Archive | March, 2015

Mary: Suffragette

3 Mar


“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

In his introduction to a collection of sermons published as ‘Aggressive Christianity’, Rev. Daniel Steele recalls his curiosity being piqued by the positive review of a ‘strait-laced’ Presbyterian doctor of divinity, in regards to a dynamic preacher in London (who wasn’t named Spurgeon).  The scandal of the doctors review, written in one of that denominations publications, was that he “would have been subjected to ecclesiastical censure if he had introduced a woman into his own pulpit…”  The woman of whom the doctor had written, and to whom Steele was referring, was none other than Mrs. General William Booth.

Though Steele recalls Mrs. Booth was at first shy of speaking in public, once unleashed by the Spirit, she was a holy whirl-wind.  Sadly, and to their loss, there are yet denominations today were women are excluded from the pulpit.  One of our own ladies who attended an ecumenical function was not so gently informed that “in our church the men lead.”  In other words, ‘know your place.’

In the story of Martha and Mary, however, there is a subversive underlying message.  It has to do with Mary.  N.T. Wright notes that “…obvious to any first-century reader, and to many readers in Turkey, the Middle East, and many other parts of the world to this day, would be the fact that Mary was sitting at the Jesus’ feet in the male part of the house rather than being kept in the back rooms with the other women.[1]

Mary assumed the posture of a disciple, much the same as Paul describes himself when he recounts he was “educated at the feet of Gamaliel…” (Acts 22:3)   In a culture were men prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that they were ‘not born a sinner, nor a woman’, Mary dared cross the line to sit at Jesus feet.  Wright goes on observe how women in the middle East are often able to move about freely in areas of conflict, while male combatants hide or move with great caution.  The women, it is assumed, are non-threatening.  Yet, when Paul began to persecute the early church, not even women were spared.  Why?  Because they were seen as leaders, as persons of influence, in the church.  Paul would later write of the barriers shattered by Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28 – italics mine)

Jesus never scolded Mary, nor attempted to put her ‘in her place’.  No, in Jesus eyes she was in the proper place.  Mary had chosen “what is better.”  Let us be thankful our Army pioneers were not afraid to cross the line, nor erect false barriers, but encouraged and empowered anyone called by God to sit at Jesus feet.  Why not join Mary there today?

[1] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture, (New York: HarperOne, 2014), 70.