Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Pick Heads Of Grain

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?" 

He said to them,"Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?" Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

Let’s pick some heads of grain.  By this I mean let’s agree that women should be deacons and even priests.  Gender is not the determinate.   It’s the commitment to God and people that should tip the balance in favor of such changes, certainly deacons.  Then again, the obstacle to such change is the doctrine called apostolic succession.  Consider the following from writer Lisa McClain:

On March 13, 2018 Pope Francis will complete his first five years as head of the Roman Catholic Church...Francis has drawn the line at extending full priesthood to women. Devout Catholics have spoken out boldly on both sides of this issue.  But, that door, Francis has repeatedly said, “is closed.”

As a scholar specializing in both the history of the Catholic Church and gender studies, I believe Francis’ refusal comes from his unwillingness to challenge a foundational Catholic doctrine known as “apostolic succession.”  The Catholic Church has historically been unwilling to violate this doctrine. Based on the Gospels of Mark and Luke, it is apostolic succession that specifies how the Catholic Church acquired its authority and its ability to save souls. God gave the power of salvation – to “bind and loose” souls – to Christ who shared it with 12 male apostles. 

When the apostles chose their successors, the first bishops, they passed the power of salvation to those bishops through the sacrament of ordination. Through ordination, bishops have endowed priests with God’s authority up to the present day.   The origins of apostolic succession can be traced to the first centuries A.D. – a time when Christianity was illegal. Jesus had left his followers with no obvious blueprint for any type of formal church or priesthood. Christians were, thus, free to worship in their own ways, trying not to get caught.

On the other hand, being a deacon does not involve apostolic succession; therefore, many ask, why not women.  I suggest that’s the head of grain that should be picked.  After all, Jesus said, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?"

Jesus recalls David's provocative action in the House of God, i.e., eating the bread offering reserved for priests.

Deacon David Pierce

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