to listen to these principles. What would it be like if we can look through a different lens, a gospel lens, not our culture lens at this gender battles, at gender issues? What would it be like? Maybe today you could leave a little more sane, maybe you could have a relief that you haven't ever felt before. Maybe some of you are going to start to walk a path of healing that men and women need to walk. That would be wonderful, that we could begin healing some deep wounds that a lot of us have. Wouldn't that be wonderful today?
Well, that's what I want to see us do. That's the freedom that I hope that this message will bring from Hannah. As we talk about these seven principles ... So the first of the seven important ways women live, love, and lead on a journey and in our world today is that women live in the image of God. Women live in the image of God, as Genesis 1:27 tells us, that both men and women are created in the image of God. In God's creation then, women and men are created differently but equal in value. There's a complementary nature to our creation. Men and women are created differently but we are created equal in the eyes of God.
Amen. But since that creation story, there has been a power struggle that's been fueled by the serpent. We can call the serpent Satan or we can call the serpent and Satan our own sin as well. In Genesis 3:16, there's a really pivotal verse there when Adam and Eve has disobeyed and God was speaking to Adam, Eve and the serpent, and bringing the curse after the fall, after sin. God says to Eve, "Your husband will rule over you." Genesis 3:16. We have to ask the question, is God saying that men should rule over women?" Is God saying here as a prescription that men should rule? That they should have some kind of preferential position over women, lording over women? Or is God describing, is he giving a description of what will happen because of the fall?
Well, I take the position that God is bringing the curse after the fall and he is describing. He's not prescribing a rule but he's describing what will happen because of sin. Men will have an unhealthy dominance of women, they will try to do that. We cannot deny that across history that has happened. So God I believe is describing, not prescribing a rule. I believe that there's a complementary nature of men and women, but it is not a necessity or imply that men rule over women, or that they lord over them in the home or anywhere else.
Historically until today, godless men in church houses, to businesses, to movie houses, to state houses, to some of our own houses, have lorded over women in ungodly and sinful ways. There's really no biblical mandate for men lording and ruling over women in this way. I believe that God is a just God and this prayer of Hannah is a prayer for reversal. This prayer for Samuel, heart of God. That God is a just God and he will bring a divine reversal of this situation. So that's why Hannah prayed that the mountains will be made valleys and the valleys will be made mountains. The proud will be humbled and the humbled will be exalted.
I think there's a very strong significance to this prayer of Hannah, that's also the Magnificat, the prayer of Mary. It's the same kind of reversal, that the proud, the lording over will be humbled and those that have been humbled will be exalted in God's world. So, on The Journey, women support and are supported. The journey supports women here in this congregation and in our world, who continue this struggle for divine reversal. Who continue the struggle for cultural redemption and the false rule of men in various settings.
The Journey supports and stands with women who are standing up for equal treatment, equal pay, and equal respect as human beings. Can I get an amen from the men and the women.
Amen. Thank you. Now, unloving efforts have continued through time toward women and women toward men, yes. But there have been a lot of unloving efforts towards women, and one of those is in men's movements. One particular line of reasoning in a man's movement is the claim that women lead today in churches and otherwise because men have dropped the ball of leadership. Well, all of us men would admit to dropping the ball, hopefully. I admit to dropping the ball of leadership but that's not why women lead. It may be a situation that you can describe but that's not why women lead. How about women lead because they're created in the image of God and they are competent to lead.
And gifted to lead. That's why women lead. It doesn't have a relationship to men, it is something that is intrinsic in who women are, in who you are. Now, women give birth to every leader, man and woman, alive today. Right? Some of you have helped with that job. Thank you. Men on the other hand, we donate a rib, we think we're in charge. Guilty as charged. So opposite of the men's movement, what I believe is that if we're going to fill the whole earth with God's love, then we need the other 50% of the population.
Women, to be preachers and missionaries, and teachers, and leaders of every kind. That's what we believe here at The Journey. Women love and are loved here at The Journey. We love to hear your thoughts, we're spiritually directed by your faith in God, by your biblical teaching. We're inspired by your integrity, your grit, your joy, and your compassion. Can I get another amen from the men.
