A few months after I got married, one of our folks here came up to me and said, “Your sermons have gotten a lot better since you got married, Pastor! Does Alma help you with them?” Wow! I mean, gut punch. Sometimes my sermons aren’t the best – but this person noticed so much so that my sermons had gotten better that they called me out on it. Wow.
But the truth is, Alma does help me with them. We will talk through the text and the gospels and what Jesus is saying. We talk about what hits home with us, and where Jesus is leading the disciples and where Jesus could be leading us. And when I get stuck in a sermon, or have gone too heady, or am not sure what the Holy Spirit is leading me towards, Alma offers a sounding block and is a gift to my sermons – so no wonder they have gotten better!
More so, she is a preacher in her own right, and talented at that. She sees things in scripture that never occurred to me, in part because she has experienced God differently. As a women, as preacher, as a mother, as someone rooted in baptismal language and theology — she brings so much more to the table!
In fact, looking back at what and who has shaped me into a preacher, there have been several women who chose to mentor me, to whom I owe my pastoral identity. There have been many great women preachers who influenced me, who taught me pastoral skills like neuro-linguistic programming, conflict management and healthy boundaries, who have opened my mind up to the depth and beauty of the Gospel.
Yesterday, the ELCA celebrated the 50th anniversary of ordained women within one of our denomination’s predecessor bodies – and praise be to Christ for that! Women are the strength and backbone of the Church and have been since the days of Jesus: being the first to proclaim Jesus as Messiah (John 4:39) to the first to proclaim the resurrection (John 20:18). Women in the pulpit, women in ministry make the church a stronger Church. In fact, I believe that when women are preachers, teachers, and leaders is the only time we are fully the Church.
And so praise be to God for you who have ever taught Sunday School, who lead Bible Studies, and who help the church grow in faith. Praise be to God for you who preach and teach the gospel, and make us a better church, and who make us the church. Praise be to God for you for those who paved a way for women in ministry, and praise be to God for the women who will become ordained and continue to help the church see the fullness of the Gospel! And I give praise to God for the women who have taken the time to help even preachers like me.