Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jesus through the eyes of Lady Wisdom - Dr Christina Manohar

Our service on Sunday, 4th November focused on our mission partnership through the Council for World Mission and we shared in prayers prompted by Felicity's prayer pointers from her visit to Southern Africa.

We were joined by Dr Christina Monohar. Originally from the Church of South India, one of CWM's mission partners, Christina taught theology at the Union Biblical Seminary in Puna, India until four years ago. Then it was that she and her husband David came over here to do their doctorates at the University of Gloucestershire.

In 2005 Christina's Feminist Critie and Reconstruction was published by the Indian SPCK under its Women's Empowerment Programme. Her thesis explores the way in which a Pauline Spirit Christology can speak into the Indian context more effectively than a Greek influenced Logos Christology. She is looking forward to being involved in writing for the proposed South Asia Bible Commentary.

It was particularly appropriate for Christina to preach this morning in view of Felicity's involvement with the Team Visit to UCCSA.Christina took as her inspiration Proverbs chapter 8 with its description of 'Lady Wisdom' and invited us to look again at Jesus through the eyes of 'Lady Wisdom'. Her appeal to an inclusive Christianity that breaks down barriers of race, class and gender is timely.

Understanding Jesus Christ from the Perspective of Lady Wisdom

Wisdom's Eternal Presence with God
Wisdom is a fine lady who is by God’s side from everlasting before earth came into being. The book of Proverbs particularly the 8th chapter celebrates Wisdom’s eternal presence with God. Wisdom signifies divine presence and activity in female form. The lady Wisdom sits on the throne by the side of God. She is a master craftswoman who brings beauty and order out of chaos. She is the mother of all good things, fashions everything and orders everything.
Wisdom inhabits or in-dwells for that is the way of Wisdom.

Wisdom is beautiful and more precious than pearls. Wisdom cannot be sought after as if it were an object. One can only prepare a dwelling place for her. Wisdom inhabits or in dwells, for that is the way of Wisdom. It is a woman’s way. How does one prepare for Wisdom? It is not by preparation, but by simply being, that one gets ready for Wisdom. One’s readiness for Wisdom is an end in itself, not a means by which to acquire Wisdom. It is to allow oneself to be inhabited by Wisdom.

Wisdom found its abiding dwelling place in Jesus. Wisdom inhabits and indwells Jesus. Indwelling or being indwelt by the other is itself a feminine way of explaining the relationship between Jesus and Wisdom. Knowing Jesus who was indwelt by Wisdom requires a deeper understanding that goes beyond reason yet not negating reason. It is knowing from within.

Wisdom transcends reason yet does not negate reason
Pilate stood face to face before Jesus enquiring of Jesus ‘What is Truth’? trying to capture the truth by his reason, in a few palpable statements. But Pilate’s wife going beyond reason knowing who Jesus was deep within herself tried to intercede for Jesus and save Jesus’ life. Wisdom transcends reason yet does not negate reason. Wisdom relates both to an affective, sense-related, taste-related side and to an intellectual, cognitive, scientific side of life. It does not divide the world into religious and secular but provides a model for living a mysticism of everyday things.

Wisdom integrates knowledge and love, faith and work, theory and practice.
A woman stood before Jesus caught in adultery. According to the law she should be condemned to death cried all those who brought her to Jesus. Jesus was silent and in his silence he spoke a lot. This is divinity in action. The men who condemned her went away. The woman was left alone with Jesus. Jesus looked up and asked her ‘where are they?’ ‘They have gone Sir’ she replied. Neither do I condemn you. Sin no more. Not condemnation but amazing grace; not negation of life but affirmation of life; not merely knowledge of the law but knowledge and love. Not merely faith but faith and action; theory and practice.The road of Wisdom is open, democratic and inclusive.

Wisdom is a fine lady who brings all things together in harmony, establishes justice, peace and unity.
She prepares a table and invites the simple to dine with her.Jesus had an interesting conversation with a Samaritan woman. Jesus the Jew and this gentile female stranger became engaged in deep theological reflection. She was receptive to Jesus and accepted his message that God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in Spirit and Truth. Oftentimes the outsider is more receptive to Jesus’ message than his own people. Pilate’s wife pleaded for Jesus while the Jewish hierarchy, the high priests and elders pleaded for Barabbas. Very often Jesus was amazed by such great faith of the outsiders.Jesus transgresses all human made boundaries
and his table fellowship includes all

Jesus' table fellowship includes all
As the lady wisdom summons the simple to dine with her, Jesus’ table fellowship includes all. Jesus himself was a wandering charismatic, property-less proletariat one who declasses himself. Jesus transgresses all human made boundaries – boundaries between Jew and gentile, clean and unclean, sacred and secular, men and women, servant and master, rich and the poor. That is the way of Wisdom.Finally, Wisdom is sheer exuberant aliveness and inexhaustible source of new being that cannot be held in one form, one way and one pattern of thinking.Mary Magdalene in her search for Jesus in the dark and cold of early morning near the empty tomb understood that she could not hold the risen Lord. No one can hold the risen Jesus. This is the way of Wisdom. The risen Lord cannot be limited or held in certain preconceived expectations. Holding him in one form would make Easter story incomplete.

I conclude now with the prayer written by an Indian poet by name Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore, by his efforts and achievements, is part of a global network of pioneering educators, such as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori and Dewey–and in the contemporary context, Malcolm Knowles–who have striven to create non-authoritarian learning systems appropriate to their respective surroundings. In a poem that expresses Tagore’s goals for international education, he writes:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

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