you're reading...

It Takes a Village

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

May 14, 2023

Click here to join our Meeting for Worship

Click to read in Swahili

Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

1 Peter 3:13–22 (ESV)

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

I pick the best scriptures for Mother’s Day, I will promptly meet everyone outside for the tar and feathers after worship. But before we begin that process, I picked these scriptures for a reason. Most of our lives we have heard these verses out of context and often used without gentleness and respect.

Today we centered on the fourth query within our current Faith and Practice. This query speaks to parents, but it also speaks to all people within a community. I remember when I was in school, the very conservative community I grew up in would make fun of Hilary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village.” I never read the book and to be honest I have no desire to, but my community often scoffed at the idea that a village would take care of children. They scoffed, but as they scoffed, I contemplated the idea. The rearing of children does take a village.

The community I grew up in was small and rural. The nearest gas station was eight miles down a gravel road from my house. The nearest grocery store was a thirty-minute drive away, and that grocery store often sold out of the things you would need, and the next grocery store would be another thirty-minute drive or possibly over sixty miles away. I love that little rural community. I grew up in Mt. Ayr township, which was named after Mt. Ayr Friends Church. This township was settled by Friends that traveled from the eastern parts of the nation and you can tell where they settled because across our nation there are little communities that were named Ayr, and those communities follow a suspiciously similar pattern to the major migrations of Friends.

In this small community everyone was important. It did not matter who you were or what you needed, if you needed help someone would be there. It was not uncommon for me to hear stories of a farmer getting sick and the community would work together to make sure that the fields were planted so that the family could survive. It takes a village.

That is not the only thing. My teachers in school and at church were parents of the children in my class, and if they were not parents, they were often related to someone in the class. The librarian at school was my great aunt, and I loved going to the library to listen to her read. Then there was the religious community. Each of my Sunday school teachers were important. They were often the parents of my friends, my mom, or the pastor’s wife. Usually, my Sunday school teachers were the women within the church. And they had to put up with a lot. But each of those women, as I look back were important. If they did not volunteer to serve and put up with our unruly class, I cannot even imagine where I would be today.

Often these teachers were mothers, but not always. One teacher was my dad’s sister. She was a single woman in a church. No children of her own yet she played the organ for worship, she directed the Christmas pageants, and would often volunteer to help teach. She did eventually get married later in her life, but during my formative years she was single. What I am getting at is it takes a village to raise children. So, this month’s query is for all of us not just mothers, or fathers.

Do we provide for the suitable Christian education and recreation of our children and those under our care, endeavoring to train them for upright and useful lives?

I want us to really consider this.

When I read the verses for this week, I myself cringed a bit. Who would speak from Ephesians 5 and 6 on Mother’s Day? And why would I focus on 1 Peter 3? Mothers have a difficult job. They must encourage and raise another human being from a fragile infant to an adult, and beyond. Each mother is responsible for not only themselves but for someone else, sometimes two or more. That puts a great deal of pressure on an individual. We sometimes do not even think about it, we just take on the responsibility. And then later we lay in bed wondering if we have traumatized that innocent human being.

I am going to tell you a secret. If you are trying to be the best mother you can be, your children will know. They will not see the times you think you are failing. They will not remember the times you feared for your life and theirs. They will not remember the negative emotions you might feel as you struggle, because all they see is you, their mother. They see the person that makes them snacks and dinner, even though they refuse to eat it. Those meals in twenty years will be the ones they long for. They see the caring and gentle hands that tend to their scraped knees. When they thought, they were going to bleed to death you fixed it with a band aid and a kiss. To our children we are magic. But it does not feel that way.

I chose these verses today because it does not feel as if we are magic as parents. I grew up thinking my mom was the most wonderful person that walks on the face of the earth. I see her as an inspiration, she sees herself all too often as inadequate. She is not perfect, I know that, but she taught me more than she could ever realize.

Nearly every Sunday our family was in church. I sat in the Sunday school classroom with the mothers of the church, I listened to the stories, and I read the scriptures. Every Sunday I was there, but I like everyone else, am human. I do things that make me look just a bit hypocritical. I became a father out of wedlock.

I grew up in a very conservative and religious community, and I did not live up to the expectations of that community. In my mind I should have been cast out, because that is what I thought the scripture said. That is not how my mom responded. I remember the night I told my mom that she was going to be a grandmother. My mom did not react the way I anticipated. I expected to be belittled, yelled at, called names. Not that these were my mom’s normal activities, because they were not, but that was the way that I felt. I was upset with myself and the situation I had gotten me and James’ mom into. I expected the worst, but my mom did not do these things. She gave me a hug, she talked me through what needed to happen, and she encouraged me.

