Monday Morning in the Preacher’s Study
First thoughts about next Sunday’s sermon
(15th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept. 6, 2015)
Living our Baptismal Promise from a Perspective of Privilege
What does it mean to live out our baptismal promise from a perspective of privilege?
The Johari Window is a psychological tool for understanding how we and others see ourselves. The four panes in the window represent four perspectives: what is known to oneself and known to others (Open); what is not known to oneself but is known to others (Blind); what is known to oneself but not to others (Hidden); and what is not known either to oneself or to others (Unknown).
Privilege often puts us in the Blind pane. Others, especially those less powerful or privileged, know what motivates and informs our actions in ways we are unable to see.
The words of Proverbs were spoken in a context of privilege, addressed to people of power and wealth in the royal courts of David and Solomon, people seeking insight and good judgment in the conduct of their daily affairs. Such people sought out the sages to help enlarge the “Open” windowpane of Wisdom.
Among his own people, Jesus addressed his message to the poor and the privileged alike, though often with a different emphasis for different audiences. But Mark’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman seems to reveal that his religious privilege as a male Jewish rabbi almost blinded him to the faith and humanity of a woman outside that system.
Similarly, the assemblies of the faithful to whom James addresses his letter were at risk of being blinded by cultural privilege. Though probably mixed congregations of Jews and Gentiles, they were so influenced by the Roman practice of honouring those of wealth and status that they were unable to see its inherent contradiction with Jesus’ gospel message of good news to the poor.
The struggle to create Christian Eucharistic communities where no distinctions are made between people of privilege and people of poverty and low station is apparent throughout the New Testament. It was to such a Eucharistic community in Corinth that Paul complained that “one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.” (1 Cor. 11.21) It was from such a community in Acts 6 that seven men were selected initially to facilitate the equitable distribution of resources among the Hebrews and the Hellenist widows.
Like the emergent Christian congregations of Palestine for whom James’ letter was intended, we North American Christians live in a dominant culture that honours wealth and power and relegates the poor and the “other” to sit at our feet, a culture that is all too often repeated in our Sunday worshipping communities.
Our baptismal promise serves as a kind of “Johari Window”, inviting us to narrow the pane of blindness to our own privilege and status, and to enlarge the windowpane of openness and generosity. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
Our Eucharistic communities are places where we can rehearse relationships of love and justice, where we can learn to adopt and live by countercultural values, showing equal respect to all who enter our church doors, and leaving them strengthened by faith to show works of justice, generosity, and respect in all our doings.
Maylanne Maybee, a member of APLM Council, is a deacon serving in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land (Anglican Church of Canada). She is Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies, a national theological school based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.