Guest lecturer Joel B. Green used the example of Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath to encourage Samford University students to not be like those who were critical of the Lord’s action.
Perhaps they have at times been treated as an uninvited guest, or acted like the unwelcoming synagogue rulers, Green suggested during his September 18 talk as this year’s Holley-Hull lecturer at Samford.
“Consider ways you might be the one who brings healing, reaches out, gives names to the nameless,” urged Green, dean of the School of Theology and professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
The passage from Luke chapter 13 describes how Jesus rebuked his hypocritical opponents who would feed their animals on the Sabbath but disapproved of his setting the woman free of her bondage of physical deformity.
Even accepting that the conventions of the first century were different from today’s, Green said, “We can still appreciate something of the woman’s problem. She’s not like the rest of us. She’s an outsider—overlooked, unconsidered, practically non-existent.”
“We might pity her, but only at a distance. If she follows us, we don’t follower her back,” he said, using social media jargon. “Her texts go unanswered. When choosing lab partners we turn away. She isn’t us, but them; she’s not in, but out.”
Jesus, however, sees her as an insider. “’Here, sit with us. Friend her! Follow her. Include her,’ he seems to say.”
“Jesus overturns the way folks value things normally, and his opponents who value the wrong things, turn away in shame. They fail to understand and execute God’s agenda in the world,” said Green, the author of more than 40 books and numerous essays and reviews.
What Jesus did in the story isn’t unusual, he said. “It’s pretty much what we see him doing throughout his ministry. It is only one part of a giant story in which he fulfills his mission to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, restore sight to the blind, and release the oppressed.”
The biblical story reminds him, Green said, of a situation he encountered while speaking to a group of church leaders about being good stewards of the gifts of the spirit.
The meeting in the plush, seldom-used parlor of the church, he said, was interrupted by an intruder. The woman, whose apparel immediately deemed her out of place, asked if the church had a place to address the healing and spiritual care needs of the community. After an awkward silence, the head deacon responded: “Well, there are other churches in town.”
Green’s largely student audience in Reid Chapel got the message.
The program included a dialogue between Samford minister to students April Robinson and students Juliana Guzman and Meg Kellenberger.
Guzman, from Colombia, South America, and Kellenberger, who has used a wheelchair all of her life, each related challenges they’ve faced at Samford and offered advice on how the campus community can be more welcoming.
Guzman, for whom English is a second language, said that while Samford people are extremely hospitable, she sometimes has to assure them that she understands English better than it may seem. Her advice on getting to know people who may seem different from the norm is simple. “Be nice to everybody,” she says. “We’re all different in our own ways, and we can all learn from each other.”
Kellenberger told how as a freshman she had to scout out handicapped entrances that weren’t well marked, and suggested that event planners consider accessibility of venues. “Don’t be afraid to ask me questions,” said Kellenberger, who believes that a sense of humor, a good attitude and “how you live your life“ can have a positive impact on others. “Be mindful of people who may not have the same body that you do,” she advised.
The Howard L. and Martha H. Holley Lectures—New Testament Voices for a Contemporary World, honor the late William E. Hull, former Samford research professor and provost who wrote widely on Christian themes. The lectures are sponsored by Samford’s Department of Religion.
The audience in Reid Chapel included the Holley’s son and daughter, Warren Holley and Nancy Holley Capicik.
As part of the lecture series, Green also spoke at Mountain Brook Baptist Church and to a faculty group at Samford.