I was talking with a small group today about the resurrection of Jesus and I mentioned how I’d been to a seminar where the guide shared a picture of Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. She showed us how Mary’s neck was extended, her jaw up, baring her throat. It was an act of vulnerable submission.
When we act with vulnerability we demonstrate submission to another. Christ-followers are called to take that position with each other. We are called, each one, to make ourselves vulnerable to the other followers around us. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 says at the top of one of Scripture passages that is a great challenge to many in our culture as it outlines a relationship between a wife and husband. This works if that first admonition is adhered to well. The wife in the passage following is simply told to make herself vulnerable to her husband, but the husband is given explicit instructions to make himself vulnerable to the wife in the manner of a body servant – one intimately knowledgeable, caring and helpful to another in bathing or dressing. Husbands are to be vulnerable to the wife as if they were caring for their own body. A radical statement in the culture of the time… if not our own.
But, how frightening to consider living in such a manner generally with other Christians. Yet, each time I get into the pulpit, I am called to submit myself to every other person in that room. That can mean that my vulnerability is just providing ammunition to those who are looking for weakness. Each time we admit to the truth, expose our neck, we leave ourselves open to utter destruction. Why act in such a manner?
The reason I believe this must be part of my preaching is because we preachers must live out our “fear of the Lord.” It can’t be just talk. The reverence we have for Christ demands that we not be afraid of how people will use our words, use our stories of limitations or frailty or faults… not above our trust in the Lord. Our fears must be mixed into our trust because that is the formula of courage.
If we’re trying to hold onto a job or trying not to offend or trying to not reveal so much that we make others uncomfortable, we’ll miss the opportunity to speak into the ears of those who are angry or sad to the point of despair or just broken. Those who wonder if there is hope in the world are the ones for whom we bare our throats.
I’ve learned that in doing this, personally and out of the pulpit, with those I think may be friends, I can seem confusing or challenging, as if I’ve said too much. But, I’ve learned that those folks intended to be colleagues. And sometimes it is best to be colleagues or acquaintances. But, when I find the one who bares their neck back to me in response to my own… I credit that as a marvel… and as the body of Christ.