Learning to see

Greetings from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.  It’s ccccold with lots of snow on the ground, but a surprising number of people have shown up for this year’s Pastor’s Week.

There’s been a lot of change here even since I graduated in 2006.  Aside from some new and upgraded buildings, and a new President, Sara Wenger Shenk, there is a whole generational turnover happening on faculty.  The baby boomers are retiring and the gen Xers are coming into leadership.  There are some really strong new professors here, and five of them are the featured speakers this week. 

The theme this year “Help me see Jesus!  Help me see, Jesus.”   

Yesterday in the morning Andy Brubacher Kaethler, Professor of Christian Formation and Culture, spoke about our need to read our culture.  There is a script, a narrative, behind assumptions and actions, and we are all living out some kind of script that we are handed or that we help create.  For example, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Andy noted that the role of the church is not to be anti-cultural, but to be counter-cultural, to provide an alternative story, a script that leads to whole-hearted living.  Jesus’ name for this was ‘the kingdom of God.’ 

In the afternoon Rachel Miller Jacobs, Professor of Congregational Formation, spoke about “Reading the Bible with Jesus.”  She highlighted the biblical phrase “the mind of Christ,” which the Apostle Paul speaks of in his letters, and suggested that this is an alternative consciousness out of which we approach the world – the same consciousness from which Jesus operated.  The most common view of Jesus is soteriological – understanding him as one who saves us.  She offered that another view of Jesus is sophiological (Sophia = wisdom) – one who teaches us how to see.  This includes seeing scripture the same way Jesus viewed his scripture, the Hebrew Bible – deemphasizing the imperial and violent parts of the tradition and always asking, ‘where is it going?’, what is it pointing to?

I find this emphasis on how we see to be encouraging.  For a long time the Mennonite Church has been strong on ethics, faith as action, putting faith into practice by loving neighbor and working to make the world better.  All good.  But the trend I’m seeing, which I find very positive, is a recovery of the mystical aspects of faith.  Faith not just what happens in front of our eyes, but what happens behind our eyes.  Faith as a new way of seeing, and that new way of seeing transforming us and the world as faith is put into action.