We were all recently dismayed by more news of corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. The release of the Milwaukee documents underscore the perversion of the institution itself in dealing with the abuse of children. This perversion has incensed people of all faiths, perhaps more than the sexual predation of individual priests. It is a terrible thing to discover that so many men of the cloth were monsters in disguise; but worse still to learn they were protected and rewarded by the church.The church is not merely an institution that represents Christ to the world; according to Christian theology, the church is the very Body of Christ. How do we, as Christians, remain faithful to this body in the face of such abject failure? Comment here.
One way Christians survive such scandals is by distancing ourselves from the offenders. “I am a Protestant,” one might say, “not a Catholic.” Yet Protestant churches have also been plagued by misuse of funds, sexual predators in the pulpit, and other scandals.
Another response is to consider the arc of history rather than a single moment in time. What does it mean to be the Body of Christ? How has the church failed and succeeded? Is the church getting better or worse?
As one response to the problem, At the Threshold offers the following piece by Jeannie Babb, adapted from a sermon given at St. James Episcopal Church on July 7, 2013. (An audio link is also available.)
Jesus without the Church?
2 Kings 5:1-14
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The combination of stories in the lectionary today bids us to consider Naaman’s dip in the Jordan in the light of the Gospel and the context of the Christian church. We must be careful with this. Hebrew scholars warn us not to be supercessionists. That is, we shouldn’t read the Gospel back into Old Testament scriptures. 2nd Kings was written by and for a different people with a different worldview, and one might even say, a different concept of God.
But the lectionary invites us to do that: if not to read the Gospel back into 2nd Kings, at least to read the story of Naaman’s washing forward into the Gospel.
“Go and wash in the Jordan.”
Elisha certainly did not have Christian baptism in mind when he sent Naaman to the Jordan River. But you can be sure that John the Baptizer had this story in mind when he began his ministry of baptism in the waters of that same river. Read More…