Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb.
Mark 9:30-37
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
N.B. By virtue of current Email glitches here we can receive, but not send, messages through our own phone line. So through a commercial house in Klaipeda I send this to Nathan Schroeder who then gets it out to y’all. Although un-speakable at present, we can receive via 100242.2470@Compuserve.com. Please do NOT send replies to the Infovita number.
Double blessings (perhaps) in this Saturday’s offerings: a Crossings matrix for Mark 9:30-37, the Gospel for September 21 (18th Sunday after Pentecost) and a sample of my handouts to students at the seminary here in the first weeks of the semester. 
Peace & Joy! Ed 

PART I. A CROSSINGS MATRIX FOR SEPT. 21, 1997

The three passion predictions present in all the synoptics come in three chapters in a row in Mark 8, 9 and 10. The response Mark records from the disciples is in every instance dismal. In the first Peter rebukes Jesus for talking that way at all (Caesarea Philippi). In the second, this day’s text, an argument ensues among the disciples about which of them is greatest, and in the third one (the Gospel for Pent. 22) James and John finesse their fellow disciples by getting to Jesus first to ask for the right and left hand seats of power. We’re inclined to say: “Dumb! dumb! dumb!” But we say that partly because we’ve read the story to the end. Yet we are doubtless no less “dumb” with the practical theologies of power and glory that tug at our hearts too. The upside-down power and glory of the crucified and risen Messiah is signalled in the “little child” whom Jesus takes in his arms. This act of his is the exact opposite of pyramids of power or top spots in organization charts. But it’s not a matter of changing one’s behavior, one’s ethics. Rather it is the upside-down alteration of one’s own person–call it repentance and rebirth–where the power-self dies and a servant-self replaces it. With that in mind here’s a possible Crossings matrix for this text.

DIAGNOSIS

STAGE 1. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb.
Not understanding Jesus’ words about his own passion and resurrection and being afraid to ask him. Blockage in the mind linked to fear in the heart. But fear of what?

STAGE 2. Fearful Silence
Fear of exposure (v. 34), that the theologian of glory operative in the heart will be seen by Jesus and the contrast with his own suffering servanthood become patent to me, to him, and to my colleagues. To have such a heart is bad enough. But to “fear” exposing it to Jesus is to mis-read him not only in his own calling to the way of the cross, but to my being a beneficiary of it when it does take place. Not to expose such a heart when one has it, is non-repentance.

STAGE 3. Unwelcoming = Unwelcome.
Disciples not welcoming Jesus as crucified Messiah are at the very edge of betrayal (v.31) themselves. The end of the line of such unwelcoming is finally to be unwelcome to the One who sent Jesus. Refusing to be open to the Messiah who is “last of all and servant of all” is to put oneself in permanent “last-ness.” Such last-ness is lost-ness–permanently.
GOOD NEWS FOR A NEW PROGNOSIS

STAGE 4. The Messiah for Losers
Jesus is the Messiah even for losers who choose lost-ness for themselves. He even welcomes those who betray him. His passion prediction pinpoints the center of his saving work. Here he becomes “last of all to be servant of all.” His service: to seek out and to save the lost.

STAGE 5. Welcoming him
Welcoming him by trusting him is the the opposite of the fear in Stage 2. Saying yes to him in his offer to be our servant is the opposite of Stage 2’s embarrassed silence. His Stage 4 work as our servant elicits our turn-around. In Mark’s language (1:15) that is “repent and believe in the good news.”

STAGE 6. Welcoming God by Welcoming the World’s Unwelcome
Today, Saturday Sept. 13, Mother Theresa’s casket goes down the streets of Calcutta. Her life patterns the Stage 6 of this text: Living daily life via the upside-down pyramid of evaluations. Welcome the little ones, the ones in the sub-basement of the world’s value charts, just as we’ve been welcomed. Believing that in “welcoming such in his name, we welcome him, and in welcoming him we welcome the one who sent him.”


Part II A CLASS HANDOUT FROM LITHUANIA

Introduction to Theology
Evangelical Faculty
University of Klaipeda
Class Session of Sept.10.97

In the 1st session I asked my students (11 of them) what they thought they needed to be introduced to theology. They supplied 10 topics. I then wrote the course syllabus to meet those ten items–and added one or two of my own. Here’s the Lecture/Discussion Outline for our 2nd session.

Topic #1 What is Theology?

  1. Theology is bridge-building–from the Word of God to the world; from what God says to human beings in some specific time and place in the world.
  2. Sometimes bridge-building is not successful. Dangers. Failures. At either end–poor pier in the Word, poor pier in the world. Maybe good pier in both places, but the crossover fails. Etc.
  3. Theology at universities and church-seminaries today is almost entirely “Western,” but that is changing.
  4. “Studying” theology is first of all learning about the bridges that other people have built. Not just learning about their bridges, but then testing how good they are. Academic study is such testing. Theology at the university is “-logy” like other “-logies,” psychology, biology, sociology.
  5. Testing in the study of theology means to examine the foundations, the grounds, the reasons, for any theological claim that some person, or even an entire church, makes. After exposing the foundations that are given for a theological statement (a theological position), the testing goes one step farther by asking: Are the foundations “good enough?” Do they provide enough support for the theological statement that rests upon them? In Western theology this is called the critical task in studying theology.
  6. Finally all students of theology, and especially pastors and church-workers, have their own working theology. They build their own bridges even when they adopt the theology of the church they are serving–Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Russian Orthodox. Each has his/her own working theology.
  7. Because theologies differ from one Christian to another Christian, there is often conflict among Christians about theology. Christians often disagree about foundations for this or that Christian claim, and also disagree about whether some foundations are “good enough.”
  8. Christian theology is always in conflict with the world. Before a Christian theology-bridge is built to some people in some place in the world, the people there already have some other bridge, some other word from some other god(s). So it was when the Gospel came to Lithuania (Kreva Act of 1385). They may not welcome the Christian bridge-builder at all. See Acts 17.

Topic #2 The Value, Meaning, Worth of Theology What is theology good for?

  1. Bridge-building is needed for the life of the church. Needed for the church’s mission–not just to new places in the world, but to “old” places–like Lithuania–when local history changes (the 50 years of Soviet occupation, and now the “new” time when Lithuania is free).
  2. This bridge-building is also for individual Christian believers. Christ calls all disciples to connect the Word of God, our faith in that Word, to all areas of our personal life. That is a kind of bridge-building itself. Theology is also needed for Christians to be witnesses for Christ to others, to be missionaries even in their secular callings.
  3. The Church and Christian theology serve the same Lord. The church serves Christ by simply doing what Christ told it to do [preach the Good News, worship God with Christ at the center, live the New Life]. Theology serves Christ by critical testing of the preaching, the worship, the lives Christians are living. Theology examines the foundations for all of this and asks: Is it good enough?

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