Women as Harbinger of Courage, Faith and Hope in the Face of Challenges

74th NCCP Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service Message
By: Bishop Ligaya Flores-San Francisco
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
North-Western Mindanao Jurisdiction

Isaiah 41:1-13
Mark 16:6-8


Good morning and Happy Ester to all of us here!

Ako ay lubos na nagagalak na tayo ay nagtitipon-tipon sa umagang Pagsalubong sa Linggo ng pagkabuhay ng ating panginoon. Alalahanin natin na, ito ang isang Magandang Balita na gumulantang sa mundo, na ang ating Panginoong Jesus ay pinili ang pagkabuhay para sa atin. Tandaan natin na sa kanyang pagka-buhay ay nabuhayan din ng Pag-asa at syang nagpatatag ng pananampalataya sa Panginoon ng unang mga saksi nito.

I am building this message up from Jim Wallis of Sojourners reflection about Easter, when men were still hiding due to frustrations and fear of the killing of Jesus, women were hiding through the remaining darkness of dawn made their way to the tomb where Jesus was laid. Nothing hinders them of ministering to their Lord. True to the usual label of women, they were there as after-care in-charge. He further said that “In so many of the gospel stories that are familiar to us, women were behind the scenes — always there, always present, always faithful — but nearly always in the background and hardly ever mentioned by the men in the stories, and certainly not the ones writing the stories. Their testimony as women was not even admissible in court under Jewish law; the word of a woman had no public credibility in that patriarchal culture. But God chose to reveal the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection first to women. They were then told to report the astonishing news of the empty tomb to the men.

In spite of the discrimination women got during Jesus’ time, women have all the means to get what they want. Even utilizing the marginalized time and space for them. Still working in the background. And because of it, they got the News of Jesus’ resurrection firsthand from those who guard Jesus’ tomb. He has risen from the dead. He’s not here. The empty tomb is the testimony of Jesus choosing life. Know that Mary Magdalene whose heart was cleansed and had been forgiven by Jesus had also received the Good News, by the time she was so engulf with grief of the loss of Jesus. Jesus appeared to her in the most unexpected time. And was not able to hold her emotion but ran to the disciples bringing the Good News of Jesus’s resurrection. Again, the male disciples hearing the greatest news in history and for the future of their lives from Mary was itself a powerful sign of the purposes of God.

Imagine on that first Easter morning, the women were present at great risk to themselves. They were at the grave of a convicted political criminal who had just been crucified. The guards posted at the tomb could easily have reported the identities of any followers or supporters of this one whom they had killed and whose movement they now hoped to crush.

The risk of the women is made even more dramatic by the realization that the rest of the disciples were all laying low. The men were hiding, paralyzed by grief and fear.

When no one else would stand on their behalf, women would take risks, stormed the grave in that early morning mustered the courage to announce the Great News of all times, Jesus is alive! This is just a manifestation that women have discerned the message of Jesus that he would come out alive on the 3rd day.

It takes the voice and courage of the women for men to rise from grief and fear and run to see by themselves the truth they never expected.

Taking the courage of these women at the time when they are facing such challenges, when their voice that has been muted for so long, they chose to speak up to find their long-lost children with no trace to tread. In the Phils., hundreds of activists have been shot dead or are suspected to have been abducted over the past seven years in what is viewed internationally as a “dirty war” by the army against groups it sees as fronts for a violent communist insurgency.

Mothers who are still searching of their children in this most uncertain times such as, Editha Burgos, whose son Jonas Burgos was abducted in one of the malls in Manila, Erlinda Cadapan, the mother of Sherilyn Cadapan who was abducted together with her friend Karen Empeno, while they were doing research with local farmers. Lorenza de los Santos, mother of Kian de los Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman were three teenagers who were killed on August 16 to 18, 2017, during the course of the Philippine drug war. We can feel the pain of their mothers who lost their sons at such an early age. Such a waste of lives just because of the war on drugs by then Pres. Duterte. The long list continues until this day.

Out of the softness of their heart, they draw that unmatching courage to find their children and to asked for justice which until now remain elusive. Without any clue, they continue to search, holding on to the faith and hope that one day they may be reunited with their children. They are mothers shouting for justice for the disappearances and killings of the children by the state forces. It needs a collaborative effort to come out instead of laying low and be engulfed with grief. They did not allow themselves to be paralyzed by it. Try to see it, it is the grief that unites the women to storm the remaining darkness of dawn. They draw their strength together and skillfully transform their grief of losing their loved into courage and action.

I believe these words form Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand, can be drawn. When safety and security is not promised, take the risk and let God sustained us. It takes us all to unite and speak with one voice that in these most challenging times, we need the concerted effort to stand the truth, to sustain the lives we bore and ourselves.

Let us take inspiration from the women of Resistance.

