I am thinking about my sermon for this coming Sunday. I want to connect the themes of Women’s History, Communion and Opening Our Arms. The biblical character I have chosen for this task is Peter’s mother in law. We know precious little about her, not even her name. We know that early in Jesus’ public ministry, shortly after calling Peter and Andrew to follow him, he came to her home following a Sabbath service. She was in bed with a fever and Jesus healed her. She got up and began to “serve” her guests.
The word all the gospel writers use for the service Peter’s mother in law provides is an important one. It is diakonia. It can mean all kinds of service, help and ministry. It is important to note that when the New Testament writers describe what church leaders do they often use diakonia.
I don’t think it is far-fetched to say that the healed woman ministered to Jesus and his community of followers. I don’t think it is far-fetched to suggest that the ministry she provided looked a lot like communion, even before there was a tradition of communion. I don’t think it is outlandish to imagine that she ministered to her guests with bread and wine, bread symbolizing community, wine symbolizing sacrifice, two hallmarks of those first followers of Jesus.
With bread and wine this founding minister showed her the community the way they might become a Christ-formed community – not necessarily attractive to the powerful but beautiful to the disinherited, definetly no a marketers dream but certainly a pilgrims hope, a community that tended to be patriarchal but still a community that knew what it was to be led, cared for and ministered to, by women.
Peter’s mother in law opened her arms and ministered to us, one of the first, but certainly not the last, women leaders to do so.
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