The gospels are not shy in their portrayal of the way the disciple’s struggle to understand Christ’s potentially life-changing lessons. Part of this difficulty is due to the offensive nature of Christ’s message. In most gospels, it’s not difficult to understand how Christ offends the teachers of the law. Less clear is the way Christ offends his disciples. In the Gospel of Mark, we find evidence of at least two disciples, Peter and Judas, offended by Christ’s teaching. The offence takes place in the moments leading up to and following Christ’s arrest.
This reflection originated out of a request from The Commons to talk on my favourite apostle.
The New Testament describes the way Christ’s disciples become apostles. This word “apostle” means, literally, “to send away.” In order to send someone away, he or she must first be with you. The apostles must have been at some point in the presence of Christ before he dismissed them before he sent them away. And it is this event — the send-off — from which their title is derived. Typically Christians focus on being with Christ, following close behind him, being “Christ-like.” However, to be an apostle means something a little different; it emphasizes a departure from Christ, a commission.
My two adorable little boys follow Jen and me everywhere as they learn, grow, and mature. But a day will come when they must be sent out from under our feet into the world where, as Leland likes to say, it’s “too sunny”. The shift from child to young adult or disciple to apostle is a significant movement. Continue reading
Tragedy in Ecclesiastes
Last week Jen and I took Leland to visit his great-grandmother, Audrey MacDonald, for the first time. My grandmother has struggled with alzheimers for the last few years. Due to her illness, she has been confined to a wheelchair and even mundane everyday activities have become a struggle, including simple things like saying hello and goodbye.
Although she may or may not have remembered that Jen and I were expecting, it was clear that she knew and was proud of her first great-grandchild. Unable to ask, and in need of some assistance, she was grateful for the opportunity to hold the little ten pounder. In fact, when asked if Leland was getting heavy, she spoke, informing us, in a rare moment of clarity, that he wasn’t too heavy at all.
In the midst of similar challenges, yet at opposite stages of life, it was beautiful to see grandma and grandson greet one another in their own unique way.
If you take the time to explore the building just off James St. North on Cannon, you might stumble upon a fantastic little community called The Commons. It was at The Commons that I met Matt Thompson, a kindred spirit who persuaded me to join him on a trip to Baltimore to hear John D. Caputo at an event hosted by Home Brewed Christianity. Last spring, Matt Thompson, Adam Getty and myself were rewarded, with not only the opportunity to hear Jack speak, but also a chance of sharing a beer with him.
After some discussion, we felt that it would be beneficial to open up the conversation to others at the Commons and in our networks. Although we had originally planned on reading one of Caputo’s texts, we’ve opted to read Peter Rollins‘ book “How (Not) to Speak of God.“
As a way of beginning, I thought it would be good to make some preliminary remarks on my own relationship to the text and thereby situate some of my own commentary.
Although there are many points of reference between Caputo, Rollins and myself, the point that brings us together is an admiration of Derrida and “deconstruction.” One way I’ve learned to approach deconstruction, through my work at ICS, is by thinking about the movement between determinate action and the principles that inspire it (Caputo often uses the words “name” and “event” to describe this dynamic). Attempts by law to respond to the call of justice is an example of the movement between determinate action (law) and principles that inspire it (justice). When injustice, like poverty occurs in a community, justice demands that we take responsible action. An action to this effect might result in a law that alleviates pressure on the poor by providing affordable housing. In this way, determinate action, in the form of law, brings about justice. Determinate actions, therefore, enable or reveal the presence of the principle. Yet, this action is always partial. As a community grows and changes with time, using the money allocated for affordable housing elsewhere, like rehab centers for example, might prove to be a more just course of action. This demonstrates that determinate action cannot replace the principle it attempts to embody. The two are not interchangeable because actions are always determinate and particular, while principles, like justice, demand universality. As a result, we must always be willing to suspend the consequences of determinate action in the name of the principle that they attempt to follow. Deconstruction describes the necessity of both determinate action and universal principles while appreciating the call and response movement between them. As Christians we often try to articulate this dynamic by discussing the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Continue reading