Tuesday, February 20, 2007

on ministry


I have many excuses for why the post is late this week: it was my birthday on Friday and festivities stretched through the weekend, I was in a line-up at the passport office for 4 hours on Friday, I have schoolwork, blah blah blah. But what it comes down to is that with so many interesting things happening recently, I actually couldn't decide what to write about: the lecture on transgender persons I went to on Wednesday? Or the quilt my Mom recently finished for me? Or the amazing painting my aunt convinced me to buy (this one will definitely get a future post, once the exhibition is over and I have it in my hands)? I decided to try out a response to Christian's post about ministry... we'll see how it turns out.

I enjoyed Christian's reflections on ministry this week. I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means for me to be a minister in this body, in this time, in this place. I wonder about this more and more because as I become more aware of the danger in thinking I know how to "fix things", or thinking that I have to "fix" people, I find myself less and less sure of what it means to offer ministry to people. In conversation with postcolonial thought especially, I find myself wondering what it means to offer any kind of help when I live at the end of a long line of oppressive colonizers. I also sit with various feminists' critiques of domination and patriarchy, or as Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza would put it: 'kyriarchy' (from kyrie, Greek for lord, implying any domination of one person over another).

How does one maintain both authority and humility? How do I respond to God's call and to the needs of others with a responsible use of power? A number of my friends from school are taking a class in Christology right now, and as the 'advanced degree student' I've been called upon a couple of times to help friends sort-through their own wrestlings with the topic. I bring this up because my own Christology is one that centres on relationships, or more specifically, loving, life-giving relationships. These are relationships that are mutual, dialogical, reciprocal, ever-changing, and, although this is a dangerous word I will dare to use it: erotic.

You may know that in Greek there are several words for love (I'm no Greek scholar though, so please don't consider me an authority on this subject) including the commonly-used-in-Christian-circles word agape which has a very clean and proper connotation of general affection and concern, the more disinterested and dispassionate filios, and then the rather indecent eros which implies an interested love that is physical, passionate and connotes desire and longing.

I entertain eros as a way to look at Christian relationships because despite its lousy reputation, and some possible interpretations, Christianity is actually a body-friendly, body-affirming religion. We are a religion that is incarnational, meaning we actually believe the divine can and does dwell within our physical selves. We are a religion concerned about the actual bodies of those who suffer, not just their spiritual salvation. We are a religion that regards the world as a place made by God who called it "very good". We are a religion that has an erotic relationship with one another and with God, with loving concern for bodies, desires and pain.

So that last 'we are' is about the closest I can get right now to a picture of ministry, and I think I'm ok with that.

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