This is the text of the message I prepared for KSSM for Easter Day 2019.
Luke 24:1-12; Acts 10:34-43
Hmm, “they”. I am always dubious about they. “They”. You know “they”, don’t you; they of “they have been saying”, or they of “they wear their shirts untucked these days”, or they of “they think that it’s dangerous to eat those foods now”. They, phsh! So when Luke 24:1 tells us that “they” came to the tomb I immediately want to close my ears: who cares about they? Not me, because if “they” truly mattered then “they” would have had names and faces, and “they” would have come to tell me to my face rather than sending you to tell me what “they” think.
Sadly you don’t have to be a pastor or a leader to be suspicious of “they”. Indeed the “they” that Luke wrote about have been ignored and shunned since the day that Luke wrote about, even before Luke wrote about the day, which is probably why they are “they”, and not…well not who they actually were with their real names and faces. So who are they, this “they”? In the Greek text we don’t find out until Luke 24:10 who they were, although in some English translations we at least get a pronoun in Luke 24:5. So they are “the women”, specifically Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Herod’s chief of staff, and Mary the mother of James. Also with them were “the other women”, you know, “they”. And what happens when “they” begin to tell the story of the empty tomb? Well it’s pretty clear in Luke 24:11 what happens, they are accused of idle talk and the apostles do not believe them. Fair enough because “they” are women and you know, women eh, idle talk: they are not apostles, they are not men; they are not to be trusted or believed without corroborating evidence from a man, a man who is not one of “they” but one of “us”. And for two thousand years they have been written out of the story, except as minor characters who prompted Peter to go to the tomb where he was amazed. And then Peter went home.
I don’t know about you, I hope you agree with me, but it really doesn’t matter if you don’t because I am going to say it anyway: praise God for they! If it wasn’t for “they”, the women who went to the tomb then Peter (who did not go to the tomb initially) would not have known that Jesus was raised. And if it wasn’t for “they”, the women, continuing to tell the obtuse ten after Peter went to the tomb that Jesus was raised then no one would have known because Peter, (who went to the tomb and found it abandoned), went home without telling anyone. So it’s a blessing for us that “they” did tell!
It was “they” to whom the angels spoke, it was “they” who remembered what Jesus had told them while he was still alive, and it was “they” who first carried the news of the resurrection of Jesus to the weeping world. So when that other “they”, they with their untucked shirts and their ingredients-free diets, and “they” in their constant state of “have been saying”; when they tell you that women have no place in Christian leadership or proclamation, you tell them that without women there would have been no Christian leadership or proclamation to begin with.
Without these women there would have been no Peter, beyond Good Friday at least. And with no Peter beyond Good Friday there would have been no sermon in the house of Cornelius, and therefore no assurance that God does not show partiality based on race, no assurance that God accepts with gladness all that come to God with humility and openness, and no assurance of peace and rest. It is not just the resurrection that brought shalom to the world, not just the resurrection that brought forgiveness through grace by faith, not just the resurrection that jumped the rollout of the kingdom of God into a higher gear; it was the news of the resurrection, the news proclaimed first by women, then by Galilean peasants and fishermen, which did that. The news proclaimed to “us” by “they” is the news that in God through Christ there is no us and they, that all are “we”, and we are God’s own.
Without women, and without Peter and the apostles, there would have been no Paul. With no Paul there would be no Church in Corinth, no Christians in Europe, and no Christians among the European people of the planet. (So, no Christian whitefellas in Australia.) There would have been no letters to the Church in Corinth, and no assurance that since Christ has been raised from the dead, and that his gospel was vindicated by God, that ha-satan is on the way out and that the ultimate victory of the Kingdom of God, and the God of the Kingdom, is assured. No resurrection: no hope says Paul. Resurrection but no news of the resurrection: also no hope says Paul. Our job as Church is to proclaim the resurrection, and hope, to those who haven’t yet heard, and those haven’t heard properly. But who told us the news? And who told them, and them before them? With no women there is no proclamation and no hope. With no hope, there is no life.
So, who have you chosen not to listen to? Through whom is God not allowed to speak to you? “Yeah, I’ll listen to Joyce Meyer, but not the local bloke, because she’s anointed and he’s just appointed.” Or “I’ll listen to Rick Warren, but not to Joyce Meyer, because women shouldn’t preach.” Or “I’ll listen to anyone on a podcast but I’ll never read a book, because it’s 2019.” Or “I’ll listen to Damien, but not to anyone from the Baptists, because Damien’s humour and scholarship are awesome.” Who are you shutting out? Well, you’re shutting out God, d’uh, but you know what I’m asking.
More important to me is, whom are you shutting off from God? From whom are you withholding the gospel, whom are you not talking to? I’m pretty sure that Joanna and the mob of Marys knew that the male apostles wouldn’t have a bar of what they were saying, but did it stop them saying it? No, it did not! Would it stop you saying it, has it stopped you saying it? I’ll leave that with you to ponder.
We are each and all called to proclaim because first we were each and all chosen to receive: chosen by God (as all are, without partiality); and chosen by whomever told us (having first gathered herself around her bravery against our possible rejection of her as gospeller). The message of the risen Jesus, the vindicated forth-teller of the Reign of Heaven, is that hope lives and that God is gracious and welcoming through God’s own invitation to come and be welcomed and to learn to trust. Like the women who first told it, the gospel itself is resilient, resolute, and relentless; strong against resistant voices yet soothing for those who need to be enveloped by its embrace. The women were not silenced by the disbelief of the eleven, but they continued to sing and dance the message of the abandoned sepulchre and the abundant celebration until at last the men were stirred to look, and were amazed. Isn’t this the hope that stirs your heart, your guts, your grin this morning? Is it not so that Jesus is Risen, and so can you be, and so can “they” out there be, because the One who can raise the dead can certainly restore the broken? Is it not so? Is our God, our King, our brother not dependable and true? Is this not a faith worth keeping?
Keep the faith, but in the model of the Marys and Joanna do not keep it to yourself. “They” out there need to hear it, so don’t stop telling out your soul until they do.