This summer, we have been spending some time with some of the stories of some of the women in scripture.
We have spent some time with Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, Hannah, Mary, Martha, another Mary, Tabitha, and Lydia. We have spent time with women as they passed trauma to other women, as they rescued prophets, as they became co-conspirators, as they did what needed to be done, as they looked forward to the reign of God, and as they did so much more.
We have spent time with women as they have been heroes and villains, saints and sinners, modest and wild, reserved and dangerous, all at once, all mixed up and baked into… beautiful but broken… broken but beautiful… children of the living God.
And we started this summer with Junia, mentioned in passing in Romans. And we are ending this summer with Lois and Eunice, mentioned and passing in Second Timothy.
There are… scholarly debates… about Second Timothy: about when it was written and who wrote it and who it was written to and who it was written for. And those debates are important. But today, I’m going to take it at face value.
Today, it is a letter that Paul wrote to Timothy. Today, it is a letter that a missionary sitting in prison in Rome wrote to a disciple and friend who had travelled with him on his missionary journeys. Today, it is a letter that is a little bit about how to be a good pastor.
Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord… be strong in the grace that is in Christ and share in suffering… avoid profane chatter, shun youthful passions, and have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies.
I am, admittedly, not great at several of those.
And right here at the beginning, Paul tells Timothy, “I remember your sincere faith. A faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois, and then in your mother Eunice, and now, I’m sure, lives in you.”
Last week, I told you that women are more religious than men. And I told you that that’s changing. But for now…
In any given church building, on any given Sunday morning, women are more likely to be worshipping in the sanctuary and singing in the choir… tending to the children in the nursery and teaching the kids in the Sunday School rooms… making snacks in the kitchen and chatting over coffee in the Fellowship Hall.
And it’s not just in church buildings; and it’s not just on Sunday mornings. Everywhere and every-when, women are more likely to be praying the prayers and singing the songs… to be telling the stories and passing the faith on to the next generation.
And that is not to say that men don’t do those things. It’s just… well… when one of your parents guilts you into going to church, it’s usually your mom.
As we’ve been going through this summer sermon series—as we’ve spent some time with some of the stories of some of the women in scripture—I’ve occasionally thought about some of the women who have been with me on my own faith journey.
My mom is the one who made my family go to church in the first place. Women ran the nursery and the pre-school and the Sunday School of my childhood. Women taught me the prayers and the songs and the stories. And while the first pastor that I remember was a man, the first pastor who was my pastor was a woman.
Women taught my religion classes in college and my theology classes in seminary. Women guided me through the ordination process and helped me transition from one calling to another. Women shaped my life and led me to stand in this pulpit.
And, again, that is not to say that men did not do those things. It’s just… well… I am here because women passed the bits and pieces of our faith on to me, and taught me how to make those bits and pieces into a faith that I could call my own.
And that’s important.
Because, so often when we read the stories in the scriptures, we focus on the stories of men: Abraham and Joseph, Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon, John and Jesus, Peter and Paul.
Because, so often, when we hear from religious authorities, we hear from men: every church in DeWitt has a man as their pastor; every church that has multiple pastors has men as their multiple pastors; some only allow men to be pastors… or elders… or leaders.
Because, so often when we imagine God, we imagine a man; and when we pray to God, we pray to a man.
And it is so easy to look at Christianity—the stories that we emphasize and the people that we authorize—and think that it’s all about men… even though women have always been part of the story… even though women have always been protagonists in the story…
…even though women have always—ever since those women ran from an empty tomb, and became apostles to the apostles, and delivered the good news of Christ’s resurrection to the men who stayed home… and ever since long before that—even though women have always prayed the prayers and sung the songs and told the stories and passed the faith on to the next generation.
We are ending our summer with two women who are mentioned in passing. Lois and Eunice are two women who we know next to nothing about. And they are the grandmother and mother of Timothy, a man who we know next to nothing about.
And the truth is that there are a lot of people in scripture who are mentioned in passing; there are a lot of people who in scripture who we know next to nothing about. There are a lot of people in life who we only mention in passing; there are a lot of people in life who we know next to nothing about.
And that’s too bad. Because every one of those people has a story. Lois and Eunice have stories that could tell us how they were rooted in their Judaism and how they came to faith in Christ and why they passed that faith on to Timothy. And it’s too bad that we don’t have those stories… that we don’t know what Lois and Eunice were like, or what they told Timothy, or what they taught to others. It’s too bad that everything but their names and their connection to Timothy and Paul has been lost to history.
But even being mentioned in passing is important. Because even if we don’t know their stories, knowing that they were there… remembering that they existed… matters.
In a world that often emphasized the contributions of straight white cis-gendered et cetera men… in a world that often reimagines people who were not straight white cis-gendered et cetera men as straight white cis-gendered et cetera men… there might be, like, two white people in the Bible, no matter what the paintings say…
In that world, it is important to remember that I would not be here—we would not be here—without women, and trans folk, and queer folk. In that world, it is important to remember that I would not be here—we would not be here—without people of every race and ethnicity and color.
It is important to remember that we would not be here without a diverse array of people who reflect the awe-inspiring diversity of the image of God. Even people whose stories we don’t know… even people who are only mentioned in passing… even people who aren’t even mentioned in passing.
And it is important to remember that when we leave those people out of the story of our faith—when we just… don’t mention… the people who don’t look like us—we are diminishing that story. And if we diminish that story enough, we end up not telling that story at all.
We started this summer with Junia, mentioned in passing in Romans. And when we learned about Junia, we learned about the work that some people have done to deny that she was an apostle and prominent among the apostles.
And we are ending this summer with Lois and Eunice, mentioned and passing in Second Timothy. And they are two women who would be so easy to ignore or forget.
And one of the things that I hope we have picked up on as we have spent some time with some of the stories of some of the women in scripture is that everyone’s story matters… and that everyone who is part of the great big story of God’s work in the world matters… and that there is always more to all of these stories.
And that while there are stories that we will probably never know—we will probably never know Lois’s story or Eunice’s story—there are so many stories that we can learn now. And even if we can’t tell those stories, we can at least remember that those stories are there to explore.
Even if it’s not enough, we can mention them in passing. And, maybe, every now and again, we can pick one up and tell the whole thing, and be blessed by the telling.