In Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, Paul names some specific kinds of gifts God entrusts the church with. It seems to me that he never meant these lists to be exhaustive, for they do not recapitulate one another. It also seems to me that multiple, complimentary gifts can coincide in one agent. Further, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that sometimes a gift that Paul named might come with articulations and expressions that make it difficult for us to see the gift for what it really is. Sometimes the gifts God gives the church are strange, indeed. Let’s pray for enough discernment not to throw them away. Because it also means throwing people away.
The conversations we have about big issues like war and capital punishment; about abortion and euthanasia; about economic inequality and food justice–they are all carried out in terms of rights and sanctity. I suspect that one reason we do this is that it tends to make us think that by so arguing, we are elevating serious discussions to their appropriate level of seriousness. But I also deeply suspect that we do so in order to place these discussions into the metaethical realm, where they don’t have to be taken sufficiently seriously–as if they had real consequences for the world or anything. Once we have framed issues of dying and killing as metaethical abstractions, we have turned them into topics fit for polite conversation–a diversion that lets people know that we really do, after all, believe in something, even if it is of no practical consequence. After all, it’s not worth dying over But it seems that a society that is premised upon the idea that there is very little worth suffering and dying over, ironically has little trouble finding things that are worth killing over.
Like the world we are living in, I am fearfully and wonderfully flawed. We are all fearfully and wonderfully flawed. And life is too short to pretend otherwise. Let us love the particulars in their particularity, fearfully and wonderfully flawed and partial as our love is.
When introducing their 1992 song “Revolution,” hip-hop group Arrested Development’s front man Speech mentions those in previous generations who were tortured and killed for the freedom and dignity of generations to come. “They died for me, and they died for you,” he concludes. Might this expression shed some light onto the Bible’s claim that Jesus died “for us”?
Matthew’s Jesus tells the church, “You are the light of the world.” John’s Jesus proclaims that “I am the light of the world.” How can both be true? Because Jesus continues to be present in his church. Paul’s idea of the church as the body of Christ is not simply a crafty metaphor for the division of labor in the church, as most interpret it. Rather, it is an ontological description of our existence, character, and especially, our vocation. The Church is what happens when the creative Word of the Sermon on the Mount becomes flesh.
If it is Christ we have been baptized into, then all things are made new. We are given the resources to live without being afraid of giving too much, too soon, and looking too foolish. We have been dispossessed of our amnesia, our despair, and our self-preoccupation. We are free and able to welcome God’s insurgency like children. If our baptism has not rendered us free and able to so live, was it Christ we were baptized into? And if it wasn’t Christ we have been baptized into, what have we been saved from?
Preachers–this Sunday either give us words to chant down Babylon . . . or hang up your lyre on the willows with us.
The Christ hymn of Philippians 2–with its claim that Jesus took the form of a slave–evokes a flashback to the Exodus, when God took the form of a slave by identifying himself with an enslaved people.