For the past three weeks, I have been teaching a series of lessons on Wednesday nights with a classmate and friend of mine, Meredith. I asked Shawna to take some pictures of the two of us teaching.
Although I did not think much about it at first, over the past few weeks, it has hit me just how incredible an occasion this is; for me, at least.
When I was preaching, I fought against the idea that the preacher should be held in higher esteem. I was just another member attending church with my Christian family. I just happened to dominate what took place during the worship hour. But I was not special; I was not different; I was just like everybody else. I have believed that about other preachers, as well. For the past several years, I have attempted to treat preacher, elder, youth minister, and “regular member” alike.
And I want to continue doing that. I love the ministry team at Highland, yet I do not love them any more than I love the rest of my church family. However, I am starting to realize exactly how sacred the act of teaching or preaching actually is—and it has nothing to do with who is doing it.
We know the stories of people called to deliver a message for God: Moses made excuses, Jeremiah said he was too young, Jonah ran to the other side of the world, Ananias tried to remind God exactly who Saul of Tarsus was. These people, and others, hesitated to proclaim God’s Word, at least in part, because they did not believe they were worthy of proclaiming a sacred word.
When someone stands up to speak on a Sunday morning, whether it is in a worship setting or a class setting, they are proclaiming a sacred word. When someone stands up to speak in a mid-week class or a home-based Bible study, that person is proclaiming a sacred word. Whenever the Word of God is delivered to an audience, the speaker is doing something sacred; not because of the person performing the act, but because of the Source of the Word.
I have often been blind to my own position of privilege. Because I am male, white, educated, and not in poverty, I have access to a variety of opportunities that others do not have. Growing up in church, I always knew that I could eventually lead prayers, read Scripture, help with Communion, preach, and (in extremely desperate times) lead songs. There was never a doubt in my mind, or anyone else’s, that I could do any and all of those things.
When it comes to those who do not have the same access, I often find myself looking for ways to soothe my conscience by convincing myself, “Yeah, but they have other things they can do, so they should be happy with it.” In my church tradition, women are not allowed to be worship leaders. But they can sing on a praise team. They cannot be adult Sunday school teachers. But they can work with the kids.
And that should be good enough, right?
So now, I find myself on Wednesday nights, standing next to an intelligent, talented, gifted child of God. A child of God who did not have the same opportunities I had growing up. Who has had to be content with the “good enough” for most of her life. For a large portion of her church experience, she has been excluded from participating in the act of something sacred for no reason other than her gender.
But now we get to teach together. The Word being taught is sacred; not because Meredith and I are teaching it, but because the Word comes from the One who is sacred.
In my current church home, there is a measure of gender equality. Women participate in certain areas of worship: praying, reading Scripture, and delivering the Communion meditation. But they are not allowed to preach or teach a class that is conducted in the main auditorium. In other words, what Meredith and I are doing could not take place on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening in the auditorium at our congregation.
And for a very long time, I thought that women like Meredith should think that is “good enough.”
When the Spirit came on Peter on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted from the prophet Joel in saying, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” Priscilla is listed before her husband, Aquila, at a time when the order of names was of extreme importance. Lydia was the first church leader in the city of Philippi. Junia was called an apostle by Paul. Women were praying and prophesying in Corinth.
They were all participating in all that was sacred.
It was sacred because of the Source. God wants all of His sons and daughters to prophesy. And I get to stand next to one of His daughters while she does it.