Jim Wallis further illustrates that, the women at the tomb is a reminder of other women, like the Mothers of the Disappeared in Latin America, who in country after country were the ones who — when things were at their worst, when the violence of military-ruled countries was most grotesque, when the suffering was so horrible — came out time and time again and stood alone before the military and before the world, testifying for their loved ones, and for the truth. Women also put their lives on the line and played key roles in the transformations in many African countries, the peace movement in Northern Ireland, and in the hopeful beginnings of the Arab Spring protests.

And also, women at the tomb are like Mothers of the Movement — mothers of young men and women of color who have died at the hands of law enforcement, while in police custody, or as the result of gun violence. We know the names of their children: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Hadiya Pendleton, Dontre Hamilton, Jordan Davis, and so many more. Their powerful testimonies on behalf of criminal justice reform, racial justice, and commonsense gun control speak of the power of these women to raise their voices for justice and hope in the face of unspeakable personal tragedy.

We have also seen women disproportionately leading the broader Black Lives Matter movement, often on the front lines of protests where police in military gear have been all too willing to use force against overwhelmingly nonviolent protestors.

The Women’s Marches all over the world the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration were a harbinger of what has happened since. Statistics are emerging that suggest that women form the clear majority of the resistance to some of the most harmful and dangerous agendas of the new administration.

We have seen it in so many places: When things get rough, when things are at their worst, when everyone else flees or is in hiding, very often it is the women who stand up, offering themselves, becoming completely vulnerable as they submit to the risk of death. That is indeed their strength and their power.

The same author says; so here in the resurrection event is the pivotal moment in all history. The male disciples have fled and are hiding, and only the women are left. And they come not without fear, the gospel story tells us, but they come out of love and faith. They were faithful to Jesus in all of his life, and in his death, and now even after his death. Out of their love for him, they are going to minister to him even at the tomb.

These examples of women who stood up, making themselves vulnerable to death and mockery by those in power. They are Good News to us, no one can crush the women’s spirit when injustice abound and no one else will speak up on their behalf but women themselves. They are the harbinger of courage and faith in the face of challenging times for us women.

Further Jim Wallis, asserts, for their loving perseverance and courage, these women are rewarded with the honor of being entrusted with the most important news in the history of the world. These women, and many women who have come after them, can rightly be called history’s midwives of hope. And they become for us, on the resurrection morning of Easter, the primary example in the story of what we too are called to be —

Hope for transformation.

According to Wallis, you see, hope is not simply a feeling, or a mood, or a rhetorical flourish. It is a choice, a decision, an action based upon faith. Hope is the very dynamic of history. Hope is the engine of change. Hope is the energy of transformation. Hope is the door from one reality to another.

The news from the women at the tomb was the greatest hope that the world has ever known. And yet what did the disciples call it? “Nonsense.”

Hope unbelieved is always considered nonsense. But hope believed is history in the process of being changed. The nonsense of the resurrection became the hope that shook the Roman Empire and established the Christian movement.

Women near and far have spoken, with boldness and courage. It is with hope that we shall be one of them and let us persist because with faith God promised to be with us sustaining us the strength to continuously be a harbinger of Courage, faith and Hope in this critical times. We maybe nuisance to those in power, speaking seemingly nonsense but it is the nonsense that transformed the movement into reality.

This is also how personal transformation takes place. We can’t imagine ourselves different than we are today or healed of that which binds and afflicts us. We can’t imagine ourselves forgiven. We can’t imagine our own salvation. But when we walk through the door of hope, and we look back at where we have been and where we are now, we see evidence of the grace of God.

For Christians the Resurrection is that door of hope, and Jesus showed us that the resurrection comes by way of a cross. Suffering and hope are always joined in human history. The cost of moving from one reality to another — in our personal lives and in history — is always great. But it is the only way to walk through the door of hope.

History depends on those who are willing to walk through that door, those who live and act and even die in hope for the sake of the future they know by faith is there — those such as the women at the tomb who were given the news of the resurrection. They were given the news of the resurrection because they opened the door for all the rest of us.

On Easter morning we stand on the knowledge of the resurrection. We stand on the faith of those who have been given the news of the resurrection before us. Truly, nothing can seal the tomb of the ONE who loves us and have chosen life for all of us. Indeed, no one and nothing can seal or shut the womens’ mouth to speak up with boldness. Women are empowered as Harbinger of Courage, Faith and Hope in the Face of Challenges!!! Kaya huwag tayong matakot sa mga panunupil sa atin, don’t be afraid to speak for the truth. Let us not afraid to say, Resume Peace talks now, NTF-ELCAC buwagin! Militar sa Komunidad buwagin! Junk EDCA! No to US Bases! US Troops Out Now! Ito ang maglalagay sa atin sa libingan at kadiliman, kaya huwag tayong matakot na sabihin ang katotohanan! Happy Easter and good morning.



Wallis, J. (2017, April 13). While the men were in hiding, women delivered the greatest news in
the world has ever known.