Lent Midweek 2 – Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 28, 2018  

“Submission” (or Self Sacrifice)

Luke 12:32-34

When I was a child I went to church every Sunday because I wanted to go to church. I went to Youth Group at church and sang in the Folk group at church because I wanted to. I knew God loved me and I loved God right back.

When I wasn’t at church I was often at home playing church. When I played church at my friend’s house her brother always got to be the pastor. My friend played the piano so she was the organist. I was stuck sitting in the pretend pews listening to them both. When I played church at home I was always the pastor. I made my little brother be the one who sat in the pews. Women couldn’t be pastors back then, but I was a little girl and I didn’t know that.

When I became an adolescent I began to tell other people I wanted to be a pastor. One person I told was someone I was in band with. Her name was Carol. Carol was a strict Baptist. She invited me to go to church with her one Wednesday night, so I went. I met a lot of nice people. They offered to pray for me and I said “Yes, please.” Why not? Prayer is good.

The following night there was a knock on the front door of our home. My mom answered the door. A woman and a man stood outside; they asked for me. My mom called for me. I went to the door. There stood some of my new friends from the Baptist church. I was happy to see them.

They asked me if I read the bible. I said “yes.” They asked me if I read the whole bible. I said “No.” Just parts. They asked me if I had read 1st Timothy. Again, I said “No.”

Well, in 1st Timothy it says “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness” (2:11). In 1st Timothy it says “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent” (2:12). My new friends asked me if I knew the bible said that. I told them “No, I did not know that.” Because I didn’t.

“You must submit yourself to what the bible says” these “friends” told me. They said “Carol tells us you want to be a pastor. You can’t be a pastor. Women cannot be pastors. Women must submit themselves to men, to scripture, to the Church, and to God. We’ll pray for you.”

They frightened me. Their words hurt me. I could not believe that what I thought was so RIGHT was so wrong. I thought submitting to the will of God meant being a pastor. I didn’t think it meant not being a pastor.

Thank God I discovered they were wrong. I discovered my church would allow women to be pastors, voting to do so in 1970. And so I submitted to the will of the bible, to the will of my church, to the will of God. And I became a pastor in 1986. Only to be told I couldn’t be for different reasons 14 years later. I submitted myself to the will of my church then, knowing the church was wrong. Thank God the church changed its mind.

In final analysis, submission is self-sacrifice. Submission, self-sacrifice—both are self-denial. When we submit, when we sacrifice—we walk a fine line. We need to know who we are submitting to and what we are sacrificing. We must never sacrifice our safety or our integrity. We must never understand self-sacrifice to be submission to someone else’s understanding of God’s Law or desire. Self-sacrifice or submission—neither is intended to keep people in bondage, at their best they are intended to free people to follow, to follow God.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray “thy will be done.” When we open ourselves to God’s will rather than our own, we are submitting.

It is not easy to let go of ourselves, to let go of what we want, to let go of what we think we need. On the flip side, when we finally let go of what we want or need there can be a profound sense of freedom.

Self-sacrifice, submission—both are self-disciplines. These disciplines are not and never should be something we decide for anyone else. We decide. We decide to do these things because they bring us closer to God, not further away.

I cannot tell you, no one else should ever tell you how to bring self-sacrifice or submission into your life. I can offer you an invitation. I invite you to explore your relationship with God, to see what God calls you to do and to be. To see what God might be calling you to give up or to give away.

Step inside yourself and listen to the voice of God. Then let go and let God.  Let God’s will be done.

Amen.