And God Made Joseph A Feminist…

6 comments Written on December 22nd, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Jo Ann Deasy is a Covenant pastor who has served in a variety of ministerial roles including Youth Intern, Minister of Christian Education, Dean of Students, and Solo Pastor. She is currently serving as Director, Institutional Initiatives and Student Research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh.


During a conference this week, we were asked to reflect on an Advent text: Matthew 1:18-25, the call of Joseph. With so much focus on Mary and the baby Jesus, Joseph often gets left out of the Christmas story. After all, he played such a small part. Really, this Christmas thing was about Mary and God. Joseph was just along for the ride. The third wheel in the divine drama that played out over those nine months before the first Christmas.

And yet, Christmas could not have happened without him. It was his agreement to stay with her despite the unexplained pregnancy, his willingness to believe her, his willingness to listen to God himself, that protected Mary and allowed her not to be condemned for adultery. It was his faithfulness that protected the baby Jesus as they fled to Egypt and allowed the child to be provided for and cared for throughout his life.

It may seem strange that on a blog focusing on biblical equality and the ministry of women pastors I would focus on Joseph, but here is what struck me as I reflected on this passage during our devotion this week. What was amazing about Joseph was his willingness to believe that God might have chosen to work through a woman. Young, virgin, Mary. A woman engaged to a working class carpenter. So outside the realm of who one might have expected God to choose to bring forth a savior into the world. And yet Joseph believed.

Of course, it took a miracle for him to believe. A divine visitation of his own. He needed a word from the Lord. But having heard from God, Joseph believed and responded. He even named the child Jesus, God saves. A testimony to his believe that God had worked through Mary.

What made it possible for Joseph to believe such an unexpected event was from God? The text gives us a few clues. First, Joseph was both righteous and concerned about the welfare of others. He was concerned about right and wrong. He wanted to do God’s will. But he was also deeply concerned about Mary, not wanting her to be disgraced. So, instead of simply condemning her, his concern for her caused him to pause and reflect before responding. He determined to divorce her quietly rather than disgrace her.

Second, he allowed God to change his mind and his plans. Joseph was a man who listened to God. Who believed an angel might speak to him. And who was willing to admit that he might be wrong. It took great humility for Joseph to change his mind. People had to have known Mary was pregnant. Joseph had to be willing to face ridicule, the charge that he was being weak, the accusation that he was failing to be a leader in his own family. Joseph needed courageous humility that was always willing to listen to God rather than the world around him.

Third, and perhaps most important, Joseph was willing to believe that God might choose to work through someone other than himself. Joseph had to be willing to hear that his calling was to come alongside the one God was working through. Women are often told that this is the only calling they are allowed to accept. The call to be a pastor’s wife, a support to the one who is truly called. Yet in this text it is Mary who is called and Joseph who is asked to follower. What if Joseph has decided that his call to be a carpenter was more important than Mary’s call to raise the son of God? What if he had decided that Mary was selfish for putting his career and reputation at risk?

What does it take for women to be able to live fully into their calling as ministers of the gospel, especially as women called to be senior pastors? It takes men whose desire to follow God is not just about being righteous, but is also about being gracious and loving. It takes men who are willing to listen to God’s leading, even if it means changing directions and changing their minds. And most importantly, it takes men who are willing to believe that God might be doing God’s most significant work through someone else. It takes men who are willing to hear God’s call on another person and come alongside them. To remain married to them. To claim their call as their own.

Christmas is about God’s call on a young woman to bring forth the Word of God into this world. And about the man who was called to support her ministry and protect her so that she might do what God had called her to do in this world. May we remember and give thanks for the Josephs in our midst this Christmas season. And may God provide Josephs, spouses, colleagues, mentors, friends, to all women who are called into ministry. May those around them hear God’s call to come alongside them as they bring forth the Word of God into this world.

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6 comments “And God Made Joseph A Feminist…”

What great insights into Joseph’s role and his setting aside his own/society’s expectations to make way for the work of God…I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing Jo Ann.

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I especially love this bit: “Joseph was willing to believe that God might choose to work through someone other than himself. Joseph had to be willing to hear that his calling was to come alongside the one God was working through.”

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Hey Deas!  Merry Christmas and AWESOME article.  Well written and  SPOT ON!  You and my wife need to get in touch.  So much you guys could do!  Take care my friend!  Hug the kid for us!

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Jo Ann – Thanks so much for this article. The essence of truth in it for me is the one line – But having heard from God, Joseph believed and responded. Isn’t that at the heart of the resistance to women in pastoral leadership – to believe and respond to the gift God has chosen. A very good word to all of us.

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