Daily Reflection
September 3rd, 2004
Barbara Dilly
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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As much as we profess our jubilation in the promise of equity in God’s judgment, most of us don’t live like we believe it or even like it that way.  The dispute among the disciples about which of them was considered to be the greatest gets reenacted everyday in everyone of our lives in some way or another.  And the drama gets either tragic or comedic when those who exercise authority over others begin to act like they think they are better than those they are supposed to serve.  “You are not to be like that,” Jesus admonishes us.  “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”  The authority we have as ministers of God’s mercy should give us the confidence to preach God’s truth as servants to others, not from positions of personal authority.  The light of the knowledge of God in Christ is of God, not of our own doing, reminds St. Paul. 

As I reflect on how to keep those admonitions to heart, I think about the reference to jars of clay.  We have to be careful to not think that we have the final word on God’s judgment.   Clay jars are fragile; they aren’t as permanent as we might like them to be.  Using them requires care.  We can’t use our knowledge of God’s truth to deceive others.  We can’t distort it for our own purposes.  And we have to respect everyone’s ability to draw on that truth as well as our ability to do so.  It gives us pause to consider that when we think we know God’s truth for our lives and for others, not everyone might see it that way.  We can sure get into some conflicts with each other, even in the fellowship of other Christians, when we seek to discern God’s absolute truth on the issues that confront our daily lives. 

I got some help reflecting on we can negotiate this problem of Christian life a few Sundays ago when I visited a former congregation where I had been a member during my undergraduate years at UCLA.  It is an inner city ELCA congregation that has difficulty retaining pastors because of its many challenges to traditional forms of authority.  But the lay leadership is strong in that congregation.  The members have learned to care for each other and their many forms of brokenness as they would care for treasures in jars of clay.  On this particular Sunday, the lay pastor warned us of the dangers of interpreting the Bible on our own for our own purposes.  “That’s what some people are doing when they ask ‘what would Jesus do,’” he said.  We are to think about what Jesus did say, and act on that, rather than speculate on what Jesus would do in situations that would serve our own ends.  The best way to be sure that we live in the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God is to go directly to the source, and keep studying it carefully.  

This fall all the Christian congregations of every denomination are reorganizing their youth and adult education programs for the new educational year.  I look forward to participating in them as much as I look forward to the fall semester at Creighton.  These lessons challenge me to participate in the search for truth as one who serves, not as one in authority just because I have a Ph.D.  If I am as open to new knowledge as the youngest freshman on the first day of class, I might be a better witness to the truth than if I profess to know it all already.     

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