Recently, I completed an adult study at Transfiguration. For this study, we used the book The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. At one point in the book, the authors suggest that after the Roman destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the practice of Judaism was never again the same. The destruction marked the end of the Jewish priesthood and its accompanying theology of sacrifice. Judaism became a religion with only rabbis and synagogues.
But wait...priesthood and sacrifice didn't end after all. It didn't take long before both these things became the essence of Christianity, and the Christian priest, authorized to sacrifice, once again became the mediator between human beings and God. The church had successfully re-created the very reality that Jesus, during his ministry, had decried. Perhaps even worse than this, Jesus, himself, had become the essence of the church's re-creation, becoming both high priest and sacrifice.
The church's re-invention of the priesthood and the temple in this new way has resulted in our pretty much forgetting who Jesus was for his followers, and who his followers were for him. Where Jesus regards us as "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world," we instead have been encouraged by the church's leadership to regard ourselves as "miserable sinners." Rather than receiving a message that we are raised up with Jesus, we are put down--way down--like those "stained-glass disciples" who some think should only be hanging below the "plain-glass Jesus."
At the end of one of our study group sessions, one of the participants came to me and said, "Don't you find it interesting that, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, Judaism seemed to become what Jesus had been preaching for, and Christianity seems to have become what Jesus had been preaching against?" Very interesting, indeed...
We continue to be more comfortable having Jesus above us rather than taking the risk of having him right in the middle or the thick of our lives. While Jesus seems to want "to get down and dirty," we would prefer that he not do this. Perhaps the reason for this is that if we allow our leader "to get down and dirty," it would mean, as his followers, we also would have to do the same thing--clearly, a too terrifying possibility!
As I consider the pending election of a new bishop in Niagara, I can't seem to shake the idea that before we can make a decision about who should become the new leader of our diocese, we really need to get a better handle on the leadership of Jesus, himself. What's more, it's by no means just our diocese that needs to be considering this but the wider church, in general. Have our elevated images of this Jewish rabbi made him into something he likely would not wish for himself?
Our extensive efforts to place Jesus above those of us who claim to be his disciples rather than in the midst of us, will forever prevent us from being the servants he intended us to be. If our call is to emulate Jesus, then we truly need to recognize him as a servant rather than a king. At the point that we are able to do this, perhaps those of us who are leaders will begin to look more like leaders of whom God could be proud.
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