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22731Social Healing, Movement Constitution and Titling

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  • Gordon Raynal
    Aug 1, 2008
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      To all,

      Jeffrey Gibson's question about Paul and his lack of attribution to
      Jesus of "miracles" has led to this bit of discussion about that
      specific issue. And this had led to a brief discussion about
      whether, in fact, Jesus himself was a healer. And this, in turn, has
      raised the question about whether the NT Gospel stories we have point
      to historical "kernels" that were in some manner reframed into the
      "miracle stories" (although I really prefer the terms "signs" (for
      John's tradition) and "wonders" (for the Markan/ Synoptic
      tradition). I think I've been fairly clear about where I stand on
      these issues. What I want to do, therefore, is to perhaps generate a
      bit of conversation that is related, but goes in another direction.
      Per the title for this thread I'd be interested in a bit of
      discussion about "healing" as a social term, the place of that sort
      of healing in what Jesus and friends were up to, and then more
      generally the titling that relates to this in the context of the move
      from an association of people involved with and around Jesus to the
      birthing of an actual ongoing social structure. Obviously putting
      all this together makes for a very large set of issues to muse upon
      and discuss and I'd be interested to see where this leads and what
      sort of discussions are aroused. That said, let me lay out a few
      thoughts by beginning with Burton Mack's translation of the Q1
      "mission strategy" from "The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q & Christian
      Origins:" (page 76)

      "Go. Look, I send you out as lambs amidst wolves.
      Do not carry money, or bag, or sandals, or staff; and do not greet
      anyone on the road.
      Whatever house you enter, say, 'Peace to this house.' And if a child
      of peace is there,
      your greeting will be received [literally, "your peace will rest upon
      him"]. But if not, let
      your, let your peace return to you.
      And stay in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they
      provide, for the worker
      deserves his wages. Do not go house to house.
      And if you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before
      you. Pay attention
      to the sick and say to them, 'God's kingdom has come near to you.'
      But if you enter a town and they do not receive you, as you leave,
      shake the dust from
      your feet and say, 'Nevertheless, be sure of this, the realm of God
      has come near you.'"

      First, three brief notes. This is framed in Mark, Matthew, Luke and
      Paul as a two by two mission. In Mark 6:7ff and Matthew 10:5ff this
      is the mission for "the 12" (so Judas, too) disciples now become
      apostles ("sent ones). Luke 9:1ff has this as the mission of the 12,
      but then Jesus repeats this for "the 70 or 72" in 10:1ff. Paul
      speaks of the issue of "two" and "the right to food and drink" in I
      Cor. 9:3 in a little section on the rights of an apostle and I would
      suggest is talking about the gist of this in his words on
      reconciliation in II Cor. 5:11ff. ("a ministry of reconciliation" v.
      18). And G. Thomas 14 there is a brief version of this in a sayings
      cluster about fasting and what defiles a person. And finally the
      Didache raises the whole issue of how long apostles should stay, what
      to do if they ask for money, how to provide hospitality, what to do
      if they want to settle.

      Second, I intentionally use Mack's translation of Original Q here
      because I think his language choice about "pay attention to the sick"
      is exactly on target and points us to where "healing" on an
      individual level comes into play. This language choice points
      neither to "working miracles" nor to any specific healer/ doctor
      vocation, but rather to a general human activity of dealing with ill
      persons. This "ministry of reconciliation" (to borrow Paul's
      language) is inclusive of concern for the ill and paying attention to
      them as a core part of this ministry program. It does not call for
      special medical training, nor does it point to this most caring human
      attention in terms of an apostle being at the ready to perform
      "divine intervention" activities. Basically anyone can do this. If
      we are talking Jesus and healing, I would suggest, based on this
      multiplicity of sources, that this is what Jesus himself did. This
      general "kernel," if you will, is what is behind the much later
      creation of Jesus as a "miracle/ wonder/ signs" worker. Related to
      Jeffrey's question of why Paul doesn't mention "miracles," this is
      also a piece of that "why" as relates to healing actions in
      particular: literally everyone involved was doing this kind of
      attention paying.

