My grandmother was 14 years old and living on a farm in Michigan when she made an appointment with her Presbyterian minister to tell him that she felt called to the ministry. “I’m sorry, Emma,” he said. “You must be mistaken. God doesn’t call women into the ministry.” A day or two later her father went to see the minister.
The conversation at Caesarea Philippi is a defining moment for the synoptic Gospels, although only Matthew and Mark name it as the location for Peter’s confession, “You are the Messiah.” For the Gospel narratives as post-Easter interpretations, reflections and perspectives, who Jesus is constitutes the most important question for those early communities that claimed belief in
For all of his tears and lament, Jeremiah as portrayed in Jeremiah 1 is a bold young man mouthing off to God. Maybe the disrespect we sense in this exchange is not as dramatic as the disrespect that some of today’s youth display toward their elders, but it’s there all the same.
For five weeks the lectionary journey through the Gospel of Mark is interrupted by a brief sojourn into the sixth chapter of John. The chapter opens with two familiar stories from the synoptic Gospels: the feeding of the multitude (a story so important that it appears six times in the four Gospels) and Jesus walking on the water. Then there are dialogues, first with the crowd and then with “the Jews” (probably better understood as Judean officials) about the meaning of the miracle of the feeding and about Jesus’ true identity.
As some friends and I ate a picnic lunch, we fell into a rambling conversation about politics, real estate values in an earthquake zone and the virtues of sauvignon blanc over chardonnay. Then I mentioned offhandedly that perhaps I viewed something or other the way I did because I was a Christian. This revelation did not strike me as a big deal. After all, they had been talking about Buddhist meditation, Sufi parables and personal spiritual rituals.
In a story that is unique to Luke, Jesus heals a nameless woman by giving her the freedom to unbend and stand up straight after she has lived for years in crippling bondage. The woman has not asked to be healed. She simply finds herself in Jesus’ presence—and that leads to healing and life for her. This beautiful story, however, is not without conflict.
Jesus called the Twelve together and put the question to them with unsettling directness: Do you also wish to go away? I wonder sometimes how I would have responded to the question. Because at times the truth is I do wish to go away.