Date: 25-26 October 2018
To: Homegrown: North Carolina Women’s Preaching Festival (since 2012)
Conference Title: Her Voice Through the Generations”
I received a call on Tuesday morning from a new Pastor colleague, Rev. Carla! She and I met last week and she had mentioned this event and extended an invitation that I might want to come… But her call on Tuesday came as a bit of a surprise… see it followed a call from a newly graduated Disciples of Christ seminarian woman pastor who talked to me about the gift of my Yes! Sheila and I are trying to learn to say YES to some of those things that only God could give us the strength to do. Too tired to work and too busy to take a vacation. Too tired to visit with friends and too busy to call them. Too tired to write and too busy to be creative. That is the world we live in. That means that our YES’s have to mean something. They have to have worth and value. We have to mean them. And those YES, while complicated and sometimes overwhelming should give us joy…
And so when Rev. Carla said, that Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk was ill and would not be able to join and preach tonight I said a silent prayer for Rev. Delk and the person who might be called to preach tonight. And I thought to myself, “what are they gonna do!?” And when Rev. Carla said, might you be available, I thought of Sheila and the things that only God could give me the strength to do… Yes.
Hours later I sent a scripture passage to help manage the program: Acts 18: 24-28. I have never preached from that passage. As a woman who heard God’s calling and answered YES! I tend to stay far away from Paul and all the ways in which the patriarchy has used him to try to keep me in line… But I am practicing my yes. And remembering my calling.
And so, I called on my sister elders to pray for and with me and I need to say their names in this space: Rev Linda Jaramillo, the first Latina to serve our denomination as Minister of Justice and Witness Ministry her reminder: for such a time as this. Rev Dr Maritza de Gonzalez who is my co-conspirator at Manantial de Gracia as well as being my mother whose advise was be silent and listen. And Rev Dr Yvonne Delk whose shoes I cannot fit… who released me to share God’s sermon in the way that is mine. Each of these women has served that others may follow and lead.
Today’s reflection is simply titled: “YES!”
Let us pray… :
Let’s read some scripture passages together from The Message Translation:
Acts 18: 1-4
After Athens, Paul went to Corinth. That is where he discovered Aquila, a Jew born in Pontus, and his wife, Priscilla. They had just arrived from Italy, part of the general expulsion of Jews from Rome ordered by Claudius. Paul moved in with them, and they worked together at their common trade of tent-making. But every Sabbath he was at the meeting place, doing his best to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus.
Paul worked alongside a Jew named Aquila and his wife named Priscilla as tentmakers, it was a trade they held in common. Aquila and Pricilla were religious refugees fleeing Rome, an oppressive regime that had used it’s power to kick those who were deemed to be different out of the country. This passage does not say much more than that about this couple… though it mentions that Paul went to the synagogue every Sabbath and tried his best to persuade those in attendance.
Acts 18: 18-19
Paul stayed a while longer in Corinth, but then it was time to take leave of his friends. Saying his good-byes, he sailed for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila with him. Before boarding the ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea, he had his head shaved as part of a vow he had taken. They landed in Ephesus, where Priscilla and Aquila got off and stayed. Paul left the ship briefly to go to the meeting place and preach to the Jews. They wanted him to stay longer, but he said he couldn’t. But after saying good-bye, he promised, “I’ll be back, God willing.”
Paul leaves Corinth for Syria by boat. He is accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. When they arrive at Ephesus, Paul leaves Priscilla and Aquila. And then what does Paul do? He goes to the synagogue to persuade change… and he continues his journey onto other soils, no longer in the company of this couple.
Did you notice a transition? The text changes the order and placement of this couples names… Let’s keep going.
Acts 18: 24-28
A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures. He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story. When Apollos decided to go on to Achaia province, his Ephesian friends gave their blessing and wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the disciples there to welcome him with open arms. The welcome paid off: Apollos turned out to be a great help to those who had become believers through God’s immense generosity. He was particularly effective in public debate with the Jews as he brought out proof after convincing proof from the Scriptures that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah.
No longer travelling with Paul, Priscilla and Aquila begin to form community on their own. They begin hosting converts. Teaching them about the ways of Jesus!
This is the passage that finally got me fully banned from our churches Children’s Sunday School Ministry..! This Sunday, I remember our teacher seemed particularly excited, which being a curious sort of kid, her excitement made me excited too!
She asked us… each of us to name what we had been feeling called to be in the future. This question came after a number of weeks of learning jobs and ministries and positions held by Jesus’ named apostles. And so, when she asked about our future selves and what we envisioned our roles to be… well (if you knew me well) you would not be too surprised to hear that I knew. I just knew in my spirit what my calling was. I knew in my soul the question that I had heard God whisper in my ear. I knew, I just knew that in this space I could share that I had been praying and processing and that I was ready to say Yes! My God YES!
And so when my teacher got to me, I said with all the conviction my 9 year old self could muster, “When I grow up I will say yes to God’s call to preach!
And she looked at me. And she did not smile. And she did not seem pleased. Instead she began to explain to me that that was a role I could not play. That I could be a Sunday School teacher or a worship leader or a deaconess. But that I could never be a Preacher… and as she asked me once more to say what I would be, I remember saying that my mother had given my brother and I a framed image with the words, I know that I am SOMEBODY because God does not make mistakes. And that if in fact God was calling me, then my answer was yes. And I remember she looked at me and tried to explain that that position was not open to women and I remember looking at her and saying of course the position is open to women… God called Pricilla and her husband Aquila and they were pastors of a community that met in their home. And the teacher explained that our Pastor preached about how actually they were missionaries and that Aquilla was the leader and his wife Pricilla was the helpmate (as all women are called to be).
And my 9 year old self was sad and angry and so I spoke up on behalf of my gender and I explained to this teacher that I was sad that she had not been able to understand that when Pricilla is named first it gives her equal value and that helpmate is not a one-sided relationship. She (maybe understandably) asked that I join my mother for the rest of the class. And I explained to her (loud and bold as can be) that I was better off siting in the church with the adults who read the Bible than being taught by someone who only knew what others told her the Bible said.
And so I sat with my mother and read my Bible and argued with the text around my mother’s dinner table. Because my mother was the Pastor of our home church. And she read her Bible. And she was a woman. And God gifted me to her for instruction. Because God gifts us leaders to lead. And hearts to receive.
And today as I stand before you as a Sister Preachers, know that we need each other. For a season (like Paul needed Priscilla and her husband Aquila as they worked and journeyed together as tentmakers) or a reason (like Apollos needed Priscilla and her husband Aquila as he learned from them in their dinner church how to stray into the real world of Jesus’ lived justice seeking self. Putting into practice the gifts he read of in the Hebrew Scriptures.) Because God gifts us leaders to lead and hearts to receive.
And yes, we need helpmates on this journey. Partners and accomplices to help us “level up” as my god-daughter would say. And we need willing people to join us in the process. As we in the real world of today… watching the news, reading the newspaper and hearing all about how borders are closing and access that was given as being taken back from our trans family. As our gospel is being once more used as a tool of the oppressor to hurt and harm and steal the justice Jesus gifted us by his blood sacrifice… while those real world today problems are creating unsafe environments and insufferable conditions are worsening rather than improving… we who are called, called in God’s name, called by God’s calling, called to be prophetic even while our own skin is in danger… We Preach. Because God gave us a voice. Because we said Yes.
And so, today I can still hear my 9 year old self inside the 42 year old body that stands before you and she still says, Yes Lord. Yes God. Yes Creator. My heart says yes to this calling.