Devotions for Sunday 30th August
Welcome to the Devotions sheet for this Sunday. Please take your time to read, pray and imagine your way through what’s here. May you find grace and strength and connection with God from your time reading and reflecting.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of our land, and pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. We honour their care of the land and acknowledge that as Second Peoples, we have benefitted from their dispossession. So we commit ourselves to reconciliation and justice as First and Second Peoples together, and to learn from them to care for each other and the land.
Dear God, in these times of shake-up with the coronavirus, I am unsettled. I give thanks for the new ways we have of nurturing our faith. While I would rather the old comfortable ways of being church, help me embrace the new and speak to me in a fresh way- to spark my life with a hopeful vision and spiritual energy for each day. As I read on, pray and reflect, comfort me in my unsettledness, and unsettle me in my comfortableness. But as you might unsettle me, let me feel deep inside me that I am safe in your care and give me a sense of adventure in my faith. Fill me with your Amazing Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Two weeks ago we began a new series looking at some implications of the gospel in and towards some contemporary and perhaps controversial movements in our world, that all flow from our affirmation that ‘God is Good’. This was inspired by the banner we plan to get made and mount on the Warrnambool Church as a statement of who we are and what we stand for. Last week looked at Black Lives Matter. This week- from the banner- it’s ‘Women’s rights are human rights’.
Last week we looked at Black Lives Matter. Do you remember anything from during this week that connected with what we talked and prayed about?
Now this will be a challenging prayer- take a moment to think of, say, five things in which you are privileged. Give thanks to God for those things- they are not bad, they are a blessing, accept them as gifts of grace to you . . . You don’t need to feel guilty for them, but I invite you to, in prayer, ask God for help to fulfil the responsibility that goes with them- to feel grateful rather than entitled, to not judge others, and however you can, to share those privileges with others.
Women’s rights are human rights
We don’t think this is the best slogan and so are searching for something shorter and that better expresses what we think the gospel says about women’s equality.
The idea of Human Rights isn’t something from the bible. It has been enshrined in some country’s democratic constitutions, and adopted by many countries from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The UNDoHR however, is a reflection of Judeo-Christian values through the lens of Western culture. What the phrase is saying is that women’s experience of human rights is less than men’s and that human rights should apply equally to women. It’s a bit like Black Lives Matter- black lives don’t seem to matter as much as whites, but they should.
I remember back being shocked to find out that women were paid less than men for the same work into the 1970s. How could that have been? Now, in Australia, officially women do have equal rights as men, but in practice there is still a significant differential between women’s income and men’s. Three reasons I suggest are that 1 there is a ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to women’s promotion in their careers; 2 when women take time out for child-bearing and child-rearing they fall behind; and 3 the pay rates in work where women predominate are low- with Child Care and Aged Care very clear examples. Apart from work rights, there is still a culture of misogyny, just as there is a culture of racism.
Why is this a gospel issue?
A couple of key texts are from the Genesis 1 creation story- v 26-27 Male and female are created equally.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness . . . 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
The implications of what Christ has done should be lived as equality: Galations 3: 26-28
26 It is through faith that all of you are God's children in union with Christ Jesus. 27 You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. 28 So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.
In the gospels we see Jesus treated women with radical respect and equality, and in the earliest days of the church this continued.
Throughout the scriptures we see God takes the side of the marginalised and oppressed. God’s concern is not just that we go to heaven when we die, but the transformation of the world towards love, fairness, sustainability and peace. God’s means of achieving this is God’s love through the liberating message and story of Jesus, and the on-going quiet voice and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. God is a God of affirmative action!
Just as I was shocked decades ago that women weren’t officially treated equally, young people today can’t believe this is still an issue that we’re still having to talk about. The exclusion of women in leadership roles in some churches is an embarrassment to the faith, an affront to a large part of society, and another hindrance to evangelism. I believe the movement towards official equality and equality in practice is a movement of the Holy Spirit, we should be on-board with and helping to steer God-wards.
In many parts of the world patriarchy (male dominance) and misogyny (hatred of women) are more evident, open and unapologetic than in Australia, but even here, in practice, in general, women aren’t treated equally.
As Christians, what is our role in creating, with God, the change?
I’ve been reading a book in which the main character is on the periphery of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain from just over 100 years ago, and the question is asked- is just protesting, campaigning and arguing enough or is disruption needed?
