50 | 40 | 10 | Devotions Series: April 29, 2020 – Rev. Erik Thone
Devotions for the week of: April 29, 2020
Romans 16:3-5 (NRSV)
Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ.
It’s easy to reduce individual stories to a single common identity or experience (particularly if you are outside that identity). For example, we could celebrate all the women listed in Romans 16 as evidence that the church has never functioned without female leaders and this would be true, but it would also reduce these individuals to their gender identities. One of my mentors, a black womanist theologian, teaches about intersectionality: we all live with intersectional identities. That is, gender identity, race, sexuality, class, age, etc. all intersect so there is no universal “woman” experience.
The 50-40-10 celebration itself testifies to the different experiences that women of color, queer women, and queer women of color have had from straight white women in the church.
That’s all to say that I wish I knew more about Prisca so we could celebrate her as more than just a “woman in ministry”. Additional references (Acts 18, 1 Cor. 16:19 and 2 Tim. 4:19) allow us to cobble together a few more facts about her life. In all cases, she’s referenced alongside her husband Aquila. My personal favorite is from Acts 18:26: He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.
Priscilla and Aquila correct Apollos on a few errant teachings (notably, there’s nothing to suggest it was only Aquila doing the correcting). “Married” seems to be a significant part of Prisca’s intersectional identity: one part of a power couple operating without gender-specific roles. The family worked as tentmakers. They were Jewish, Christian, refugees forced out of Italy. Her correcting of Apollos suggests that she was a teacher/theologian.
This list of identities, however, is not Prisca, but a suggestion of the struggles and values that may have been her experience. To truly celebrate Prisca might mean uncovering her story as it’s lived today: married, working-class, ethnic minority, Christian, refugee, teacher are experiences and individuals we might celebrate and advocate for today. They are living witnesses whose stories may be told in a way Prisca’s never was, not as “women in ministry,” but as disciples, filled with the Spirit, on their own particular journey with Jesus Christ. I give thanks for this particularity and the opportunity it offers to learn, grow, and draw closer to Christ.
Pastor Erik Thone
South Canyon Lutheran Church, Rapid City
Creator God, in the diversity of your servants, we recognize the diversity of Your image in which we were created. We thank you for the varied gifts and experiences of your people. Forgive us for the way we have honored some less than others. Lead us in a celebration of all the unique, and particular ways You have revealed Your self in the differing identities of Your people you have drawn together in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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