Service on Facebook:

Church, in the year of our Lord 2023, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) booted 2 of its congregations out of the… Convention. Was this over the piles of a sexual abuse allegations that were stated against individuals, covered up on congregations, and ignored by the national Convention? No. Was is about other abuses of power by the ministers? No. Was it about calling women pastors? O yes, that’s it.

Every denomination has their own understanding of ordination. In more hierarchical denominations, it all comes from the top. As Congregationalists, our pastors are called in the local church and then it is affirmed by the larger denomination. Every denomination has similar guidelines for what makes someone qualified, or not qualified. In the SBC, every local church sets their own guidelines and their own process. So First Baptist and Second Baptist could have completely different guidelines and qualifications and expectations and processes. They probably don’t but they could. Except, as it turns out, when it comes to ordaining women. Apparently that has, recently, become a hard line, women can be helpful, but not be pastors.

The churches that ordained them say they were affirming the work these women were already doing, they were doing the work of pastors but not given the title, the tax designation, none of the benefits. And now it seems unlikely that another will do the same any time soon.

They say, it is because Paul said women ought not be in leadership, ought to be silent. But we have to remember that Paul recognizes women as apostles and evangelists, that Jesus has women traveling and learning with him, and there are women throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the time of the Judges there was no king to rule over the 12 tribes of Israel. They were 12 tribes that might have been loosely affiliated but each did what they saw was right, each did what they thought was needed to survive.

It was a time of shifting boarders and empire seekers. Everyone was scrambling to claim the best pieces of the world.

The Judges were called by God, sometimes for a time, a moment, sometimes to set thing right or conquer an enemy, and sometimes to, like Deborah, discern conflict, decide cases, discern justices, dispense consequences.

I wonder what came first: her sitting under the tree or role as the judge. I like to think that she had her tree, the one that she would go to when the heat of the day was too much to work, or as the sun began to set and the fireflies would blink on. It was at that true she found a quiet center, communion with God, saw what God was doing in the world and grew in her ability to discern God’s justice, to get to know God’s people.

I wonder if she was called like Congregationalists, had she been discerning problems between people in her family, her neighborhood, her town, had she gotten a quiet reputation of being just and rational and compassionate while not privileging one over another. Then, over time, she found her places as a judge of Israel, dispensing wisdom. Did her quiet tree become a meeting place for many to listen to the prophet, to her wisdom, to see the justice.

Or did she hear the voice of God calling her to that place. And others heard it, too, hesitantly coming to the tree to meet the prophet judge who was called by God for them.

And, like many a modern call story, it might be of it all: a gift, a call, and the right time and place. And there she was, a woman in the highest place of leadership in the tribes of Israel. And a prophet, with spiritual leadership in the community! When Deborah asked it was given. When she requested a general, he came. And when she told him it was time to go to war, he asked her to come with.

And all of this happened at her tree.

I wonder if she was the first one at the tree as the sun rose and the last to leave as the day ended. To begin in prayer and surrender to God and end in reflection and gratitude.

Do you have a tree? Maybe it is one you climbed as a tree and felt safest in its branches than anywhere else in the world. Maybe it is a tree you sat by and read a book or dreamed of the future. Maybe it’s a tree under which you have your coffee, read the paper, and start your day. Do you have a tree that feels like safety, or the world yet unknown, or home?

Maybe your tree isn’t a tree at all. It might a chair in your living room, a window with a view you love, a bench next to the best flowers. Where ever and whatever, it is the place where you meet God.

I think about what someone needs to make it through each day hearing the stories of others, of understanding, of planning. I imagine the tree is grounding, that as the roots go down into the earth there is a stabilizing in ourselves–to settle into who we are, no more but no less, made in the image of God, and all called to be those who move in love and compassion in this world. And the tree reaches up–reaching to God and that relationship, living in that connection.

In the Jesuit tradition that we learned while spending time with Marquette, St Ignatius taught his students exercises to walk through at the end of the day, to reflect on the day, without judgment, so that they, and we, might learn and grow as we prepare to go into the next day.

It always begin in love.

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow.

This isn’t a method of being saved, but a way of living, of drawing closer to God, closer to the life of Christ, to ground yourself in that relationship with the Divine.

And if we’re honest, such intentional reflection on our day can be difficult: it can be hard to remember the good things and then to admit where we failed to love with our whole heart, where we spoke an unkind word, where we let ourselves down.

And if I’m being real honest, I’m not good at mornings or evenings. There is always so much to do! There are tasks to be checked off lists, there are place that need to be gotten to early in the morning, there is one more pile on the dining room table that could be put away before bed until the clock reads an hour after you should have been asleep and you have nothing left to give or reflect with and there is so much more to do first thing tomorrow morning! And when life gets overwhelming, I don’t always feel grounded and rooted, calm and confident, I sometimes hide in the closet because it’s small and can be set in order quickly.

Those mornings or evenings when I do pause, pray, pay attention, reflect usually mean my discernment, work, and wisdom–as it is–are rooted in the relationship with God nurtured in the garden, by the window, under a tree.

When Deborah went to war with Barak, when the enemy was driven into a panic, when the chaos of battle began, it seems Deborah stayed calm, she knew what was coming, how it would all turn out, that all things turned out to good through the God who kept her and loved her and she knew.

            So when the storms, the chaos, the panic comes, you will not turn into fear, but be steady in the heart of God. Because they will come. We will find ourselves in conflict, hopefully not ones we would consider wars; we will find ourselves among those thrown into panic, sometimes it’s even us; we will be in need to discern what is right and just, what is good and holy, what is next. And our discernment will be rooted in something–the chaos of the world or the presence and love of God whom we meet in prayer, reflection, and community.

I wonder if this week, in case you’re like me and always find an excuse for why you don’t have time, might make some, carve out a few moments to be in a quiet place and know that God is already there, waiting, to walk with you into your days, nights, into the world, the struggle, the chaos, into the joy and bringing hope.


Daily Examine of Consciousness

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.

God, I believe that at this moment I am in your presence and you are loving me.

  1. Review the day with gratitude.

God, you know my needs better than I know them. Give me your light and help me to see how you have been with me, both yesterday and today.

  1. Pay attention to your emotions.

God, help me be grateful for the moments when people have affirmed me and challenged me. Help me see how I have responded, and whether I have been kind to others and open to growth.

  1. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

God, forgive me for when I have not done my best or treated others well. Encourage me, guide men, and continue to bless me.

  1. Look toward tomorrow.

As I look to the remainder of this day (or tomorrow) make me aware that you are with me. Show me how to be the person you want me to be.