How Good Is The Good Shepherd?

Wedgewood Church and First Christian Church in Charlotte, NC are hosting Picturing the Parables of Jesus, a traveling exhibit of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA).  Wayne Forte’s two paintings considering the Lost Sheep are two of the more provocative works in the exhibit. Originally part of an exhibition in Forte’s homeland, the Philippines, these works offer a unique view of the depth of the Good Shepherd’s love. Among a field of sheep—animals that have a specific place within the sacrificial language of both Judaism and Christianity—Jesus seeks to rescue the “most lost sheep” in the guise of Adolph Hitler. The twin image finds the Good Shepherd rescuing what appears to be Imelda Marcos within a mass of Filipinos.

Forte, Aldoph

Forte, Marcos

 So how good exactly is the Good Shepherd? And, do Christians believe the Good Shepherd is really all that good?

The Repentance of the Rich

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How often have we heard preachers preach about repentance?

It is interesting that in the large volume of repentance preaching that repentance of the rich is hardly, if ever mentioned, except by liberal clergy. This despite repentance of the rich being an important theme in biblical texts. (Louise Schottroff, The Parables of Jesus)

When is the last time you heard a sermon on the repentance of the rich directed to the rich in your congregation?

What actions might occur with the repentance of the rich in your congregation with respect to the individual rich people?  How might your church be transformed as a result of the repentance of the rich in your church and the repentance of the rich in your country?

What would repentance of the rich mean for the well-being of your nation and what impact would it have on its political system?

You Can’t Count On Jesus: Bankrupt Epistemologies

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Liberal Christians like to hang onto Jesus.  Some even call themselves Jesusians.  Jesus is our lifesaver when we swim in problematic Biblical waters.  There may be awful depictions of God in the Bible, the church’s book, but at the end of the day we have Jesus to count on.  If some part of the Bible does not match up to the revelation of Jesus we can chunk that revelation.

Biblical scholars, however, remind us the search for the historical Jesus is not an easy one with a settled answer. We have four canonical gospels that present contrasting views of Jesus.  There are materials within the gospels that appear to be the re-interpretation of the Jesus tradition from a particular community/location/time.   The text is a living text, including the character of Jesus.

Marcella Althaus-Ried rains on our Jesusian parade even more.  She confronts us with our bankrupt epistemologies and challenges us to “construct a Christ who will go beyond the limitations of Jesus’ historical consciousness.” (From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology, p. 92)  An example of Jesus’ limited historical conscious is the mite-giving widow in the temple.  “The problem is that, in fact, Christ did not stop the widow from sacrificing herself. Christ is presented in the narratives as compassionate, but it is not what we could call a revolutionary compassion, transforming women’s oppression by an awareness of the patriarchal epistemology of his time.” (p. 92)

Epistemologies, theologies, faith practices which are constructed based on the Bible or based on Jesus are bankrupt.  They are never enough. The truth of the matter is all sources for our theology and faith practice are problematic. All of them!

The faith to which we are called is a living faith.   It is faith, not certainty.  Not a faith without content, but not a faith with settled answers.  And for those of us who have tried both a settled faith and an unsettled faith, we know an unsettled faith is much harder.

May God give us communities, wisdom, endurance, and courage for such a journey.

My Biggest Problem With The Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul, Rembrandt

Apostle Paul, Rembrandt

Reactions to the Apostle Paul by liberal Christians range from appalling to tolerable to appealing, with the latter being less prevalent.  For a more positive read of Paul see In Search of Paul:  How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, A New Vision of Paul’s Words and World by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed.

One problem in evaluating the Apostle is determining what Paul wrote that is in the New Testament.  Scholars generally agree on the authenticity of Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon but debate the rest of books attributed to Paul.

Regardless of what books you conclude were written by Paul, the New Testament is still dominated by Paul’s voice, which leads to my biggest problem with the Apostle Paul.  No single individual, no single voice, should get that much air time. Church, community, by definition, requires the equal hearing of all voices.  No one person is that smart or that inspired.

How egalitarian is your church?  How egalitarian is your church’s worship?