There was no condemnation, no judgment, only encouragement. I could tell that she was disappointed, but she was not going to let that disappointment hinder or discourage me, James’ mom, nor the child we were going to raise. My mother showed me the reality of love and faith. Faith is not being perfect, but a lifestyle. It is treating those around us as the individual, uniquely created beings reflecting an aspect of God’s image. True faith is living as if those unique individuals are equal to us in the eyes of God, and worthy of our respect and encouragement.

 Both Peter and Paul speak to this in these passages. And in these sections, they both speak about the relationship within a family and within a community. Often these passages are used with passion and judgement, but as I have grown in faith and as I have learned more about the cultures surrounding these letters, I have found that often what we have always been told might be less strict than we once thought.

Ephesus in the first century was a place very foreign to our way of thinking, and it was in many ways contrary to the wider culture. When we read about Paul’s initial journey to Ephesus in the book of Acts, we would find that Paul was driven out of the city by the silversmiths. I always thought this was strange. Even when I learned more about this region, I still found it strange, because I never took the time to look at the culture.

Ephesus was an important city. If we were to look at the world religious centers of the first century, this city was on par with Jerusalem in secular religious importance. Like Jerusalem, Ephesus had a major temple devoted to a deity, Artemis of Ephesus. We often do not fully recognize just how important this center was to the surrounding culture. Neglecting the cultural significance of this religious cult greatly skews our understanding of what both Peter and Paul are speaking about in their letters. And I believe this has also caused many of our own faith traditions to build on misunderstanding.

Artemis, according to Greek Mythology, was the daughter of Zeus and his jealous spouse Hera. Tradition says that Hera gave birth to Artemis in the Quail lands, which was supposedly near Ephesus. This was a wild land according to the myths, filled with wild animals and unspoiled nature. Artemis grew to become the mistress of the animals and the goddess of the hunt. Later, because of her connection to nature and the bounty of game, she became a goddess of agriculture and fertility in general. People would offer the first fruits of their harvest to her with the hopes that her blessing would ensure continued abundance within their flocks and fields. She was in many ways the ideal depiction of natural and sometimes ferocious femininity. 

Her brother was often regarded as the god of the sun, so Artemis was the goddess of the moon. And because of this connection to nature, the moon, and the cycles of life that are associated with the moon, she became the goddess of the child-bed, or childbirth. She was basically the goddess of motherhood, and her animal representation is the mother bear. This is why I said ferocious because you do not want to get between a mother bear and her cubs.

To understand Ephesians and really 1 Peter, we need to understand a bit about Artemis and the cultic practices surrounding her temple. Unlike most religions where men dominated the rituals, the cult of Artemis was dominated by women. Women participated in the ceremonies, women were the priests, in many ways in Ephesus because the culture was devoted to this religious cult, women were the greatest influence in the community. The only way a man could participate in the religious ceremonies were if he sacrificed his own fertility to this fertility goddess and became a eunuch.

 When Paul speaks of the relationships between men and women, he is speaking to this aspect of the culture in Ephesus. Women naturally took charge of the religious practices, and men naturally stayed away. Paul would tell his young apprentice, Timothy, that he would not let women speak, not because he dislike women but because he wanted the men to step up and become part of the community. Women were active and men were passive this is not what the world needs. We need both men and women active and involved. We need the village to participate together to encourage and exhibit hope.

You might say that I am stretching a bit here, and that is okay to think. We have centuries of tradition that would speak against my position. But there is an interesting thing that occurred in Ephesus.  When Jesus hung on the cross, he looked down to the one apostle that did not run away, the apostle John. There are many debates as to why John was the only man there, I think he was there because he was an adolescent not fully recognized as a man, so it was still acceptable for him to be in the care of the women. Jesus looked at this young man and he told him to take care of his mother Mary for him. John the youngest apostle is believed to have cared for Mary the rest of her life, and John when he left Jerusalem moved to Ephesus. Mary the Theotokos, moved to the city of the goddess of motherhood. The temple of Artemis soon sunk into a swamp, because something changed.

