Four questions were asked at the Regional Assembly, the biennial gathering of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The questions were answered by four or five speakers during worship, having to do with being “the body of Christ.” I was asked to be on one of these “panels”. Our presentations were to be no more than three minutes in length. This is my response to “How do we honor all the parts of the body?”
Political leaders, candidates and more talk about building fences and walls to keep people out, to make their country safe. The United States, Israel, countries in Europe all talk about building walls and fences.
The Austrian government is building this fence along its southern border. The fence is supposed to prevent immigrants from entering the country from Hungary. Austria already is overwhelmed with an influx of 90,000 immigrants last year. That would be like 90,000 Pennsylvanians taking refuge in New York.
There is a church refusing to let one of these fences be built across its property. The Bishop of this part of Austria said, “A fence would be contrary to the spirit of the gospel.” The church’s refusal means there will be a gap in the fence. (Telegraph, April 22) The bishop grew up with iron curtain. He remembers his relief when it came down.
The Bishop said, “There are many of us inside the church who are willing for there to be a gap in a fence others have built or are trying to build…..”
Honoring the body of Christ means refusing to build the fence. Honoring the body of Christ means making sure there is a gap in the fence for people to get through. I know that most congregations offer communion with these words, “Everyone who believes in Jesus is welcome at the Table.” We call that open communion.
At First Christian Church Pomona we recognize that Jesus is the one who invites. We don’t set the terms; we just set the table and make sure there is a gap in the fence. We make sure there is more than one gap in the fence. In fact, we refuse to build a fence. A lot of people don’t know they can even approach the table of Christ. Honoring the body means letting Jesus be the host and make the invitation. Honoring the body means dismantling the fences that we build so people can hear the invitation Jesus makes. Keeping out the people we do not approve of dishonors the body of Christ because Jesus welcomes everyone into the grace of God.
Julie’s Jar, (cont.)
Jesus The Head?
Another question asked and answered was, “What does it mean to you that Jesus is the head of the body?” (See Ephesians 5:23) While I did not speak to this questions, it prompted some internal reflection. While it was not overtly stated that the intention was for the gathered community to ponder these questions for ourselves, I hope that this was in part an aim of the exercise: to encourage us to think for ourselves about our faith?
Here are my own thoughts about this Christological and ecclesiological question.
What does it mean to me that Jesus is the head of the body? It means:
- The early church fell prey to being tossed “to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine,” (Eph. 4:14) in this case, Greek philosophical assumptions related to the antipathy between head and body.
- People in church today still hold a mechanistic view of the way bodies work/function. The “head is NOT the operational platform of the body. The “head” requires for its own existence the systems of the body which have their own capacities of influence. In other words, it’s all mutual.
- We lack imagination for embodying what we are learning about social systems, metaphor, biology and more.
- People in church today are satisfied explaining away the subjugation of a class of people (wives in this case) in order to maintain the idea of one student of Paul about the position of Christ in the community.
- Many church leaders still don’t realize that Jesus never claimed to be the head of anything.