The Way We Role 
Sunday, September 27, 2009, 06:00 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Posted by Administrator
John 4:1-30, 39-42

Gender Roles and Why Men Shouldn't Be Ministers

This message is available as a podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the podcast image to listen now or right click the image and choose "Save As" to save this message in mp3 file format on your computer for playing later.

Transcribed by Marissa Hoover and Mary Lu Ramsey
Bulletin title: Truth Will Makes Us Free

On the front of our bulletin is a picture of an actual poster from Thailand of how to ride an elevator. In all the pictures there are normal stick figures except the last one. That one has a skirt and a smaller stick figure. It's obvious from the poster that women are to care for the children. Is this the way we roll? Role differences. This would be an appropriate sign if the last picture didn't have a skirt. They put a skirt on a stick figure to say caring for children is women's work. We know that isn't true. Today we don't think twice about fathers caring for their kids.

It was a little different when my daughter was younger. I was at home taking care of our daughter while Bette Lynn was working. I'd take my daughter to the grocery store and I'd take her to the doctor's office. It never failed; everywhere I went they'd take the baby from me. They were absolutely horrified that I was trying to take care of a baby. Some of you have met my daughter, Rachel. She came out screaming and hasn't really slowed down. The child was very vocal and she would let you know what was going on. She would scream and I'd spent enough time with her that I knew what the screams meant; whether she was hungry, needed changed or tired. So, we were at the doctor and she started the “ I- really-don't-want-to-be- here” cry. The women were going on and on. I told them she was just crying because she's upset and they're telling me to feed her. I told them that it wasn't her hunger cry and they looked at me like I had just grown antennas. So, they tried to give her a bottle and she kept screaming. So they thought she was just wet and they changed her. She still kept screaming. That's what I was trying to tell them. They just wouldn't listen.

I found an update for a list that first came out in the mid ‘90s of Ten Good Reasons Why Men Should Not be Ordained in the Church.
#10) A man's place is in the army.
#9) When men have children, their duties might distract them from their responsibilities as a parent.
#8) Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.
#7) Man was created before woman. It is, therefore, obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.
#6) Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games or watching basketball tournaments.
#5) Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshippers.
#4) An ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled then men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
#3) Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.
#2) Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.
#1) In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

This is just a flip of what has been talked about with women's ordination. Previously in our church and still in other church bodies, women are not to be in positions of leadership. There are just as many good reasons if you look at it the other way. In John, we have a story that we may not see as unusual, looking at it from our prospective. Back then, though, it was an amazing thing that Jesus spoke to the woman. She came to the well in a very traditional role; a subservient role; a role that is still prevalent throughout much of the world today: women are in charge of getting the daily water going to the well, filling up the pots and taking water back home. That was women's' work. Jesus talks to her and engages her in that role. He asks her for a drink. That's another huge event because Samaritans and Jews didn't use the same utensils, they didn't talk to each other and things were very racial. Did you notice what happened after her encounter with Jesus? It says that she left the water jar there and went back to the village. She told them, “Here's a man who told me everything I've done. He couldn't be the Messiah, could he?” She left the traditional women's work of carrying water, of providing, cooking, and cleaning she left the jar there but took with her the good news of the Gospel. Here in John is the first place where Jesus reveals himself saying, “I am Christ.” In a tremendous upsetting of roles, the Samaritan woman is now entrusted with the Good News and goes home to spread the good news. She may not have done it as forcibly as we would have thought, but she was effective and brought people to Jesus Christ.

How much in the church have we missed because we put men and women in different places and don't allow them to exercise their gifts and callings the way that Jesus did in this Scripture. How often do we look beyond the way people present themselves, as to whether they are man or woman, or as to what their gifts or callings are? Jesus wasn't like that. He was up against a lot more male domination and traditional roles then we will ever imagine. Yet, he still found a way to bring out the gifts of men and woman. The first scripture reading we had was so powerful. It packs into it so much. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female we are all one in Jesus Christ. Jew and Greek. We have religious, cultural and ethnic differences? The Bible says there are none in Jesus Christ. When you are in Christ, your ethnic background and identity is not as important as your identity in Jesus Christ.

There was a huge division in the early church between the Jews and the Greeks. Remember, the Christians were still meeting inside of the Jewish synagogues. They were like a little club “The Jesus Club”. They started bringing in their friends, some of them Greeks, and the Jews at the synagogues said the Greeks had to be Jews and follow all the Jewish laws which caused a big fight as reported in Acts. We find, in Galatians, there is no Jew or Greek. It's the same way we also see a division between economic status, between classes, between those who work with their hands and those who work with their heads, those who are retired and those who are still working, those riding the bus and those with their own transportation, between all of the economic classes, between slavery and the free there is no slave or free in Jesus Christ. We are all one. Finally, there is no male or female in Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that there are no differences any more than we lose our ethniticity or heritage. It doesn't mean we lose our social status and our place in life when we say there is no slave or free. It does say that those differences are not important when we're in Christ.

When I started out in Presbytery 25 years ago, it was right about the time the first women were being ordained. When Presbytery met we'd have about 100 ministers and elders attending -- all men. At the worship service, we'd sing as a huge male chorus. It was an amazing thing. Gradually more and more women joined in leadership roles as elders and ministers. Now when you go to Presbytery it sounds just like church. It sounds like all of God's people singing praises to God. It's not that we lost anything or that we're doing anything better it's that we have grown, become more inclusive, working together in Jesus Christ. We are all singing the same song praising God. We have great things to offer people.

It's in the scripture about how many husbands the Samaritan woman had. Some discuss why it is she had all these husbands. We automatically assume the worst. We think of how she must not have good morals. Why? What if there were other reasons? What if her first husband was a drug addict and she left him? What if her second husband beat her? What if the next husband was elderly whom she married to care for until his death? What if one of her husbands was gay and she married him thinking she could change him and make him all better? What if one of her husbands cheated on her with her best friend? That kind of changes the story. It helps us to understand why she doesn't want to set herself up for hurt #6. Back then a woman had to be with a man for any kind of life or economic status. Our church can be a place where we don't discriminate against gender or have a double standard, either.

Also in the gospel of John, Chapter 8, is the famous story of a woman caught in adultery. It says in John 8:3-4 that she was caught in the act of adultery and there was a man involved. However, only the woman is brought before Jesus for punishment. Perhaps that is why Jesus is lenient. The church needs to be a place where there is safety and acceptance of gender, without double standards. We can offer a good and safe space for the community and an example for our world of how we treat one another, realizing that in Christ there is no male or female. Amen.

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