“As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom. 10:15; cf. Is. 52:7 NRSV).
“Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God’” (John 10:32-33 NRSV).
The saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” What a lie! We can repeat this saying as much as we want, but words do hurt people. People spew hateful words in anger and frustration, and to think that these words do not cause damage to their recipients is to live in denial. Yet, it is not only words that wound us, but the behaviors of others can deeply bruise us as well—things such as being ignored, neglected, misunderstood, and excluded.
People were planning to stone Jesus because of who he claimed to be, despite all the good works that he had done. His claim was true, yet because it offended his listeners, they thought to injure him and put him in his place. Women, who are called to the ministry of proclamation, sometimes find themselves in similar circumstances. God has told us to “preach the word,” and as we go about trying to be faithful to God, we face some Christians who, figuratively, are ready to stone us. While they do not use literal stones, their scornful words and callous attitudes scar and bruise us.
Why do we find ourselves targets? It’s not our faithful and sacrificial service to others; nor is it our devotion to encourage and equip others in the church. These good works are well and good in the eyes of others. No, it is our audacity as women to claim that we are preachers, called by God. For that we face stones of disbelief, stones of heresy, stones of avoidance, and stones of exclusion. Though bruised and battered, we continue to walk on our beautiful feet and proclaim the good news. Our resumes are thrown in trash cans because our name identifies us as a woman; our spirituality is called into question because of some misconstrued idea that only men are called to preach; and pulpits are denied us because of our gender. We are threatened with stones because our call to preach is offensive to some, yet our claim is true.