Of course, the church’s sin against women is not exclusive to women. Somehow, shortly after St. Paul and the gospels were written came the selective interpretation of the scriptures. A selective interpretation that was nothing more than proof texting for the exclusivity of a male dominated church. You can selectively sort through St. Paul’s letters and come up with sentences here and there that seem to cast women in lesser roles. But reading the whole of his letters paints a different picture. To exclude women, or anyone, was not Jesus’ message or how he lived his life; nor was it Paul’s nor is it in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts women are preaching, teaching and are ordained.
The new Jesus movement as we see it in the gospels and in Acts is a Jewish movement whose purpose and identity was grounded in the universal inclusion of all people in the new covenant faith. The gospel message is that there is no barrier of age, race, gender, ethnicity, class or status. All were welcome. As all were welcome at the table of Jesus who even ate with sinner, even with tax collectors!
St. Paul and the other apostles saw their mission to preach Jesus’ death and resurrection as a universal imperative which included pagans and gentiles, and was intended to reach to the ends of the earth. No one was excluded. What has happened to us? To the church? On religious grounds, false religious grounds I might add, people of different orientations are being excluded. We are suspect of anyone of a different faith. Whose practices are not like ours?
In Acts it becomes clear that ALL barriers are eradicated by the coming of the Holy Spirit. One of the first signs at Pentecost, the sending of the Spirit of Christ into the world, was that people of different tribes, speaking different languages, could understand one another. Being baptized not by apostles but in the name of the Spirit of Jesus, not only erased ethnic diversity which was so strong at the time, but also made it possible to bring everyone to the table. To the table of Jesus. He even sat down and ate with Pharisees, with his enemies.
How outrageous then are those purveyors of Christianity who refuse anyone to come to the table of the Lord. Even to say you need to be free of sin to come to the table seems ludicrous. Who needs Jesus more? And who is to judge the human heart? When we remember Jesus’ last supper this week, as we participate in the remembrance of Jesus’ last supper, we need to be aware that just as he welcomed everyone to every meal he ate during his public life, we too might work to include rather than exclude. For there are no barriers to love. And it was only the women and a lone Roman soldier who stood with and witnessed the embrace of Jesus for everyone on that Good Friday.