Tuesday, 23 May 2017
What is an Apostle Any Way?
A few days ago, I finished reading Miracles, By C.S. Lewis. I should say re-reading but it was as if I was reading it for the first time (wish I had the kind of memory that would retain more of what I read the first time). This is the best exploration of the phenomenon and theological implications of miracles that I know of. It was recommended by a professor when I was studying theology at Huron University College. I would recommend it to anyone struggling with the concept of miracles, biblical or otherwise.
In the opening sentence of the chapter, Miracles in the New Creation, Lewis declares, “In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection.” This reactivated a memory from some years ago when I was challenged on this definition. I was at one of the intensives (residential session) for my training as a Dream Group Facilitator with the Haden Institute. Someone asked me how I would define an apostle. Apparently, someone in their group had a dream about being an apostle. I defined it the way that Lewis was speaking of it i.e. someone who had seen the risen Christ. The person did not like this definition as it did not fit with her understanding. She referred me to passages in the Gospels which referred to the disciples as Apostles which was prior to the crucifixion. Unfortunately, I had not thought much about this definition and was not able to support this definition in what I considered a satisfactory way.
As Lewis notes, when two candidates where proposed to fill the vacancy in the inner circle of disciples created by the betrayal and death of the Judas their qualification was that they had known Jesus before and after his crucifixion and could offer first-hand evidence of the Resurrection in spreading the Good News of Christ resurrected i.e. the Gospel, to the world. St. Paul claimed to be an apostle on this basis, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus?”
I had been introduced to this concept but, as I note, I was not able to give an apology for that position, at least to my satisfaction. This bothered me for some time afterwards. This was actually because my ego was wounded and I felt inadequate. Here I was a priest (fairly newly minted) but did not have a good grasp on what was a basic concept in Christians theology. In effect, I did not look on this encounter as the opportunity it was to engage the person more fully and to explore where they were coming from. My ego got in the way of an opportunity to engage life and people more fully which is what we are called to do as Christian. What was most important to me was proving myself right and the other person wrong.
I believe that the ego is the one of God’s greatest gift to humanity. It can be considered part of how we are created in God’s image. It is a blessing; however, it can also be a curse. The ego, in its normal state will believe that it is charge; that it is the center of life. It does not surrender that position of self-deluded primacy easily. It is usually a long journey for the ego to reached its proper place which is being in service to God rather than believing that God should serve it. However, that is what we are called to be and do as Christians―in service to God and God’s creation. Perhaps that could be a working definition of apostle, one who is in the service of God in the world. Thanks be to God.
Blessing on your journey.