Monday, July 03, 2006

I Dissent. I know a lot of folks are upset and offended by the first sermon of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori -- her "mother Jesus" sermon.* Today's front page story in the WaPo said she "irritated" some conservatives. I think this article in the National Review Online is an accurate summary of the "irritation" caused by the sermon (actually, a homily) -- and the NRO article also notes that it's not just the homily that's the problem...

But the WaPo does use that amorphous "some:" "To those who accuse her of heresy for referring to a female Jesus..." Well, yes, if she tried claiming that Jesus was a woman and a mother instead of an historical person, I'd be upset too. But who really claims that she is trying to pass Jesus off as a woman or a mother?

I don't think that's what she was doing. Let's look at the homily and see what she actually says. I think you've got to cut her a little slack -- her homily starts off rambling -- hello clouds, hello park, hello man in the reflective vest, hello man who slept rough, hello rabbit, hello moon, hello lady whispering hush... (okay, so she didn't say the last two...)

Then she turns, at last to the text of the day Colossians 1:11-20 and here's where she runs into her problem. She gets sloppy and mixes metaphors. She starts off with the metaphor Paul uses in verse 15 and 16: "[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created..." And when you read just that little bit, you can see that Paul mixes metaphors - Jesus is firstborn by Him all were created. From this passage she pulls out the following,
That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children.
I believe her homily is simply tired sloppiness -- she had been elected Presiding Bishop and was dealing with interviews and demands and not a lot of time for reflection and the drafting of a well thought out sermon. As many have noted, she doesn't have a lot of experience -- she's never been a parish priest and the Diocese she's presided over is miniscule.

When you look at it this way, you can see she is saying Jesus is firstborn -- a child going through birth goes through the labor process. What gives birth to a new creation is a mother. A mother goes through labor. Therefore, Jesus, who gives us the new creation is not only first born, he is like a mother having delivered that creation through the most difficult labor.

I have no problem with criticizing the PB-elect -- her gender does not mean anyone should treat her differently than a man. But we have to do so honestly and fairly.

* I had a very weird juxtsposition I'll have to tell you about some other time -- what I was listening to when I first heard the sermon.

No comments:

Post a Comment