Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fooling with Scripture, Ep 10 -- Fooling with Friendship, Fooling with Church Words

The 10th episode of Fooling with Scripture is brought to through a partnership with Crossroads United Methodist Church as part of their Faith Beyond Belief: Reclaiming the Art of Christian Practice series.

The folks at Crossroads invited me to offer the first Sunday morning message for this series as well, so if you're interested in seeing/hearing that, there's a video available on their website. Sermon starts around minute 40 and is about 20 minutes long.

Each week for the next few weeks we'll be fooling with a text from John's gospel. This week we're looking at John 15:7-17 (or so), in which Jesus calls his disciples "friends."

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This whole series, and this episode in particular, is very heavily indebted to a class I took in seminary with Dr. Sharon Ringe. The class as a whole, and her book on friendship in John's gospel, has been hugely influential not only in how I understand John's gospel but in how I understand my faith and ministry as a whole. Check out Wisdom's Friends: Community and Christology in the Fourth Gospel (Westminster John Knox, 1999).

Another hugely influential book, which I quote in this episode, is John Swinton's Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and the Care of People with Mental Health Problems (Abingdon: Nashville, 2000). Here's the full quote of which I share an excerpt, from page 148-149:
Jesus' friendships were always personal, as opposed to instrumental, primarily aimed at regaining the dignity and personhood of those whom society had rejected and depersonalized. Jesus' friendships reached beyond the socially constructed identity of individuals and, in entering into deep and personal relationships of friendship with them, he was able to reveal something of the nature of God and enable the development of a positive sense of personhood based on intrinsic value rather than on personal achievement or outward behavior. Whether he was calling to Zacchaeus, the much hated tax collector, to come down from the tree and eat with him (Luke 19:2) or preparing for his death while communing with his friends (Matthew 26:26) the friendships of Jesus reached beyond social expectations to reclaim the personhood of the other.
This type of friendship is catalytic. Unlike other more instrumental relationships such as those found in counseling and psychotherapy, which set out specifically to do something, it is a form of relationship that acts as a catalyst that enables health and rehumanization simply by being there. Unlike many agents with whom people with mental health problems may come into contact, the task of the Christlike friend is not to do anything for them, but rather to be someone for them -- someone who understands and accepts them as persons; someone who is with and for them in the way that God is also with and for them; someone who reveals the nature of God and the transforming power of the Spirit of Christ in a form that is tangible, accessible, and deeply powerful.  
Finally, I mention hearing the pastors of Highlands Church in Denver give a presentation in which they talked about the "How we do what we do is more important than what we do" principal. You can actually watch/listen to the presentation using Facebook live below, or just check out what the folks at Highlands are up to on their website.

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