In a conversation with a friend about equality she talked of her ‘rebellion’, but again the question is about the wisdom needed in how you rebel. How does a Christian woman make a stand, and how does a Christian man make a stand?
First would be to imagine- what would it look like if women and men were equal in practice? Dream a bit- if not for yourself, then for your children and granddaughters and grandsons- how would both genders be better off? There’s mounting evidence that corporations that have women on the Board do better than those that are all male. Studies show egalitarian marriages are happier than hierarchical/traditional marriages. Look for where change is happening over the long-term and rejoice! We’ve come a long way in 50 years. (Maybe take a moment now to contemplate this . . . .)
Second would be to examine ourselves, to ask ourselves the questions deeply- is this what I hear God calling me to? Am I prepared to take responsibility for myself here? Am I prepared to ‘lose skin’ for this? (Reading the challenges in the book ‘Me and White Supremacy’, the same questions could be asked of men as of whites - ‘Am I prepared to even recognise my male power and advantage? Am I prepared to give that up?’) Pray for change.
Third is to speak up wherever the opportunity arises. Pray for the courage to, and even anticipate what you could say when a misogynist comment or a put down about women is said. Speak up for the dream of what equality would look like. And use the blessing we have of democracy and vote. I have a theory that if people voted for women candidates whatever their party, (even if it’s not your party of preference) then parliament and the overall approach of government would be transformed over the course of a few elections (notwithstanding Pauline Hanson). Be a provocateur- raise the issue in your conversations with a playful smile; talk with your children and especially those precious conversations you can have with grandchildren (if you have them), and say it comes from your Christian faith.
So what do you think would be a better phrase than ‘Women’s rights are human rights’? Let me know. I’m leaning towards ‘In this church we believe . . . ‘IN ACTION FOR WOMEN’S EQUALITY’’ but I’m very happy for something better.
Prayers for ourselves, others and the world
Dear God, we celebrate being male and female, and the separate aspects of our gender.
We recognise the power imbalance between males and females in families, in work-places, and in cultures throughout the world.
We give thanks for the vision from Jesus of a world of unity and equality, and for the progress made in relatively recent times, though especially in some parts of the world, there’s a long way to go. We give thanks for women who’ve had the courage to stand up for and campaign for equality, for the men who’ve stood with them, for the responses of governments, and for all situations where power is never used for exploitation.
We lament that often the church has followed these changes reluctantly rather than being in the vanguard.
We pray about all situations of family violence, sexual exploitation, harassment, exclusion and unfairness. Speak with your Spirit into all these situations to victims with loving strength and hope and to perpetrators with challenge and a vision of how things could be better all round and they could change. We pray for all who work in police and community sexual assault units, family violence services, gender politics, the media and the arts.
Help me hear and understand and have courage for your call to me about my role in all this.
Help us to bring about spiritual and social change to improve the quality of life for all peoples in our communities, especially the disadvantaged.
Help us share the good news of your forgiveness that can free us to move forward.
Help all young people to find true dignity and self-esteem by your Spirit.
And in the shake-up caused by the coronavirus, we pray for all suffering-with the illness, with loss of work and income, with the risk of health-work, especially for nursing homes. But also use this time for us to reset our values, priorities and lifestyles into the way of Jesus.
May your power and love be the foundations on which we live and walk together as First and Second Peoples; and build our families, our communities and our nation.
We pray for all whom we love- our families, our friends, our church and local communities. We bring their needs before you . . . Bless them with love, healing, connection and any help they need.
I pray for myself. You know what I need, but you want me to name those needs, desires and yearnings in prayer. I thank you for your leading and answered prayers in the past, and so ask now in faith . . .
We pray on behalf of ourselves, those who agree with us and those who might even hate us for these prayers. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thanks for using these devotions. If you ever want to talk with me about anything. Please feel welcome to call me on 0407 349 578 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 17 Koroit 3282 Geoff Barker
And . . . to take this further- here’s a question I invite you to send me answer to:
Why would a feminist want to be a Christian feminist?
There’ll be a prize for your responses.
Blessing (it’s the same one as last week, but worth pronouncing again)
May God bless us daily with the wisdom to sort out and act on:
What we’ve got to have, what we should have, and what we want to have,
What we’ve got to do, what we should do, and what we want to do,
What we’ve got to be, what we should be, and what we want to be.
In the Spirit, wisdom and love and grace of Christ. Amen