Today features the most popular wedding scripture by far with "love is patient, love is kind." It's a beautiful line of scripture that so eloquently captures the feelings and ideals of love. However, today's reading also features one of Paul's more infamous writings as well about the place of women in the church. It's extremely important we don our scholarly hats as we approach this text and consider the role of context here. Is what Paul writes in this one line of scripture supported by the rest of the Bible? Would Jesus agree with it? Heck, would even Paul himself agree with it? These questions can help us not react too strongly to parts of the Bible that otherwise might really upset or offend us. We'll talk more down below. In the meantime, enjoy your reading!
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
Paul famously writes that of faith hope and love, love is the greatest of the three. Do you agree? Why or why not?
How do you respond to or process difficult Bible readings?
- Commentary -
Okie, so let's chat about 1 Corinthians 14: 34 - 36, the odd bit about Paul saying women should be silent in the church as I suspect for many of you this will be the line you'll get snagged up on. While I'll certainly insert my own flair to the writing I want to assure you that this is not my thoughts on this topic but rather a paraphrase and samplings of text from what is probably considered the commentary for preachers and thinkers alike - the New Interpreters Bible series.
One of the joys about reading the Bible as a literary book and not as a library of verses is that we can raise our fingers in suspicion when something seems off, and I hope by now you can come to verses like this and say...."hey wait a minute..." This does not sound like Paul, and that's because this is almost certainly not Paul. It's been universally accepted (mostly) by scholars that this is a insertion by an editor who took this Pauline letter and brought it into conformity with the practices regarding women in his own subsequent-to-Paul timeline. Now you might be ready to reach for your swords and say "Hey now buckaroo where do youuuuuu get the authority to say what is or isn't authentic in the Bible?" Fair question! It's because it doesn't line up with the canonical context that we've been reading so far from Paul himself - even within the confines of 1 Corinthians! First Corinthians begins with Paul talking about "Chloe's" people. We don't know who Chloe is but its safe to say that she was someone fairly important to be named by Paul and have "a people" that follow her. In other words, she was a "pastor" so to say to the church of Corinth. Secondly, Paul makes it clear in chapter 11 verse 5 that women were praying and prophesying and that they too have spiritual gifts for interpretation. Later in this book Paul will sign this letter and give a special shout out to Pricilla, another well known woman teacher that he not only taught but who journeyed with him alongside her husband Aquilla. As we already discussed in Romans 16 over half of the names mentioned at the conclusion were to women teachers and leaders in the church. In Philippians, Paul writes that two women leaders to whom he is addressing are included "in the book of life." Lastly, in the letter to Philemon women are sent with greetings more than men are. In the 6 undisputed letters of Paul outside of this one singular instance in 1 Corithians, no passage suggests any limitation on the roles or functions of women in the Pauline churches.
So, to the churches that build their entire theology, values, and beliefs off singular passages of the Bible...shame on you. You not only dishonor the writings and values of Paul who risked his life day in and day out to grow the church but you spit in the face of Jesus himself who included women apostles, answered their questions, and even was impressed with the Samaritan women who "outwitted" him. Data shows that strongly women are more likely to attend church apart from their spouse if their family does not join the church as well. We see that in our local church body and it's true across the country. It is not a dramatization to say that our church would literally not exist without the women of the church in leadership positions as ministers, lay leaders, team leaders, small group leaders, and council members all of whom are not being quiet in the church. Thank you to all of you that reveal the characteristics of God through your personal witness and adversity.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 307 - Christ is Risen! Gotta love all the good Easter hymns lately, huh? :)
1 Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna! Celebrate this day of days. Christ is risen! Hush in wonder; all creation is amazed. In the desert all-surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown. Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown.
2 Christ is risen! Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair. Walk with gladness in the morning. See what love can do and dare. Drink the wine of resurrection, not a servant, but a friend; Jesus is our strong companion. Joy and peace shall never end.
3 Christ is risen! Earth and heaven nevermore shall be the same. Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain. Tell its grim, demonic chorus: "Christ is risen! Get you gone!" God the First and Last is with us. Sing Hosanna everyone!