Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two theses for Reformation Day

For the record, I never campaigned or even discussed with the editors of The Presbyterian Outlook (October 31, 2011) or The Christian Century (October 30, 2013) the issue dates in which their respective articles discussing Year D were to appear, but since both saw fit independently to publish them on or about Reformation Day, let me inch out onto the limb provided, the limb being the barest suggestion that I am somehow more than a mere "dabbler in reform" — stepping very lightly, indeed — and venture, with due respect to Luther whose 95 theses we might round up to an even buck, my own two cents in the form of two (ecclesial) theses. Here they are:

(1) Jesus Christ, both incarnate and risen, is an ambidextrous biped. He lacked nothing anatomically in his earthly ministry; he walked along the road to Emmaus on both feet and used both hands to break the bread. By extension, the church as the body of Christ is also an ambidextrous biped. It has, and is meant to have, a fully functioning left and a fully functioning right. Therefore, the continual repudiation of one half by the other is completely out of place, completely lacking any basis in scripture, and should be curtailed. In other words, knock it off.

(2) While the heart, anatomically located on the port, larboard, or sinistral side of the body, is traditionally associated with love, thereby claiming a certain predominance when it comes to compassion—although the scriptural and etymological roots of the idea of compassion have less to do with left and right per se, and more to do with the lower, largely (though not entirely) symmetrical regions of the womb, bowels, and guts—wisdom, by contrast, is granted marginal predominance (again, in terms of the heart) by virtue of this much neglected saying from the Solomonic wisdom tradition: "The heart of the wise inclines to the right, the heart of the fool to the left" (Ecclesiastes 10:2). While that is not a verse to bring an end to all discussion, it should at least serve to give the leftist pause and invite him or her to a bit more humility. Therefore, much as one may mock a conservative situation in the body of Christ or a conservative orientation to the Christian life as "stupid," such mockery does not even begin to deal with the genuine wisdom to be perceived from that angle; on the contrary, it reveals the projection of one's own lack of wisdom. Likewise, much as one may be inclined to dismiss all liberality or social concern for the poor and oppressed as godlessly socialist, etc. (again, I am concerned here with the actual body of Christ, not that which is in reality beyond the bounds of the baptized, confessional, and practicing church of disciples), to do so is to clearly depart from that which Jesus both taught and did, as well as that which was unanimously affirmed by all of the apostles (Gal 2:10), those who on other matters famously disagreed (for a time), such as the role of circumcision (Acts 15); on this matter, however, they were of one accord, for the care for the poor is absolutely a distinctive and essential characteristic of the true body of Christ. Let us be governed by this (Year D) verse: "Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another?" (Rom 14:4a). And let us agree that how to best care for the poor is the question, not whether to do so.

If I may attach a sub-thesis here, I would suggest we consider: (1) those who have suffered the trauma of amputation or the loss of the use of a limb due to stroke or injury, and (2) the neurological fact that the left side of the body is governed by the right brain, and the right by the left, and therefore give thanks to God for, and honor, those who dwell and function on the opposite side of the body of Christ from ourselves, those whose functioning and perspective reflect, match, and balance our own, lending co-ordination — now, there is a word for you! — to the whole.

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