Amen. Okay, thank you. Now, Men, you may have amen, maybe you have amen twice already today, more than you have in the last year, but you still don't get it and neither do I. Why? Because we don't walk through dark parking lots and rush through them, and have to figure out how we're going to defend ourselves the same way that women do. I know some of you men, you're kind of thinking, "Oh well, yeah, I do." But listen a minute. Women, when they go on dates, when they're at home alone, when they're living with an abuser, have to, in very specific ways, defend themselves and think about that. I'll give you an example.
Friends of mine, Ron and Lori Clark, who minister in Portland, Oregon with the Agape Church, and they minister to victims of domestic violence and they teach seminars. Ron and Lori Clark, during those seminars, ask the women what they do in those situations, dark parking lot, day home alone with abusers. "What do you do to defend yourself?" What do you think the women start doing on the whiteboard? Filling it up. At those seminars they fill the whiteboard with their thoughts, with their actions, with their strategies in those situations.
Then they ask the men and the men can't even begin. Maybe there's one or two things but they don't fill the board. So on one side there's all the things that women think about, and on the other side it's nearly empty. Men just hadn't thought about it as much. So that's one of the reasons we often don't get it. So, The Journey, as men and women, pray with women and for women living with abuse. We pray with and for women with an abuse in your past or currently, and we offer free clinical counseling care, we call you to report assaults, harassment, abuse of any kind.
Find safe places to live and work, and find hope and freedom apart from an abuser, and we'll walk with you through that. We love you, we support you, and we believe you. I know some of you have concerns, you have concerns about men being falsely accused. Whether it's you, yourself, or for a son, or somebody that you love, right? That's a legitimate concern. But let me say this to men, let me ask you a question. Does a well-behaved, Christ follower need to live in fear, period? No. Does a well-behaved Christ follower, who is well-behaved toward women need to fear false accusations in your life? I don't believe you do.
You may, but I think you need to think about that, and I think you need to consider why you are afraid. Now, what if we spent that fear energy instead on mentoring young men and women on how to treat one another? That would be a better use of our fear energy, wouldn't it? So, on The journey, women believe and are believed. I'd like an amen on that. If you're going to amen it, amen it now.
Amen. Thank you. Now, churches for too long have been silent in times of conflict in our society and churches continue to be tempted to do that. Tempted to be silent in times of conflict and struggle, but not here, not at The Journey. We're going to struggle and we're going to have some tensions over how we say these things and you'll object to some of the ways I say things each Sunday and that's fine, I understand that. But churches also have wrongly encouraged women to stay with abusive men, but not here. Not here.
The Journey lifts up our voices together with injustice, abuse and sexual harassment of women and call you to find life and freedom apart from an abuser. At the same time, we call women to be very careful, and honest, and responsible in using your voice as you report information and testify about your situation, and we know you will. But what you need to know, if you face a situation today or live with memories, and flashbacks, and emotional turmoil because of abuse is this, that The Journey does not turn our face away from you.
We love you, we support you, we protect you, we'll walk with you, we believe you, and we believe in wanting to get to the truth of the matter on all sides. We will not turn our face away from women, girls, men and boys who live with abuse. The church calls on God to protect you and we also do everything humanly possible to be an answer to that protection prayer. On the journey, women protect because women are great protectors. Women protect, and are protected.
Now as a college student and in some of my work experiences shortly after, I was called out by siblings and friends, and some of my coworkers for disrespect toward women, and I well should have been. I'm not proud of that. I'm ashamed of that. I don't want to tell you that, but I needed to be told that. We need to have the backbone, the courage, and if we don't have, we need to muster it, to speak to young men and women who are acting improperly toward one another or toward the same gender or any other way. We need to have the courage to speak to them as people spoke to me, and say, "Not okay." Amen?
Mentor young men and women in how to treat one another with love and respect, not objectifying others with violence or for their pleasure. Let me speak to you young men for a moment ... teenagers, 20 somethings, 30 somethings. Let me speak to you just for a moment. I know in conversations with you, and I share this concern about public officials who speak and treat women unfairly, unjustly, abusively, on all levels of public life, businesses, movie industry, government. I share that concern ... church. I share those concerns, but we have to start with ourselves.