Peter encouraged the people of Asia minor, of which Ephesus is part, to always be ready to speak about the hope that you have. He tells them to have no fear of those people within the culture wishing to do harm to you. He says this because we are not supposed to argue and fight. We are not supposed to defend our faith in the face of opposition. We are not to act like so many of us do, I among them. There is a complete course of study within the church called apologetics, giving a defense, answering the questions people might ask. I love apologetics and I like many believe that it is founded on this very scripture. But Peter is not telling us to argue and fight, but to live our faith. He is encouraging us to exhibit what we believe in front of those around us. And when we are asked about why we act and live as we do,  to explain with gentleness and love.

I want us to consider this picture. The whole picture. So much of religion is proving we are right and that others are wrong. That is what the cult of Artemis revolved around. When a woman died in childbirth it was because she angered or offended the goddess of motherhood, and the curse of the offense was that she would die while bringing about life. This school of thought completely cuts one aspect of humanity out of the picture. It puts all the focus on one gender. But sadly, we at times are not much better. There are many, some might argue most, Christian traditions that have used the words that Paul penned to do the same thing. Wives submit to your husband because he is the head as Christ is the head of the church. We see these words and we think one gender is greater and the other is subservient to them. NO.

We read these verses but so often we forget that most of these passages are speaking about men, not women. Men we should be like Christ. What is the example that Christ gives us? We should sacrifice ourselves so that others may live. And Paul tells us, as does Peter, that the way we do this is to show our faith not by anger and ferocity but by encouraging our children, and those under our care, in the ways faith.

John took the mother of Jesus to Ephesus, the city of the goddess of fertility and childbearing. He took the mother of God, to live in this community. And not only John, but Peter and Paul, the pillars of the church, go to this place the crossroads of the east and west, partly in Asia and partly in Europe. And what do they say? As so often is the case they go back to the very beginning. It was not good for humanity to be alone, that was the only thing in all of creation that was not good in the eyes of God in creation. And he caused Adam to go to sleep and out of his side, he created Eve the mother of life. And Eve was to be the help mate, or as Tim Mackie from the Bible Project suggests, Delivering Ally. It is not good to be alone. It is not good to focus on one aspect of God’s reflected image. We need a fuller picture. We need an ally.

God created us with this need. It is not good for us to be alone. It is not good for one to dominate over another. It is not good for us to be without a community around us. It takes a village. It takes a village to encourage children. It takes a village to inspire our children to dream and build, to hope and achieve. It takes men, it takes women, it takes mothers and fathers. It takes aunts and uncles. It takes the young and the old. It takes us all. We cannot do it alone, we need each other. God knows this, we know this. God knew this to such a degree that he came to live in a family and community. He lived thirty years just like us, before he even started his ministry. He came not to condemn but to save, he became our delivering Ally, the seed of the woman promised to the mother of life when time began.

Ephesus, Asia minor, a community devoted to the cult of motherhood saw the truth. They saw a woman that said yes to God. A woman that said yes, even though she did not understand how she would trust that God would provide a way. They saw a man devoted to this mother, even though it was not his own. They saw a scholar that spoke boldly that men as well as women should step up and participate in every aspect of faith. And they saw a friend that encouraged them to not fear but live faith with gentleness and respect.

Ephesus saw a different lifestyle lived before them and they began to turn to God the Most High. They began to turn not because of clever arguments but because the people lived their life and their faith. Their words and their actions were genuine. They began to turn because they saw hope and love. Today I want to thank you all for your service to our families, and to our children. I want to say thank you for showing your faith not just by word, but by action. I want to thank you for encouraging the youth of each generation along the way. And I want to challenge you to become the delivering allies to those within that are currently participating in that important aspect of the cycle of life, parenthood. Mothers and women of faith thank you for showing true faith to me when I was a youth. Mothers and women of faith thank you for showing true faith to my children. And thank you for showing your devotion and faith to our Meeting. It takes all of us to provide suitable education and recreation for children. It takes all of us to train our children to be upright and useful. It takes all of us to show them a life of faith, and how to grow in that faith. And God calls that community very good. It is that life and lifestyle that God so wants that he sent his son to be born of Mary, to live among a family within a community, to teach and encourage, and to die for. And in his life, death and resurrection we can join him in that life. If we only believe and entrust our lives to him. Putting off the old and clothing ourselves in him. It takes a village. It takes a community. Let us know go out today and thank those delivering allies that have helped us along the way. And let us thank our mom.

To Donate to Willow Creek Friends Church Click here:

To donate directly to Pastor Warner click here:

About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply


Meeting Times

Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
%d bloggers like this: