“Holy Instigator of the Possible” (my remarks at Rebekah’s retirement)

– WFPC choir getting ready to sing

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7

– speaking at the luncheon

Rebekah’s reception-luncheon, downstairs in the CLC, was amazing; everything we could want in such an event and more. Wonderful food prepared by Dana Wills, our director of food ministries; fresh flowers on every table; attentive youth and advisors serving like professional wait staff; the choir offering beautiful music; wonderful words of affirmation from so many speakers; the presence of such a huge crowd of family and friends.

What a great day! What phenomenal people! What an awesome church!

So these are my remarks. I was, it turns out, the only person to stay around the designated 7-minute limit! You can either read my words, or click on this link and hear (video shot by Bruce McVey).

Rebekah Maul: Holy Instigator of the Possible

(this journey has been the great privilege of my life)

I am so thankful I get to do this. So, “Yes, I absolutely have a few things to say at Rebekah’s retirement. About forty years’ worth to be precise!”

     First, a scripture reading:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

This is a story in Four parts (so when we get to number 4, you will know I’m nearly done!):

Part #1 – Rebekah had a different level of focus: In college – pre-Derek, Rebekah had a strategy to get out of any dating situation. Typically, a little Jesus talk would suffice; then, she had backup.

  • “So tell me,” she would ask, “how things are between you and The Lord?” Odds are the date would end early!
  • If that didn’t work the situation escalated to DEFCON 1. “God has called me to be a preacher,” she would say, “I plan on entering the ministry.”  If the Jesus thing hadn’t worked, this would seal the deal. “Poof!” – she would never see them again.

So, Feb 4, 1977, Rebekah and I started dating. It wasn’t long before it was time to turn the heat down. “How are you with The Lord?” she said. But, instead of running, I made her a cup of tea and I told her.

DEFCON 1 didn’t work either. “You’re going to be a preacher? That is so cool! I’d like to hear more….”

Part #2 – God versus Male Chauvinism: Fast forward to Columbia Theological Seminary, where Rebekah was one of less than a handful of women preparing for ministry.

Two things made some of the male students nervous. One was Rebekah’s absolute confidence in God’s calling. The other was the shining light of her obvious gifts for ministry.

“So tell me this,” one wannabe-preacher said, jabbing his finger in my chest. “Just who is going to wear the pants in your family? Who is going to be the head of your household?”

The young man – caught in the exact false standard of masculinity I have spent the past four decades (and written several books) fighting to dismantle – thought he had me.

“Good question, David,” I replied. “But I’m thinking about what Joshua said when the Hebrews started hanging out with those pagan gods.

“’If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… David… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

“So, my answer is, ‘God,’” I said. “God is already the head of our household.” Then I flipped his original question: “Now I’m wondering… David… you were about to say who is going to be the head of yours?”

Part #3 – This Has Been Our journey: And this has been our journey over forty years (which, in Bible numerical nomenclature, means “a very long time”). Rebekah and I have lived, and served churches, and raised children, and built relationships, and welcomed grandchildren as a family rooted in this ideal of equal partnership. For leadership we look to God.

Everywhere we have served we have seen transformed passion for following Jesus, increased enthusiasm, renewed commitment, growth in discipleship, and – most importantly – communities (Pensacola, Brandon, and Wake Forest) profoundly impacted by the presence of God’s people following Jesus with faithfulness and joy.

Rebekah and I have been told, “Well, the church is dying everywhere, isn’t it?” And, “Your problem is that you are too naïve…” and “Things will never be like they used to be…” But Rebekah’s response – and mine – is always the same:

  • This is Jesus we’re talking about!
  • We’re not naïve – we believe!”
  • This is The Gospel!
  • This is The Good News!
  • This is Abundant Life!
  • And, “Why ever would anyone ever want things to be, ‘like they use to be’?”

Because looking back is never any kind of a way to move forward!

“Because looking back is never any kind of a way to move forward!”

The plans God has for us are always, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God’s purposes are always about New Life; Jesus is always defined by grace and by promise!

Part #4 – Let’s wrap this up: There is so much more I could say, but I’ll bring this to a conclusion. This journey has been the great privilege of my life. I have watched as Rebekah has consistently responded to God’s call to be a holy instigator of what is possible.

  • She has broken new ground.
  • She has completely shattered any number of glass ceilings.
  • She believes with authenticity and with passion.
  • She has helped to redefine what is possible, not just for women but anyone called to lead congregations and to preach.

At the same time, I have enjoyed this unprecedented opportunity to help define what a preacher’s husband might look like. And I have relished every minute spent undermining the spirit-throttling stereotypes that have kept – and continue to keep – many American men barricaded behind the walls they have built around themselves for far too long.

But do not make the mistake of crediting any of this to our own accomplishments. No; because all Rebekah and I have done is to follow Jesus, and to love each another, and to do both with all the enthusiasm and commitment we can muster.

Rebekah’s mother said it best when she gave me her, “So you’re marrying a preacher?” pep talk. “You need to do three things,” Nell Alexander said:

1: “Love the Lord. 2: Love the preacher. 3: love the the people.”

She told me if I managed that, then we’d be alright. I’d say we’ve done fine.

So, thank you. And may God’s peace and goodness continue to fill you, to the extent that the light and the love cannot be contained, and the life of Jesus spills all over everyone and everything around you.DEREK

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