      Third, the "healing part" of this ministry program is an aspect of
      "home shalom sharing," if you will. Entry sharing of intent and
      purpose, judgment of receptivity, sheltering, feeding, tending and
      summary declaration go together to form what I think is nicely
      described as a social healing action plan (again from Paul, "a
      ministry of reconciliation"). Personal healing is a part of home
      healing. Such a program is about making for healthy and peace filled
      spaces in an occupied and violent time. The immediate effects if
      this "works" is one more healthy home on the map. There's no forcing
      this to work, hence the "don't sweat rejection" part of the
      instructions (and obviously, if one tried to raise a ruckus, that
      would deny the very spirit and intention of said program). And
      contra Crossan and others, itinerancy is not so much "a lifestyle,"
      but rather a functional part of a home missional action plan. This
      program needs no special training, no special equipment, not even
      money for those who go and all of that is part of "the message."
      Again, anyone daring enough to do this in that Roman occupied world
      could do this. Back to Jeffrey's note and the responses, I also
      think this is a part of why Jesus was reified as "a miracle worker."
      It is not hard to understand that this is a very workable plan and
      that it had success. It is also not hard to understand that any
      social movement like this in an occupied land, should it take hold in
      any significant way, could indeed raise the ire of officialdom.
      There is inherent in this a clear challenge to the Pax Romani. And
      there is nothing more destabilizing to an authoritarian regime than
      to have growing numbers of healthy/ happy people who get that renewed
      sense of vitality and freedom from sources outside authoritarian
      control. And so I very much think a large piece of understanding
      Jesus as "a miracle/ wonder/ sign working healer" has to do with the
      success of the total effort. For those swept up in this "healing
      ministry," it is not hard to understand the conclusion that this was
      "miraculous!" Pointedly, I want to connect this not to abstract
      theological speculations, but rather, for example, to the liberation
      and energy that was felt in those swept up in the American Civil
      Rights movement or the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. I
      think it is most appropriate to talk about Jesus as "a healer" in the
      sense of social healer. And, of course, that word sod-zo (salvation)
      is a word with lots of healing in the connotation.

      With that noted then, three brief points:
      1. I want to suggest that it is most appropriate to use the language
      of "constitution" to refer to this program description. The
      particular directives and the action plan form a social plan pointed
      towards social change. Together, then these words serve to sum up
      what constitutes a group of people and the individuals therein.
      Initially this plan calls for individuals (in pairs) to go and
      instigate the going and doing. Likewise it includes description of
      the receiver's jobs (welcoming, peace sharing, housing, feeding,
      hearing). And with that in mind, once there is any success, a social
      network is thereby created and thus the instructional words point to
      the very heart of what got that network started and what keeps it
      going. Obviously, this, like any social constitution could have
      failed, but it that it worked is rather obvious! And so this
      gathering of words (counting that there are differences in the
      specific words in the different sources) are not just "missional,"
      but indeed "constitutional" in nature.

      2. Such an action plan inherently leads to "a social formation,"
      should it "work." Once this is the case, then the whole question of
      organizational maintenance and development comes into play. Paul
      provides for us his take on the necessary personnel for this
      maintenance and development and the ordering of these personnel in I
      Cor. 12:28 and note his language:
      "God has appointed (not Jesus!) in the church first apostles, second
      prophets, third teachers, then deeds of power, then gifts of healing,
      forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues."
      Twenty some years out and now talking about "really out," namely
      Corinth. It is rather oddly stated in that Paul moves from 3 jobs
      (apostle, prophet, teacher) to five work descriptions (deeds of
      power, whatever those are?, healing, assistance, leadership and
      interpretation). Therefore how many of these kinds of works any
      given individual could do is left hanging. But in light of the above
      this text fascinates me because it shows how the constitution led to
      a growing bureaucracy and it gives us a glimpse of that some 20 years
      out:)! Then there were a lot of jobs and the need to organize them,
      rank them and deal with the issue of power and position in terms of
      them. Paul, himself, spends a fair stretch of words to defend that
      he belongs up there in the first tier (being an apostle) and yet also
      wants to talk about the equality in this social movement. And back
      to healers, once more, the work is listed separately from that of the
      title of apostle and so one can take from this both that perhaps not
      all the apostles of the 50's were tending to healing (????) and that
      there were folks who were adept at this and that this was their
      special job (????). Notably no indication is given in this passage
      about Jesus, himself, in regard to any of these jobs and again, it is
      God who has appointed the jobs and not Jesus.

