Luke 8:1-3 NRSV
8 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their resources.
During Jesus’ itinerant preaching ministry–on his way to the cross, as we are emphasizing this season–he traveled routinely with a large band: the twelve apostles, three women who had been miraculously healed by him, and “many others.” But the three healed women are the only people named in these verses. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna weren’t just camp followers, or just groupies, or just cooks and waitresses to the men. They supported Jesus and the traveling band out of their own means. They appear to have been both wealthy and generous! And their support probably happened not just once, but time and again.
It may or may not have been scandalous, during the time of Jesus’ ministry in the first century, for women to be part of a traveling group. But of course Jesus’ treatment of women, not only in these Luke verses but throughout his walk, was much more inclusive and welcoming than simply a lack of scandal: Jesus made women a part of his ministry.
Never will I forget the first time at PVUMC that I was privileged to help serve communion. I came from a faith background in which women were not allowed to be even deacons, let alone pastors or preachers. Women were not allowed to serve communion. Serving communion that first time at PVUMC, and every time after that, was and is a true act of inclusive worship for me.
We will see these healed women again, later, as Jesus completes his journey to the cross. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that at least some of them watched the crucifixion from a distance, continuing at the end (as they saw it) the ministry that had started at the beginning. They had followed Jesus and cared for his needs; now they would be ready both to watch as his body was laid in the tomb, and to prepare to anoint it with embalming spices and perfumes. But here, in Luke 8, nearer the start, I like to think that the women were not just backers or stakeholders; I like to think that they, too, experienced an act of inclusive worship with every instance of support. When they met Christ at the cross, they had walked with him, and provided for him, all along the way.
Walking with Jesus can be an act of worship. Joining with others in praising his holy name and his mighty acts can be worship. Serving communion can be worship. Likewise, providing support, financial and otherwise, can be a holy worship event. Let us worship Jesus together, beloved ones, and continue our journey to meet him at the cross.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please give us the clear and certain knowledge that worship comes in many, many forms. Please help us to meet your Son–your ultimate sacrifice–with a spirit of gratitude, of worship, of humility, and of love for one another. We pray in his holy name. Amen.