According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Cost of True Leadership in the Failure of the Jesus' Twelve Disciples

On Jesus’ Choosing Twelve Males, take 1 

by JRD Kirk
Yesterday, I posted the first of two responses I wanted to make to John Piper’s description of Christianity as a “masculine” religion. Rachel Held Evans has issued the summons for replies, and I think this is an important moment to inject a more biblically sound reading of gender issues in the church. Thanks, Rachel, for stirring us to positive response.

Today’s issue has to do with the significance of Jesus’ choosing of twelve men to be his disciples. This is one of several issues I take up in Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?.

The story within which this selection of the twelve is embedded leads us to draw a very different point from Piper’s.

Jesus chooses twelve men. These twelve Jesus specially commissions. Jesus came preaching, casting out demons, and healing. The disciples are sent to preach and heal and cast out demons.

Jesus comes proclaiming and inaugurating the reign of God, and these men are sent out to participate in that coming. When Jesus feeds the 5,000, he hands the bread to them. They are the chosen. They are the insiders.

In contrast (let’s stick to Mark’s Gospel here), the women in the story are marginal. There are small handfuls of nameless women. They touch Jesus’ robe, they ask for healing for their daughters, they throw a few coins in a box in the temple, they anoint Jesus’ head with oil.

So while the women are coming in and going out, acting on faith and finding praise for their faith, it’s the boys who are getting it done!

Getting it done, that is, right up until the great, transitional moment in the story.

1. “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ.” Ok, so far so good. Then, Jesus begins to tell them what this title entails: “The Messiah must be rejected, suffer, and die. Then he’ll be raised.”

Peter rebukes Jesus. Jesus rebukes him back: “Get behind me Satan.”

What happens then?

Move on to ch. 9, and the disciples who had been empowered to exorcise are unable to cast out a demon. The disciples who had been given the charge to proclaim cannot overcome the mute-making spirit.

2. Later that same chapter Jesus again predicts his death. The disciples’ reaction? They walk along debating with each other about who is going to be greatest in God’s coming kingdom.

We begin to see what they don’t get about Jesus’ ministry: the cross turns the economy of the world on its head. They have a standard of greatness that entails a certain kind of leadership and power, but Jesus wants to transform their ideas. He wants them to see greatness in the cross and the child.

As if Mark, or Jesus, thought we might miss the point, we get the whole thing a third time.

3. Jesus predicts his death, and this time the subsequent response of the disciples is James’ and John’s request to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand. Again, Jesus has to combat not merely the request, but the wrongheaded assumption about what greatness in the kingdom of God looks like:
Jesus called them over and said, “ You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.” (Mark 10:42-44, CEB)
In the story, the disciples do not understand what is entailed in leading the people of God. They think it is about greatness and power rather than service and death.

And so, we have the group represented by Peter. The rock. Is being “the rock” a good thing? In Mark, the rocky soil indicates plants that spring up well, but fall away when danger or persecution arise on account of the word. Mark repeats the language of “falling away” when the disciples scatter, leaving Jesus to die alone.

The Twelve were committed to Jesus, and happy with him–but only as one who came with power. They had no faith in their calling to participate in his way of death. They did not have eyes to see that the ministry of Jesus turned the economy of the world on its head....

Shall we return to the women now?

How are we to assess these women who, in the narrative world, are outsiders, on the margins?

Unlike the disciples who are rebuked for being of little faith, Jesus commends these women as having great faith: “Daughter, go in peace, your faith has made you well.”

Moreover, there is one episode where Jesus ties a human inseparably to the gospel story. It is the episode of the woman who pours out oil over Jesus’ head. This looks to be a royal anointing! But when Jesus defends her he says, “Leave her alone, she has prepared my body beforehand for burial.”

The act of anointing prepares Jesus for burial: Messiahship and death are held together, and here is the only person in the whole story to get it. This is why “wherever the gospel is preached what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

What does it mean to live at the margins, to be unnamed? How does this compare with being the twelve, the dudes, the insiders?

According to the economy of the world, with its measures of greatness, to be the twelve is to be exemplary, in the place to lead, to exclude others from leadership, to stand close to Jesus and guard the gates of who else can draw near.

And to the extent that we look to Jesus’ selection of them, and the apparent marginalization of the women, as paradigmatic for male leadership in the church, we show ourselves to be people whose minds have not yet been transformed by the very story to which we are appealing.

It is only by agreeing with the disciples’ way of assessing the world that we can see their “insider status” as a true insider status, to be replicated by other men in church history.

Jesus offers another way: You guys don’t get it! It’s the rulers of the Gentiles who lord authority over people. It shall not be so among you.

There is another way. It is the way of the cross.

There is another way. It is the way of the “marginalized” in the worlds eyes lying closest to Jesus in faith and understanding.

Are we really supposed to hold up as our model the “Satan” who denied the gospel of the crucified Christ, and claim that Peter is paradigmatic of the place of men as insiders and faithful leaders in the church?

Or should we not seek out the one who did the good deed for Jesus, holding together Messiah and death from her place at the margins? Should we not seek out the one who sought out Jesus merely to touch the fringe of his garment and learn from her what it means to walk in faith?

The irony of appealing to the boys as insiders is that in so doing we show ourselves to be adopting the boys’ understanding of power, privilege, and leadership in the kingdom.

And this view is roundly rebuked by Jesus in words of dissuasion and the work of the cross.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Power-Inverting Kingdom, take 2

by JRD Kirk
February 6, 2012

On Friday I said a few words about the twelve disciples. How normative is Jesus’ selection of twelve men to be his ministry-extenders while on earth? This is a question that cannot be answered in a way that is abstracted from the narrative. The story of their failure, of their rejection of the gospel of the crucified messiah, undermines the claims to their normativity.

We have to remember that we’re reading stories. In stories, characters develop. Events in the narrative shape them. They respond. We all know that the twelve includes the betrayer Judas, but we also need to look closely at the other eleven and their betrayal of Jesus.

As I mentioned Friday, the turning point in the story is a turning point for the twelve: Yes, Jesus is the Christ (Peter’s confession in ch. 8), but this Christ is a suffering Christ–a claim for which Peter rebukes Jesus in a Satanic denial of the road ahead.

From this point on, the disciples lose their kingdom-extending role. Their failure plays out in several subsequent scenes.

After the second passion prediction, Jesus confronts the disciples about what they were arguing about on the road. They are shamed. They had been arguing about which is greatest.

Jesus inverts their assessment of the world: to be great is to be least and servant of all.

Then, Jesus takes hold of one of the least, the most powerless members of society, and shows the disciples what it means to be agents of the kingdom: “Welcome the child in my name.”

Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with who can minister in Christ’s name, right? I mean, this is just about patting little kids on the head, right?
Well, that’s what John thought: “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”

Clearly, welcoming kids is one thing, taking up the master’s name and performing unauthorized ministry, ministry not delineated by the Twelve is something else!

Or maybe not.

Jesus said, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40, CEB).

So I ask again: does the narrative of Mark uphold the idea that the twelve delineate the parameters for faithful ministry in the church?

And again the unfolding story itself pushes me in a different direction.

To the extent that we use the disciples as paradigmatic figures for excluding people from ministry we are embodying their own failed understanding of ministry in and for and under the Reign of God in Christ.

The gospel of the cross overturns such understandings of insider standing, power, and status. It rebukes our natural tendency to affirm as eligible leaders only those who are like the original insiders.

When we use the Twelve as a weapon for fending off women from church leadership we align ourselves with the misapprehending disciples rather than the gospel proclaiming Christ.



No comments:

Post a Comment