      3. And this brings me to giving Jesus titles in relationship to this
      social constitution. Often the discussion of the titles applied to
      Jesus takes off from theology or from what he thought of himself or
      the opinions others had about him. Others begin this conversation in
      terms of some framework of "myth-making." I think it would be
      helpful to carry on with a discussion of the titles in relationship
      to constitution and social formation. From the above paragraph and
      the notation about constitution leading to bureaucracy, I want to
      suggest that this social development plays a key role in the choice
      and then the development of the core titles that were later applied
      to Jesus and that the growth in those titles goes hand in hand with
      the social development related to "the success" of the movement.
      Further, different established and developing communities, not
      surprisingly, emphasized different clusters of those titles in
      different ways. And this helps us account for the richness of the
      titling and so the need to bring some ordering to the titling. In
      this regard, the language of salvation/ savior does dig to the heart
      of this work of this social constitution and its success. And
      finally back to Jeffrey's original note and the brief discussion
      we've had about Jesus as a healer, I want to suggest in addition to
      what I said above, that for those who were bound together by this
      form of social healing, that the real potency of the renown of Jesus
      as "a miracle working healer" is not found in comparison to quite
      ordinary individual folk healers (the only kind the ancient world
      really had), but precisely in the social success of this whole
      program in both its individual and social effects for those involved
      in it. So rather than focus on this "myth making" or
      "theologizing" (whichever you prefer) as primarily an intellectual
      and speculative endeavor, I would suggest we think of it as a social
      organization endeavor in light of both the received Scriptural
      traditions and the received social/ political/ religious realities of
      the time this titling work was going on. Simply put, a social praxis
      leads to a social entity which in turn develops. Titling develops
      with that and the expansion of that titling grows in relationship to
      the growth of social institution. I think focusing on this will help
      us better understand the why's and wherefore's of what we see and
      also help do at least propose some tracing of the development in a
      time where we have extremely scant resources.

      Comments? Thoughts? Challenges?

      One final note about Jesus. I said in my note to Daniel yesterday
      that I do not believe "prophet" is really a very good description for
      the man Jesus, himself, but belongs to one of those later
      attributions about him. Positively this assessment comes from the
      assessment that I think Jesus' memorable speech is that of aphorisms
      and parables and the resources we have do provide "a voice
      print" (and I think some direct quotes) from Jesus. This genre of
      speech places him in the very long and living Israelite tradition of
      wisdom communicators (for the ascribed roots of this look at Moses
      words in Deut. 4:5-8 and for the developed roots of this look at
      wisdom communications in Job, wisdom Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes,
      Song of Songs, the aphorisms in the Prophetic literature and then on
      to Ben Sira, etc. There **is** a long, broad and strong wisdom
      heritage in the Israelite tradition!) Aside from that collection of
      wisdom stories and sayings and a brief list of general biographical
      details (like born sometimes before or after Herod the Great's death,
      hometown of Narareth, mom named Mary, dad probably named Joseph, 4
      brothers, some number of sisters, various kin relations among his
      earliest associates, put forth this mission praxis in the reign of
      Pontius Pilate and focused in Galilee and was killed some year in
      Pontius Pilate's presence via crucifixion... 30? 31?) this is all I
      can figure out from the resources we have about the life of the man
      named Jesus. And so to give him a title or job description? Sage is
      a general term. Speaker of aphorisms and parables is more direct.
      And actually I like the term of "rabbi," but understand all the
      troubles that arouses. But then to that "sage" title, I would also
      say "community organizer" with the above words understood as being
      constitutional to what it was that was organized. And I want to end
      this note by saying that I really think all the other titles applied
      to Jesus make best sense when understood in relationship to this
      social formation. And so, for instance, when Caesar communicated on
      coins and temples across the empire was hailed as "son of God,"
      "Divine," "Savior," "establisher of the Heavenly Pax," and patron to
      all the temples (including Aesclepius'), I do not think it is
      surprising at all that a social praxis that became an enduring social
      movement dug into the Scriptural heritage to counter those Roman
      social order affirmations with counter affirmations of their own.
      And so I want to suggest that this approach to thinking about social
      healing as the heart of this constitution is central to understanding
      Jesus, earliest Christianity and so the issue of titling of the one
      reputed to have inaugurated this praxis which became a social
      movement. And so as regards healing, the real issue of renown is
      fundamentally tied to the social reality that this movement became a
      growing institution. Even if Jesus were a particularly effective
      folk healer (and again, it is fine by me, if he were) the real meat
      in the attribution is rooted in the social effect that participants
      experienced by their involvement in said institution.

      Well, this is a rather long note. But this list has been mostly
      quiet for a long time. I got my week's work done and so I offer this
      to stir some thought and conversation. I am mostly interested to
      hear others thoughts and reflections. So, thank you in advance if
      this stirs up some interesting thoughts and reflections.

      Gordon Raynal
      Inman, SC

      p.s. as usual... I was a C student in typing in HS:)! To this day I
      write sermons and lessons long hand. So pardon any goofs in that
      regard!
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