by Harry Banks
by Harry Banks, October 23, 2014
I haven’t been able to make myself read all through the daily reports of the Annual Council. I’ve been too heartbroken.
For the past several months I’ve been hanging out around John 17 — you know, the prayer of Jesus just after the last supper and before his crucifixion. As you may remember, it is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus we have. I don’t know why but it seems like I need to hang out there to see if I can catch the smell, the tension, the calm, the inspiration and the dread of the moment the great hinge of history was to turn.
For several weeks I’ve just been trying to comprehend verse 6, where he tells his Father, “I have manifested your name. . . ” What a strange phrase. . . What would I think if my neighbor came over to my house and said, “I have manifested your name to the new people that moved in next door”?
What exactly do you do when you manifest? I don’t care if you use some of the other translated words, such as “reveal”; the questions still come. Do you talk? Do you act? Do you love? Do you hate? Do you touch? Do you avoid? Do you forgive? Do you rebuke?
When I told Larry, at the Sabbath morning Bible study at the In His Step Community Fellowship about my reflections on “manifest,” he said “manifest” would represent “all” that Christ did and taught and was.
OK, I agree that is probably a true statement but “all” is not very descriptive… Have you noticed that when you include “all,” you lose the detail?
It reminds me of the mother who was encouraging Johnny to eat his string beans. “Just think of all the starving children in China.” To which Johnny replied, “Name five.”
So I got to wondering… What would be the top 10 items that should be noted to give a sketch of what manifesting is about?
OK… so I’m not ready to commit to the list yet… But I’d be glad to hear what you think should make the list.
I have gotten far enough to realize that Jesus would be the only one who really could “manifest” a perfect, divine, Father. We might give witness to such a manifestation… And we might reflect… But “manifest”?… Yeah, I’m thinking that’s a little out of the reach of Mr. and Ms. Finite.
Then there is that “I have manifested your name.” How do you manifest a name? Which raises the question, what’s in a name? What makes up a name?
What are you actually manifesting when you manifest a “name”? Could this idea of “name” be much more multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, multi-multi, than our ideas of dictionaries, names, and definitions?
When I was working with database stuff I had tables and tables of data (2D). One of my applications had 1,200 tables; one table had 2.8 million records. One day I picked up an article on data mining where they talked about extracting information for what they called a data cube (3D). A couple of years later I was talking with my replacement, and he was describing even more dimensions and facets to data structures. Could that have any resemblance to this John 17 idea of a “name”? Sorry, I don’t have any answers here… and this is about as far as I have gotten on John 6… haven’t even touched the “ones you gave me” part.
So I haven’t gotten very far on my working through John 17… but there is a part coming up that keeps lurking in my peripheral awareness…
It’s the part where Jesus appeals to his Father to intervene on behalf of those “which thou gavest me” “that they may be one.”
Hmm… OK… so within 24 hours this contentious bunch of disloyal, uncomprehending ones “thou gavest me” (disciples) are going to encounter the crisis of their lives.
What is missing from this picture? There is no loyalty oath being passed around for signature. And even those who avow loyalty will fail miserably. There is no threat of job loss for anyone having a misconception of the GPS coordinates for heaven (remember Philip… just tell us and we will follow…). And after this crisis the disciples didn’t spend their time writing position papers getting ready for Pentecost.
I really do not mean to depreciate the prayerful careful work of our research teams and study task groups. But observe that Jesus seemed to think that he needed divine Father intervention to implement “that they may be one.” Perhaps as well researched and well positioned for full authority in governance as our finite efforts might be, we may still fail if we slip in our “abiding” (John 15).
Again, I don’t mean to find fault… I just mean to remind myself that if I’m ever to grow toward unity with my fellow sinners (whom Paul calls “saints”) it will have to come from a divine source. (I use the term “sinners” to highlight the necessity for divine redemptive intervention.)
Like I said at the beginning, I have been too brokenhearted to finish reading the daily accounts. It seems the jockeying for position, the covert and overt coercions, is so far removed from this prayer for unity at this point of the crisis of the universe.
The other prayer I find myself drawn to frequently is the prayer of Daniel in chapter 9. Why is it that it is a government statesman rather than a priest who prays, “We have sinned and committed iniquity…”?
Should we even expect our “church” leaders to be capable of enforcing unity? Historically prominent institutional leadership in scripture times seemed to fail frequently. After all, I’m human and very flawed. Why should I expect more from others?
I do believe I need to join Daniel in confessing “our” wickedness, our indifference, our corporate “gong show” (remember 1 Corinthians 13: without love we are like a sounding brass).
Some things I feel I need to confess…
Regardless of our views on “headship,” “creation,” “job threats,” how can we not hold Brother Ted up in prayer for the trials he and his family are enduring?
So the leadership ducks the responsibility of leading the way on some issues… (I didn’t say I hadn’t read any of the reports… I just said I hadn’t read all of the reports).
So just how long did it take the church to agree on Christ’s being “fully God and fully human”? Maybe 200, 250 years. Our entire denominational history isn’t even that old. “The nature of Christ” was just one of the basics, not some 28 of a future 150… (OK, so I’m just being contentious… The Council of Jerusalem reduced requirements… they didn’t expand them. I don’t know if anybody has noticed that.)
And about the threat of job loss… What kind of “faith” do I have if I’m intimidated by administrative bullying? One of the quotes shared at the passing of Bill Loveless… “And courage is always necessary.”
And since part of my career I’ve been a systems analyst, I learned that sometimes there can be a need to reframe issues and perspectives…
I’ve been wondering lately if part of our problem stems from the fact that our hybrid Methodist Episcopal system for General Conference, Union, and Conference administration (remember, it is congregational for the local church) and our idea of ordination (which is different from laying on of hands) are really Roman Catholic trappings we have not shaken off; and may contribute to the problem we seem to have resolving other issues. Could we be trying to solve them in the wrong framework? Sorry, just thought I’d ask?
So back to the heartache… How can a people who seem to be just as contentious as disciples at a last supper, just as disloyal, just as unknowing, ever find the love, forgiveness, encouragement, faith, patience, and courage to “be one” without the Father’s divine intervention? As I mentioned before, I do have a “Master of the Universe” certificate… but it was made very clear to me that there is no local or heavenly jurisdiction for a finite holder of such a certificate.
I’m thinking we all might need to join in the Daniel prayer club… Confess our corporate evil; and beg, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake” (Daniel 9:19, KJV).