News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
This week has been filled to overflowing with talk of politics, partisanship, gridlock, decision-making and agenda-setting. We see the unavoidable challenges before us that cannot be ignored away with a magic wand, or avoided until the solve themselves. How do we do leadership as Christians? The day after the election I heard CNN talking about how Protestants and Born-Agains voted for Romney while Catholics and people of color vote for Obama. I doubt that things are that clear and simply categorized. Maybe part of the reason for which we have such difficulty in our democracy regarding addressing the problems we face is that our media outlets play to the extremes, they like “good TV” – rather than speaking with bridge-builders and door-openers they focus upon fear mongerers and demagogues.
Being Christian is more about how we live, than what we believe, more about living together than acting on our own. So how do we do Christian community? We have no problem seeing the places and spaces where we have trouble: worship wars, fights over music, trouble with leadership when we disagree with it, challenges of mental health, personality challenges and characters who don’t play (or work) well with others. As Presbyterians we are part of a way of being Christian, living out the teachings of Jesus in community which is based upon the principle of lay leadership – led by the congregationally elected elders (in Greek the word is presbyteros – hence our name). A common joke is that Presbyterians do it in committee. That we do all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40) – which harkens back to the constitution which forms our identity and ecclesiastical way of working and being together.
Our constitution (the Book of Order) begins not with a rule, but with the affirmation that “All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God. Christ calls the Church into being, giving it all that is necessary for its mission to the world, for its building up, and for its service to God. Christ is present with the Church in both Spirit and Word. It belongs to Christ alone to rule, to teach, to call, and to use the Church as he wills, exercising his authority by the ministry of women and men for the establishment and extension of his Kingdom. Christ gives to his Church its faith and life, its unity and mission, its officers and ordinances.” God calls men and women, young and old to leadership and participation in the Church. G-1.01
We also affirm that “God alone is Lord of the conscience, …therefore we consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable.” We believe that God speaks to us all, bringing us to unity in mission,, identity and action. This doesn’t mean we’ll always agree…but it does point to a mutual trust and forebearance that we are working towards and for a common good. G-1.03
Bridge-Builders or Threshold People.
Throughout the Bible God uses unique people, like Jethro and Moses, to build bridges between cultures and to open doors in terms of the community of faith. Jethor is a Midianite. He’s descended genealogically from Abraham through his third wife (see Genesis 25:1-2) but he is not part of the line of Isaac and Jacob, through which passes the covenant and promise of God (Genesis 17:15-22; 21:8-21; 25:5-6). He is neither purely an outsider or an insider of the people of God. He redefines identity, holding the door open for those “outside” the community of faith to enter and reminding those “inside” the community that God – not they – define and shape things.
People of other faiths:
What god does Jethro serve as priest? How is he priest, offering a sacrifice to Yahweh when he recognizes what the LORD has done for the Israelites in 18:12? What does that mean for us in relationships with our neighbors in our pluralistic world and city?
Moses is advised to get other leaders, to recognize that he shouldn’t serve alone, that he wasn’t created to be alone (compare this to Adam in Genesis 2:18). How are appropriate leaders or “judges” to be discerned and distinguished? How do they relate to one another?
Why is the text so insistent upon the identity of Jethro as a priest, and Moses’ father-in-law?
Where have Zipporah and the sons of Moses been? Why weren’t they in Egypt?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in this text? Why?
2. How does this story shape our story in terms of leadership, how we work together, how we relate with our neighbors, and our cultural belief in Chaos theory…that the world tends towards Chaos?
3. How does this story and what it states relate to the affirmations of Romans 8:18-39?