Really Receiving

Another great article from HT's Sandra Ostapowich where she lays out the Good News of who women are in Christ. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2009 Issue of Higher Things Magazine.

by Sandra Ostapowich

I’d have made an awesome pastor.

At least, that’s what I once thought. It was pretty much the only thing I could think of becoming when I grew up. It totally made sense. After all, I was a huge church nerd. It wasn’t even enough for me to go to and do everything I possibly could at my own church. I went to my friend’s church youth group and Bible studies before school too. Naturally, I believed that the Lord was calling me to be a pastor.

Boy, was I wrong!

God making me female should’ve been my first clue. It may be an astonishingly obvious statement, but men and women are very different. Not only is there the whole anatomy thing, but there are a plethora of vocations that go along with being one or the other. For example, a man can’t ever be a mother. God has set it up for men to be fathers instead. And He only calls men to be pastors.

It’s not because men are somehow better than women. Scripture actually teaches that to illustrate Christ’s love for the Church, women were created for men to take care of and serve. And the vocation of pastor is perhaps the most servant-oriented in the Church.

When we walk into a room, we tend to think of the person standing up front wearing the fancy clothes as the one in charge. That’s where the buck stops. He talks, and people listen. Not so when it comes to the Church. The guy up front, the pastor, doesn’t get to say or do anything simply because he wants to. The only true authority a pastor has is the Lord’s. He says as much in the Absolution: “As a called and ordained servant of the Word.” It’s not like he’s the lead singer of a band or the lecturer at a personal growth seminar while we in the audience sit in awe of him and his glinty-toothed, dynamic amazingness. Remember, we’re at church on Sunday mornings to be served by God through His Word and Sacraments. That’s why it’s called the Divine Service. The Lord Himself instituted the vocation of pastor to deliver His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ to us. It’s kind of like a pizza delivery guy, only with Word and Sacraments instead of the pizza.

My mistake was that I thought being a pastor was just about being that person up front and center, leading a service, preaching a sermon, communing, and teaching people about Jesus. But I was looking only at the outward aspects of being a pastor, as though it was like any other job. I liked doing all those things and figured that with enough education and practice I could do them well enough to be a professional pastor.

But vocations don’t work that way. The Lord gives us people to serve in all sorts of ways whether or not we think we’re good at it, have the training, or even want to do it, but because His Gospel will be proclaimed through us to those our vocations serve. Being a decent speaker, educated in theology, and reasonably able-bodied doesn’t mean anyone should be a pastor—male or female—but being a man to whom the Lord has called and given the vocation of pastor does. God has set them up to be the providers, the protectors, the sacrificers. The rest of us receive.

No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” It’s generally a good idea to put someone else before ourselves, considering others’ needs more important than our desires. But when we’re dealing with God, there’s nothing we can possibly give Him that He needs. He really is the One it’s impossible to find a gift for because He already has everything. He is the One who has the gifts for us.

The Church is the Bride of Christ; she is the one the gifts are for. She perfectly and faithfully receives all that Jesus has to give her, and she knows without a doubt that she is the most beautiful, perfect, sinless, blemish-free, beloved woman in His whole entire universe. His Word and Sacraments make it so! She trusts her Bridegroom, Jesus, to always do what is best for her, even giving His own life in the process.

Not only are we women part of the Church, but the Bride of Christ is the perfect icon of Christian femininity as well. Yes, we have ways that we serve others through our other vocations. We are daughters, sisters, classmates, teammates, friends, girlfriends, citizens, neighbors, babysitters—and maybe even one day, wives and mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers. We even serve others at church in all sorts of ways. But first, and most importantly, we receive.

Receiving means trusting that what you’re receiving is ultimately for your good and to bring you to Christ. It means knowing that the Lord takes care of you through the men He’s given to serve you and sacrifice for you. There’s no way we can do any of that on our own, no matter how much we try. In fact, Luther tells us that faith is really nothing more than receiving gifts from God.

The life of faith is all about receiving. So it makes sense that the Lord would, in His infinite wisdom, create woman to receive all the gifts He has for her in His Word and Sacraments and from the men He sets apart to stand in the place of His Son and deliver them not just to her but to the whole Christian Church: His Bride.

So while the world might argue that women would make awesome pastors, we’re so much better off being women.

Created: March 15th, 2012