Monday, December 12, 2011

Who is Jesus for You?

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is one the most fascinating figures in history. Despite his humble origins, short life, and very short public career, Jesus is the central focus of the world's largest religion and has meant many things to many people since his death over 2,000 years ago. But, who is Jesus Christ from a Catholic theological perspective?
When I was a child going to Catholic School, the good Sisters taught us that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. At that time, I just accepted the phrase as another one of those things that adults say to children that makes absolutely no sense what so ever. When I asked what exactly that meant, I was told “it is a mystery”. Well, that certainly clarified things for me. As an adult, I still don’t think I understand exactly what that means although now I know why I don’t understand. I think that the concept of the two natures of Jesus Christ is a hard concept to grasp. So, I guess an easier question is, “What should I as a Christian believe about Jesus?” I will attempt to summarize what I feel are the four major beliefs regarding Jesus.
First, Christians believe Jesus to have been a historical human being who was born of a virgin named Mary, in the town of Bethlehem, between 7 and 4 BC. The humanity of Jesus is perhaps one of the least controversial areas of Christology, but this was not always so. In the early years after Christ, some thought that Jesus' body, suffering, and death were merely appearances. He was not fully human, but only appeared to be.
Second, Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah, the "anointed one" predicted in the Jewish Scriptures. The word "Christ" comes from the Greek word for "Messiah". He is the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of all mankind and the Reconciler between God and humanity by dying for our sins. It is interesting to note that although Jesus appears to see Himself as the Messiah in the Gospels, He does not go out of his way to identify Himself as such, and those who do identify Him as the Messiah are commanded not to tell anyone about it.
Third, Christians believe that Jesus is the "Son of God." Jesus does not refer to himself as the Son of God in the Gospels, but the term is used in the writings of Paul and in the epistle to the Hebrews. The Gospel of John refers to Jesus simply as "the Son," which may have a similar meaning. Paul uses the term for both Christ and Christians. Christians become children of God by adoption, but Jesus is the rightful Son of God by nature.
Finally, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God. This concept seems to be stated explicitly in the New Testament especially in the writings of the Gospel of John. In addition, some important titles and functions applied to Jesus in the New Testament indicate early belief in His divinity. The statement "Jesus Christ is Lord” is found throughout the New Testament and was one of the earliest Christian confessions of faith. “Lord" had come to be almost synonymous with God in Jewish thinking by the time of Jesus. New Testament writers apply functions to Jesus that are associated only with God. Jesus is the savior of humanity; it is appropriate to call on the name of Jesus in prayer and to worship him; Jesus reveals God directly “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
What does this mean to me in my ministry? I think it is important to remember that Jesus is all of the above. There is not a choice of one over the other. It is also important to understand that Jesus became human out of love for us. He gave up His life for us as the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate expression of love. He is our God and Savior, but He is also our brother and our friend. Jesus is our gift of love, a God who loves us unconditionally.
I was reading a book yesterday called "Spiritual Direction-Beyond the Beginnings" by Janet K. Ruffing, R.S.M. In her book she states that "God longs for us as much as we long for God". "In the beginning of the spiritual life, we feel as if all the desiring is on our side. . . God's longing evokes and fuels our own. That God's own self initiates these longings."
If God loves us first, then the above statements make perfect sense. Our relationship with God is a mutual relationship of love. Jesus ministry to us was one of bringing us back into relationship with the God who loves us first. Think about that as you go through your day. How magnificant a gift we received from Jesus. His death on the cross was an indication of the length that God goes to let us know how much he wants to be in relationship with us. God's will for us and desire for us is not just that of an authority figure wanting subjugation from his servants. God's will for us is that of one who loves wanting the best for the object of his affection, us. This would also indicate that the desire of God is that we love him back. This for me was a startling realization.
So, who is Jesus? Jesus is the God who wants us to be in relationship with him. Jesus is the God who loves us first. Jesus is our ultimate Christmas gift.
As we go through this joyful season of Christmas, as we give gifts to one another, let us not forget the greatest gift that all of humankind has been given. We have been given the gift of God's love through God's gift of Jesus, the Christ. The true gift of Christmas is God letting us know that we are loved and that we are never alone. We celebrate the gift of the "servant" King. We celebrate the gift of being one with Jesus. We celebrate the gift that is love.

Merry Christmas!

May God's love and God's blessings fill you with the true Spirit of Christmas!

