7:31 AM

Mt. 26-28, a theological consideration (Julie)

Matthew 10 as a whole has often been appropriated as a classic text for gleaning insights for the development of ecclesiology. The commissioning and sending forth of the twelve represents the archetype for the founding and mission (and authority) of the institutional Church, called from its very roots to participate in that exitus/reditus action of God's love: going forth that they may return to the Father. In light of this, I'd like to pose a question to the text from the perspective of the way in which we understand church as community, in particular, I wonder about the way in which the passage may or may not (or may be altogether silent) encourage deliberation within the Church for the carrying out of mission. To direct our attention to a particular place where exegetically there might be some careful thinking required, I point to Mt. 26-28.

"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that ill not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."

The pronoun "you" in this passage, as in other places in Mt. 10, seems a bit ambiguous. Clearly, Jesus is speaking to a collective "you" as a general rule in the passage. However, a collective "you" can imply "you" as a single unit, or "you" as a collection of "yous." (The distinction being that in the former, Tommy's instruction "you all write papers" would mean that we all write a single paper together, and in the latter case, we each as individuals in a collection write individual papers). Now, it seems in some sense that both the former and the latter are implied in Mt. 10. The former is implied because he sends forth the twelve as a unity, working together toward the single end of the mission. Arguably, the latter also seems to be implied because they refer to things that one does on one's own -- individual acts of speaking (v. 20), being persecuted (23), handed over (17). The most particular case might be the text quoted above: whispering in one's ear suggests a very individual experience of inspiration for the mission.

It is this final case of an image that might suggest an individual whispering or inspiration for mission that I think requires a careful interpretation. To put the matter in the form of a question: are we a church of individually inspired members, or a unity with a single inspiration? Do we carry out missions on the basis of how we hear Jesus speak to us as individuals, or do we quiet what we take to be our own stirrings in light of what we decide as Church?

I really can't offer a resolution to this question yet, particularly on the basis of Mt 10 alone, but I will say that I think that there might only be two options here. Given that Jesus perpetually refers to "you" in what sound like individual terms, I think what is implied by the passage is either an ecclesiology of individuals, or a highly unified church (a church that is one individual).

Comment (1)

Consider this question: How does a community act in one of its members? Is that possible/intelligible? Does the community's agency exhaust what one of its members does? Language is perhaps a good analogy. Clearly we do not act in isolation through our "mother tongue." One's mother tongue constrains/enables her activity in/through it. And yet, a mother tongue does not impose absolute closure on what one does in/through it. It has a certain elasticity whereby one can do something *with* it.

Perhaps we discover our individuality in and through the gifts of others, such that our individuality and unity are not competitive (i.e., zero sum) but constitutive one of the other, with christologically determined but therefore infinite future possibility.

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