2004-10-08

Quick thoughts sparked by Chapter 3

My mind was drawn to how I prayed when I was a teenage in Mandarin and the constant use of the phrase "Lord" in my prayer. Besides that, I also recall hearing my Indian seminary mate praying, and how the phrases "Master" and "Lord" came up frequently. Then I thought about how all this reflects not only our theology but also our spirituality.

One thing I like about the book in general and this chapter in particular is the "revisiting" of familiar words, like "Lord". And just spending some time unpacking them once again. I suppose we can see this exercise like "opening a box of chocolates" or "opening up a can of worms" but this is necessary. In the past many of us here in Malaysia specifically may just import the "dominating" understanding of the word "Lord" without knowing it, or may use the word with the "absolute control" flavor even withing our own cultures. In the history of China for example, (and for those who watched the movie "Hero" might get a taste of it), Emporer's can be brutle and war-like, others might be wise and loving to the people. It depends ... thus, the unpacking of the word like "Lord" helps.

I thought about the contrasting styles of my country's previous prime minister and the present one assuming for today the primier of the country is like a king in a way. The difference in operation makes me see the possible values underneath the actions on the surface. And so, if in the past the word "prime minister" may be negative, now the word may evoke a different more positive response.

I guess what I'm trying to say is "words" really do matter, but the picture the word evokes matters even more. Is there a hidden challenge there for us in regards to the word "Christian"? (since the chapter is titled "would Jesus be a Christian?")


4 comments:

David Trigueros said...

I'm here with Brian McLaren at Catalyst, Atl, GA and he's done a great job in his lab as well as interview with Gabe...profound, clear, not as controversial as in his books I must say. But very fitting to this conference which is not as progressive or postmodern ready as you may think. I'd call it safely progressive.

He's fit in yet challenged really well. Good job Brian.

Ken Archer said...

It's humbling to consider whether Jesus would associate himself with those of us who have called ourselves Christians. The more I learn about Jesus, the more I doubt he would.

I agree with Sivin's reflections on the images conveyed by different terms of authority and, more importantly, that these definitions of terms like Master change over time. For example, our notion of judgment is inevitably bound up with the distinctly bureaucratic role that modern American judges play in making judicial decisions within strict, methodological guidelines for interpreting statutory law. Most of the world, and most of history (including Biblical history), has given judges a very different role, in which wisdom and compassion play a more prominent role. As Sivin points out, words matter.

This isn't to say that the concept of judgment, or of Jesus as our King, Master and Lord that Brian discusses in chapter 3, are nothing more than words with shifting meanings, such that we can wriggle our way out of actually having to respond to the ideas communicated in the Bible. I think Brian is clear that Jesus calls us to respond to who he is, and that Jesus effectively did so via words and recorded actions that we can understand, particularly in the following line from p. 85 of this chapter.

"Jesus defined his identity not as being served, but as givin his life in service, and in this way, acknowledging Jesus as master means one voluntarily 'takes his yoke' and learns from Jesus how to serve God, one's neighbor, plus one's enemy, and so the whole world."

Jesus set the example for how to be a leader, how to be a servant. It is not an example that one can will to follow. It is an example that can only be followed as one grows to be more like Jesus, by walking and talking with Him.

Bill Bean said...

Jesus: mascot or Lord? Hugely convicting.

+ simonas said...

Ken Archer said...

"It's humbling to consider whether Jesus would associate himself with those of us who have called ourselves Christians. The more I learn about Jesus, the more I doubt he would."

I see this idea often, and it makes me think. On the one hand, Jesus clearly establishes a covenant with his Church, a covenant signed in his own blood, which we continue to remember in Communion. So, we are the partakers of the covenant. Then we read in Revelations that each child of God is marked with a clear sign on her/his forehead.

So it makes me think, "How would Jesus not associate with those that believe?" Of course, we hear the words of James in our minds, those disliked by Luther about Satan believing too... John also tells us that if we do not love our brother or if we do not take care of our family, we are worse then a sinner.

Do I take it that not everybody who believes and attends an Evangelical congregation will see life everlasting? (I wanted to smirk here, but it is just too sad - maybe Jesus would avoid our sanctuaries?..)