Monday, February 21, 2011

Being the Drinking Gourd

One of my favorite blog posts that I wrote for the Living Lutheran site has been reposted there today. It concludes this way: "I am now a department chair, and before I speak or act, I remind myself that people will see me as the voice of the administration. I am no longer speaking solely for myself. Similarly, those of us who are Christian are being watched by the unchurched. Who do they see when we behave in non-Christlike ways?"

In a similar way, I've been thinking about Paul. On Friday, at the Treasures from the Vatican show, one of my teacher friends asked me about Paul and Paul's misogyny. I tried to explain that if Paul reappeared he'd be rather shocked at how we've been using his letters. He was writing those letters to real churches facing local problems. Paul likely had no sense that he was forming church/Christian practice for centuries to follow.

I've also been thinking about Marx, since on this day in 1848 The Communist Manifesto was published. When Marx died, he had no reason to think that this little book would be as influential as it became; for example, by 1950, roughly half of the population of the world would be living under Marxist governments, although Marx himself might have disavowed a number of those governments. And I've often wondered what Marx would have thought about liberation theologists, those folks who saw the mission of Jesus as a mission to liberate people from ruling class oppression. Would Marx have cheered? Or would he have seen this activity as a different sort of opiate?

We have no idea how God will use us and our work. We have no idea of the many ways we may influence others. We need to always remember our core mission, to be the only face of God that many people will see. We never know who is watching, who is taking notes. We are tasked to be the North Star, to be the drinking gourd that leads people to God (much like the Big Dipper that slaves followed to find their way North to freedom).

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