Once a week I write a pastoral letter to the good people of the West Congregation of the Austin Stone Community Church. I will occasionally add some of those letters here.
Dear West Family
I was reading Luke 8 the other day, (please don’t be ashamed if you weren’t doing the same, I get paid to read the Bible and so it is kinda expected of me), and what jumped out at me was the description of the team of women that accompanied Jesus and his disciples on their trips though cities and villages. This would have been scandalous in and of itself as most Rabbi’s didn’t want women following them around as they were seen as beneath them in dignity.
But not our Jesus!
And what an unlikely trio of women to be working with him! Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. Mary Magdalene has had a troop of demons cast out of her; Joanna is married to Herod’s household manager and so she is probably loaded, educated and influential; and Susanna, who seems lovely but isn’t mentioned again after this moment. And look at what they were doing, they were providing for the work of Christ out of their means.
What a beautiful thing!
These were humble, gifted, godly, sacrificial ministry women making a real difference with what they had. This seems far removed from our conception of a few gals making salads and gossiping in the kitchen while the men grill outside and talk about the markets and doctrine and hunting and man stuff.
These women were involved!
If you fast forward to Jesus’ darkest hour on the cross, two out of these three are there (Mary and Joanna), along with some other women who don’t abandon Jesus like his male disciples did. When it comes time for his resurrection, well you guessed it, faithful women get to be the first witnesses and messengers, even in a context that didn’t allow women to be eye-witnesses in court.
Oh what magnificent dignity Jesus bestows on his sisters.
This weekend, is the annual Austin Stone Women’s retreat, and over 400 women are going to gather to worship, study the word, fellowship, laugh, eat, enjoy and pray that the boys back home don’t burn the place down in their absence. Won’t you set aside a few minutes to pray for them this weekend? Pray that the Spirit of God would be forming formidable ministry partners like Mary, Joanna and Susanna. For the ladies at West who aren’t going on retreat, I will still be praying the same thing for you this weekend. We so appreciate all you do, and who you are, and are so grateful for the gifts that God has given you and the ways he is working in and through you for the expansion of the Kingdom.
Let’s be a community that celebrates, applauds, promotes, encourages, protects, nurtures and listens to our women.
We see you, sisters.
Grace and peace.