What's Under the Roof ...
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Lk. 8:1-3, NIV).
I was pastor of First Baptist Church of Ottawa, Kansas, for five years from 1998-2003. People are always surprised when they hear that … my service there is kind of an asterisk to the likes of Roger Fredrickson, his son, Joel, and Jim McCrossen, whose tenures at the church also made a big impact at the university.
But I was proud of my time at Ottawa, both at the church and at the university, and I believe that I made a difference there.
The church’s building is a historic 100-year-old structure designed by celebrated architect George Washburn. It featured a beautiful grey slate roof that had a beautiful diamond design made of green slate and with a complimentary bell tower. The original design had been lost in repairs through the years, but when the roof had to be replaced due to storm damage, we had the pattern put back into the new shingle roof. Indeed, the church received letters from a WW II prisoner in the POW camp just outside of town about the inspiration the tower was for him during his stay there.
But as beautiful as the roof of that historic building was, and as much as I enjoyed getting up on that roof to inspect the work of the crews who were repairing it, I really enjoyed climbing up into the attic and seeing the structure that supported and carried the weight of that roof. The huge beams and the geometric patterns they formed were fascinating, were functional, and in their own way, were just as beautiful as the roof itself, and frankly, they were more important for the health of the building.
But of course, these rafters are hidden by the ornate plaster ceiling below and the granite roof above. Yet for over 100 years, they have carried the weight of the roof and of the ceiling to provide a beautiful place for the church to worship.
Luke’s introduction to the parable of the four soilshas an interesting tidbit that most of us just glance over when we read it … the inclusion of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples “helping to support them out of their own means.”
They weren’t using the funds of the disciples, or the funds of their family, but instead, they were using “their own means."
In a similar way to the rafters of the church building supporting its roof and ceiling, since the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the two-millennia old movement has been supported by women from their “own means”.
In lifting up this observation, I am not trying to make an argument for women in ministry, although I could gladly argue such a position – I’ll save that for another time and place.
And, I am not minimizing the importance of the men’s leadership in the church … indeed, the healthiest churches have a healthy mix of leadership from both genders using their gifts to support the church. Far too many of our struggling churches could be revitalized if the men on the membership role would stop playing golf on Sunday morning, stop watching football on Sunday morning, and use some of their means to support the ministry of Christ in the church of which they claim to be a member!
But I do want to recognize the role of women throughout the years in supporting Jesus, his movement, and his church. I can’t tell you the number of churches that have been built on the chicken dinners cooked by women’s groups through the ages … the number of missionaries whose work has been made easier by the resources and gifts sent to them on the field to do their work … the number of children who have heard about and who have learned to love Jesus by the stories told – or read – to them in Sunday Schools, Bible Schools, Camps and, even more importantly, in the home while sitting on their mother’s lap.
Perhaps it is too strong to say – but really not by THAT much – that the church would not be here today if it were not for the ministry of women.
During this month when we celebrate the Hallmark Holiday of Mother’s Day … maybe it won’t be too much of a stretch for us to recognize these women who have experienced the healing power of Jesus in their lives and who have hung around to support his work by their own means.
Lord, thank you for the love and service of the women who have walked with you throughout the years, supporting your Church’s ministry, being your disciples, and loving others in your name! Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains