A Reflection on Luke 24
They said it was an “idle tale”. The women rushed into the house with wide eyes and fierce conviction, proclaiming that Jesus’ tomb was empty, that angels greeted them, that Jesus is risen.
And the men brushed aside the women’s word like you’d brush away a delicate butterfly. An “idle tale.” Harmless. Meaningless.
Many of us know what this moment feels like.
Perhaps the men shook their heads and said not a word, but their silence said it all: “these poor, vulnerable, naive, women…they’d believe anything to ease their delicate minds.”
Perhaps they pretended to listen, pretended to consider it, pretended to be an ally, saying, “sweetheart, you got yourself all worked up. Sit down and have some tea.” And then later, safe in the company of men, they chuckled with each other: “you know how women are, they can’t sort fiction from fact. Someone was pulling one over on them. (*Cue the beer burp*) Sure is a shame they’re foolish enough to get sucked in.”
And, of course you know there was the one audacious man who took pleasure in diminishing them. “That’s ridiculous.” he would’ve said to them, maybe dismissively or maybe puffing out his chest in threat. “You women shouldn’t go anywhere without a man, anyways.” As if their word isn’t credible without a man’s confirmation. As if they don’t have the capacity to function without a man’s guidance.
Well. Don’t let the irony escape you. You see, it was the women who stood at the foot of the cross while Jesus died a slow death, giving him comfort in his final agonizing moments. It was the women who followed when his body was taken and noted where it was laid. It was the women who prepared the spices necessary for a decent burial. It was the women who set off at first light to pay their respects. It is no surprise, then, that it was the women who God chose to be the first preachers of the gospel.
Do you see it? With perfect faithfulness the women drew closer to Jesus in his darkest moments, while the men kept their distance. And still, those same men have the audacity to dismiss this revelation delivered by women as an “idle tale.”
I spent this week at a clergywomen’s conference with nearly 300 clergywomen and several female bishops. I left that conference knowing two things for certain.
I know that every one of us clergywomen carries a great deal of woundedness. Every. one. of. us. We have been wounded by the same behavior the disciples displayed 2,000 years ago, and then some. My sisters gave witness to wounds caused by dismissiveness, sexism, bullying, sexual harassment, threats, slander, and of course, refusing to accept or respect a woman’s leadership or preaching. Every one of us knew what it was like to be brushed aside as an “idle tale.”
And yet. As certain as sexism is in today’s world, I am more certain of this: we clergywomen are courageous, resilient, and changing the world. We will never stop answering God’s call. We know what God has revealed to us, we know the truth of who we are and who God has called us to be, and we cannot stay silent.
What those foolish disciples didn’t realize was the strength of those first women preachers, and the strength of their shared experience. You see, they were together when the angel greeted them. Their ears were the first to hear, “He is risen.” Their eyes were the first to behold the empty tomb. Their hearts were the first to be strangely warmed by the hope of resurrection. They had that holy moment, they had a God-given mission, and they had each other.
And it was enough. It was enough.
It was enough to keep them going.
So the women would not, could not recant in the face of the disciples’ dismissiveness. They did not sit down and have some tea. They did not say, “of course, we defer to your esteemed wisdom” or some baloney like that. No. They were insistent. They were persistent. They stuck together. They stuck to the truth. They stuck to the gospel.
That’s when Peter rose and went to the tomb, and Scripture says he went home “marveling at what was happening.” I’m sure Peter marveled most at the miracle of resurrection. But I like to think Peter also marveled at God’s choice of preachers. I like to think that Peter marveled at God’s ability to turn everything inside out and upside down: not just destroying death, but destroying the social norms (like sexism) that kill the human spirit.
As I come home from this week’s Spirit-filled clergywomen conference, I find myself marveling with Peter at what is happening. For too long the church has allowed or endorsed toxic treatment of women. For too long church leaders of all ages, genders, and denominations have overtly and covertly relegated women to the “idle tale” corner of the church. And it is not okay.
So today I am marveling in the reminder that God chose women to be the first Christian preachers. God used their courage and their persistence and their faithful proclamation to begin the Christian movement. The church often credits Peter as the founder of it all. But let us never, ever forget: before there was Peter, there were the women. Before Peter preached a sermon, there were the women who wrote it.
And I am certain that we Spirit-filled women will keep preaching, keep leading, keep dreaming, keep persisting, keep answering God’s call together. And for me, for right now, it is enough.
The image above is called “women and the tomb” from the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre (http://www.canonesses.co.uk/gallery/art/stations-of-the-resurrection/)
2 thoughts on “Before Peter Spoke, Women Preached”
Beautifully written Laura.
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Beautiful message, Laura! Thank you. Wish I could have been there to hear their witness. I’m glad I have found your blog. Your writing is exquisite.
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