Peace and love,
Rev. Sue Provost

St. Valentine Faith Community
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-998-2220 Church Office
702-523-8963 Rev. Sue Provost Cell
Mass: Every Sunday at 10am

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Should Women be Ordained?

I am a priest in the National Catholic Church of North America. I was ordained by a male bishop who holds the belief that women as well as men should be ordained into the church ministry. I was asked for scriptural texts supporting women in ministry or in authority, in a class I am taking to become a certified chaplain. I do not believe that the Bible should be used to ever keep someone from working for the Lord. I believe that if Jesus were asked to provide an explanation as to whether women and men can be ministers and priests of equal status, he would provide such a confirmation. It is not Jesus who would keepwomen from being prophets of his word, but men and women who interpret the Bible for their own purposes.

In looking for a scriptural answer to the question about women's role in the church, we all have a clear-cut decision to make. We can take

1 Corinthians 14:34-35:
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.


1 Timothy 2:11-12:
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be silent.

as definitive statements on the issue and then have to distort, twist, and try to explain many, many other statements and accounts throughout the Old and New Testaments that are at variance with those statements.

Or, we can take the entire scriptural context which supports the full equality of men and women in the church as being the norm and look upon these two passages as intended for some local situations, the details of which are not known to us in modern times. The entire holiness movement, has tended to accept the full equality of the sexes and to view the Corinthians and Timothy references as special, localized situations.

The full equality of male and female in the governance of this world is clearly stated prior to the Fall.
Gen. 1:27-28:(dominion was given to them both)
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Full equality is restated as a basic principle of our relationship "in Christ"
Gal. 3:28:
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the Old Testament, there were several women who were prophetesses, serving as the voice of God in instruction and leading men: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah. The prophet Joel predicted that in the coming age the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon men and women alike, and they would prophesy.
Joel 2:28-29
28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
28 Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared that this was now being fulfilled.
Acts 2:16-18:
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days,and they will prophesy.

Women prophetesses spoke the Word of the Lord in the early church.
Acts 21:9:
9He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Paul himself speaks of women prophesying and praying publicly in the church services as a normal thing, however their heads were expected to be covered (why? So as not to distract "men" by the beauty of their long hair).
1 Cor. 11:5:
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.

Furthermore, throughout the gospel record, prominence is given to women as the more faithful of Jesus followers. In the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, Priscilla is mentioned ahead of her husband, Aquila, five times out of seven references to this couple, and she took the lead in instructing Apollos, one of the most prominent preachers of the New Testament age. The oldest Greek manuscripts put her first in this passage.
Acts 18:26
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Paul refers to Phoebe as a "deacon," not a "deaconess"
Rom. 16:1:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

Some ancient manuscripts appear to refer to a woman apostle by the name of Junia, and Paul at different times lists women among those he calls his "fellow-laborers."
Rom. 16:7:
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

One rule of scriptural interpretation is that passages that are unclear are to be interpreted in the light of clear ones. We are left with the clear examples of Jesus and Paul, the clear statements of Joel, Peter and Paul as our scriptural mandate. Just as the Lord provided opportunities for Old Testament women to lead, and just as the examples of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament provided increasing opportunities for women to lead, so we are called to enact this redemptive action. To live within the teachings of Scripture, we must work counter-culturally to provide women with increasing opportunities to answer the call of God.

What We Should Know about the Character of God

Throughout the Scriptures we see that it is like God to work in ways contrary to traditional human systems of authority. God has never limited revelation to kings, rulers, or government officials. To the contrary, we see God divinely empowering the poor, the prostitute, the virgin, and the widow. Even Jesus came to earth as a poor carpenter. God has always worked counter-culturally to bring about the revolutionary Kingdom of God.
1 Cor. 1:26-31:
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It is in keeping with the character of God that women are called to ministry. We should also recognize that it is essential that anyone serving in the ministry must be chosen by God— not man or woman. Men and women both must testify to such a call and confirm it through their holy outworking of this mission.
Furthermore, we should recognize that women are also called to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing . . . and teaching them" (Matt. 28:19-20). If a woman's call to fulfill the Great Commission is in the form of ministerial leadership, then it is not only her privilege, but her obligation to obey the Holy Spirit.

This is just a tidbit of information to support a woman’s call to ministry in Christ’s Church. There are many more Scripture Passages that I could quote, but this page would be gigantic and I think that the point has been made. God gives us many gifts and we are only limited by our own prejudices and self-doubts. I encourage all women who seek ordained ministry to follow the "call" that God has given them, and not be limited by what others say they can and cannot do.
Peace and love,

Reverend Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)