For young men, particularly, I think you need to start with your music playlists. Check out every song that has the B word in reference to a woman. Lyric after lyric in country and in hip hop, to whatever other kind of music, we need to start with ourselves. If we're gonna externally think about someone else, we need to start right where our phone and our computers are.
Pornography needs to be rooted out of your life. I struggle with that, too. We need to root those things out of our life, because they do not show love, respect, and protection for women. God bless you as you do that, and you start taking steps out of that, young man.
Older men, same goes for you. Same goes for you. You're not excused from this. Older men like to tell sexist jokes. It might be good if you just asked your wife if it's funny or not, before you tell it. Might it be great if some of us did that? My mom and my wife, and my daughters have been pretty good barometers for that.
I am inspired deeply by the leadership and the love, and the courage of my wife, of my daughters. I deeply respect you. I deeply respect all of you women in our church. I respect my mother, my sisters, and women in this world. I love my son. I have taught him to love and respect women. I pray for future in-laws that will do the same. My son and I, along with many of you men in our church, are learning valuable lessons regularly on how to treat women with love and respect.
On the journey, women respect and are respected. The Journey supports women in the work force. We support you being mothers, but we also support you in the work force. As I said earlier, with equal pay for the same jobs. We also support men changing diapers. You women want to amen that?
Okay. Changing diapers is not an intrinsically female activity. Right?
The Journey supports men dropping off and picking up after school, and not making excuses for not caring for the children. The Journey supports you reading to the children at night. It's showing them how to wash dishes and fold the children's clothes.
The finally, women lead and follow the leader, Jesus. Women do not require the empowerment nor the permission of men to lead. Let me say that again.
That's gonna really stretch some of you, because you've been taught differently. Women do not require male permission or empowerment in their spirits, in their bodies, to lead. You might say, "Of course not." That's not how we have been teaching in the church for centuries. We taught that males must give permission to females to lead in public worship and otherwise. Women do not require the empowerment or permission of men to lead. Women are empowered, not by males, but by God alone, who creates women in God's image.
That's how God made us, and gives women gifts to lead. Just as Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene follow Jesus, so also women follow our leader, Jesus.
Thank you for that amen. Keep 'em up.
Listen to this, at The Journey, women lead in every way. I'm so excited to be part of a church, where that is true. I think it's uniquely better. Women help make important decisions for the church, teach all ages and genders, lead congregational worship, prayers, read scripture aloud publicly, baptize, lead communion, and preach to the whole congregation.
Now, if you're joining us in some other way, by a podcast, and thinking, "My church is not there yet," well, consider a sermon that I preached in 2010 called Women Praying Allowed. When our church, eight years ago, was considering women praying in our worship assemblies. We hadn't done much else, besides that. One of our shepherds, Karen Garland, said a prayer that day. It was a big step for us. I just want to encourage those of you, if you're in a church, or some of our congregation, if you know fellow Christians in our city, or in other cities who are struggling, trying to take next steps in this area, just encourage them to take a step. One at a time.
That sermon, Women Praying Allowed, is going to be online for you to hear. [And “Women Praying Allowed” covers most other difficult scriptures and positive scriptures that I’m not covering in this sermon, “How do women lead at The Journey?”] Some of you might be thinking, "Well, this is a slippery slope of some kind." I agree. The church slipped down the slope a long time ago, when we stopped allowing women to lead. The church has been down in the slope. What I view this is, is The Journey is trying to rise up out of this slope to the level place of the cross, where as Paul said in Galatians 3, "There is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female." Praise God for that.
Good. Thank you. On the journey women lead and follow our leader, Jesus Christ.
Thank God for women.
Amen. Thank you, Jan. Women lead here in the spirit of Hannah. That is good news. Women lead and proclaiming the amazing gospel of the God king who came from the womb of Mother Mary, just as Samuel came through the womb of Hannah. No man can ever take this equality, image of God, love, protection, respect, voice, and leadership of women away. At The Journey, women lead here.