On Julian of Norwich

Recently, Dr. W. Travis McMaken at Lindenwood University, where I’m currently adjuncting, asked if we could have a conversation on Julian of Norwich, who features prominently in my research. I said sure, and it’s now on Youtube.

This year, I’ve presented three papers on Julian of Norwich, comparing her theology to Augustine (AAR Midwest); Anne Dutton (NABPR); and Paul Fiddes (Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy). All of these figures speak about theosis, though not as we may expect.

There are many things I appreciate about Julian.  She is a theologian, teacher, and a pastor. Her writings articulate her care for her community, her awe of God, and her desire to express the Triune God’s extravagant love to a people whose parents had witnessed the plague; whose church had been less than trustworthy, and whose leaders were intent on maintaining the status quo.

Here’s the video:  Continue reading “On Julian of Norwich”

A Couple of Observations on Spirit-Christology

The past few books on Christology I’ve read all mentioned something to the effect of emphasizing a Spirit-Christology rather than emphasizing a two-natures (what might be called Chalcedonian Christology). Spirit Christology recognizes and emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s work in Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, passion, resurrection, exaltation. Chalcedonian Christology (articulating Jesus as fully human, fully divine) may focus on communicatio idiomatum–how the human and divine attributes function in the span of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, exaltation.

Those articulating a Spirit-Christology would not want to abolish categories related to Chalcedonian Christology. The authors  would suggest that Spirit-Christology allows for Jesus to be connected with the tradition of the prophets, and perhaps is more holistic than Chalcedonian-Christology. 

Both Chalcedonian Christology and Spirit-Christology have scriptural support. For the advocates of emphasizing Spirit-Christology, they see Chalcedonian Christology as focusing arguments on the natures of Jesus that could (though unintentionally) lead to harm. An example would be if only Jesus’ humanity suffers on the cross, does God really identify with humanity? How could Jesus be fully incarnate if he did not experience the suffering in both his divinity and his humanity?

What I’ve found interesting about those advocating for an emphasis on Spirit-Christology is the disparate persons who advocate for it:

  • Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a feminist New Testament scholar, who articulates Jesus as the prophet of Sophia (Wisdom, often thought of as the Holy Spirit in Proverbs.)
  • Marcus Borg, who sees Jesus as following the Spirit resonant in his work on the historical Jesus. (Interestingly,  Schüssler Fiorenza criticizes the historical Jesus movement because of its lack of consideration of how its own paradigms include biases supported by patriarchal (she uses “kyriarchial”) frameworks. I read these works back to back, which was fun.)
  • Sammy Alfaro claims that a Spirit-Christology can help Hispanic Pentecostals articulate a Christology reflective of their context. He views Jesus as the Divino Compañero, who accompanies Hispanics in their struggles. He turns toward Hispanic Pentecostal hymns for support, perceiving a pneumatic Christology in them.
  • Jürgen Moltmann suggests an eschatological Christology can include the Spirit and hold that together with the two-natures Christology. Jesus’ ministry is inaugurated at baptism with the sending of the Spirit, and Jesus relies upon the Spirit throughout his life and work. With Moltmann, pneumatology and Christology are always interconnected with one another.

For my own work (humility and pneumatology), it seems that discussions on humility are situated within the context of Christology, and particularly kenosis (Phil. 2:5-11). An emphasis on Spirit-Christology could allow me a way to speak of humility within the loci of pneumatology, and hopefully look beyond the kenosis hymn and the crucifixion for traces of humility the doesn’t equal humiliation.

Of course, my own ideas on this are rough, but that’s a part of this process, right?

An Ascension Day Sermon

Ascension Sunday

This past Sunday, I was the supply preacher at Webster Groves Baptist Church, MO (suburban St. Louis). I preached on John 17:9-20. My grandmother and cousin came, and the church welcomed us all warmly—and even greeted me on their sign! (This was a first for me, so naturally I was excited.)

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Here are some things I learned and some points about the text and the Ascension that I found interesting:

  • Not many people speak about the ascension. I remember listening to a sermon by Danielle Shroyer, who made this point. (Unfortunately, I cannot find the link to that sermon!) The challenge then is why the Ascension is important theologically and in our faith.
  • The giving of the word is interesting. The Gospel writer uses “logos” for the singular forms of “word” in the text. The plural form of “words” in the prayer is a different Greek word. I wonder if the giving of the word is Jesus giving of himself.
  • Eugene Rogers sees this prayer in John as a prayer of humility. Using Julian of Norwich’s concept of homely courtesy, he claims that Jesus’ prayer and Ascension gives room for the Spirit to act. Jesus’ ascension becomes an act of love. He would say that this is not a move that would affirm Joachim of Fiore’s notion of the epochs (Father is one age, Son is another, Spirit is another); rather, this move affirms that the Spirit and the Son work together. The Pentecost does not happen without the Ascension.
  • This means, that through the Spirit, we are to do what Jesus would do.
  • It is hard to preach on this prayer and not go 10 different ways—this text is rich. I probably included too much, and also left a lot out!

Resources used in formulating this sermon:

Batchelor, Mary, compiler. The Doubleday Prayer Collection. New York: Bantam Doulbeday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1996. I’ve used this prayer collection quite a bit, from devotionals to teaching, as it contains prayers from a variety of the great cloud of witnesses around the world.

Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, Lent through Eastertide: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. The Feasting on the Word series is a commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary. It contains theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical reflections for each of the Scriptures.

Julian of Norwich. Showings. Edited by James Walsh and Edmund Colledge. New York: Paulist Press, 1978. This is from the series Classics of Western Spirituality, which includes critical introductions and notes on translation. If you are interested in Christian mysticism, this would be the series to check out. (Julian’s one of my favorite theologians, by the way.)

Rogers, Eugene F. After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources Outside the Modern West. London: SCM, 2006. He wants to affirm that the Spirit and the Son always work together; thus, he explores the Spirit’s role in the narrative of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, Ascension, and the Pentecost in conversation with Eastern and Western theologians.

You can access the audio of the sermon here. It begins around 29 minutes.

I’ll be preaching there again on May 31st—Trinity Sunday!

Why is the Ascension important for our faith? What happens when we overlook the Ascension?

 

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