By Sherry Black
A Reading from 2 John 1-13
1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us for ever:
3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
4 I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. 5 But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning — you must walk in it.
7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! 8 Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. 9 Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; 11 for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.
12 Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
13 The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.
Our reading begins with one lady, and ends with another, both with children! Who are these women?
The epistle is written to “the elect lady and her children,” the word “elect” suggesting she is chosen by God. John is overjoyed to find her “children” walking in the truth, and he encourages her to continue teaching them to love one another, and to walk in love. This lady has authority regarding deceivers, or false teachers, and is instructed not to receive them into her house.
Throughout his first epistle, John as spiritual father uses the word “children”; it seems that this “elect lady” is a spiritual mother to those in her community. Both John and the lady have Christian “children,” making them close colleagues and comrades in spiritual authority over their people. This indicates that the “elect lady” is a pastor or leader of a church that likely meets in her home, and her children are her converts. She cares for them as a mother cares for her children, and her “children” love and trust her. They obey her teachings and are faithful to her.
What a beautiful picture of a church led by a woman. This image is consistent with the early church movement which primarily met in homes.
And there must have been (at least) another woman pastor: “The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.”
Whatever your position on women’s leadership in the Church, this is undeniably a powerful and compelling picture to consider. It’s also a lesson on spiritual motherhood, a vocation which is greatly needed in the Church. It is a vocation which should challenge us all, and for which we should all give thanks.
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
All Souls’ Church, Oklahoma City, Okla.
The Diocese of Botswana (Church of the Province of Central Africa)