Monday, January 23, 2012


 JesusMAFA 'The Possessed'

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. So says St Paul in this week’s Epistle, thereby seeming to endorse the line in a famous Beatles’ song – ‘All you need is Love’! This emphasis on love fits in very well with a widely held belief that feelings are much more important than theological doctrines when it comes to Christian faith. Yet, in the very next paragraph Paul emphasizes the importance of not mistaking idols for the one true God. This is knowledge not everyone has, he says, and it can make a crucial difference. So is love enough or not? Or do we need real knowledge of God as well? 

The other two readings throw some light on this important issue. The Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy could not make it plainer that God uses prophets -- people of special insight who will reveal his Word -- and that one such prophet will stand out from all the rest.  The Gospel passage casts Jesus in this light -- as someone who teaches, but an authority greater than all the other prophets. The heart of this short episode is to be found in the opening paragraph, in fact, because the extraordinary power to heal demented people that he subsequently demonstrates, is taken as evidence of this special prophetic authority.

Theological speculation can indeed be a kind of knowledge that puffs up. People often attain impressive expertise in a sophisticated intellectual enterprise that, in reality, has little to do with knowing how to live a life of faith.  At the same time, it wrong to infer that this means Christians should abandon reason in favor of emotion. John’s Gospel describes Jesus as ‘the Truth’. Elsewhere Paul tells us that ‘the Truth’ will set us free. It can only do so if we know what it is – a task God has given us minds to work on.
JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings were selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings. Courtesy of the jean and Alexander Herd Divinity Library

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