Posts Tagged 'power'

For June 30, 2013: Proper 8, Year C

The Reading            2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

We resume our review of the history of God’s people with the second book of Kings. Today’s reading tells how Elisha inherits the mantle—literally—of his adoptive father, the great prophet Elijah. Elisha requests a double share of Elijah’s spirit not from greed but because that is the proper share of the true heir. Elisha certainly needs it to serve as God’s voice to the kings of Israel and Judah, who as often as not turn their backs on God.

The Response            Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 Page 693, BCP

“I will cry aloud to God; I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.”

The Epistle            Galatians 5:1,13-25

Some members of the church at Galatia argued that being circumcised and keeping the Jewish feasts meant that one could do whatever one wanted otherwise. In today’s Epistle reading, Paul argues forcefully to the contrary. It’s worth pointing out that, of the fifteen works of the flesh he cites, more than half are clear offenses against other people: that is, failures to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The Gospel            Luke 9:51-62

“They said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them.”

 

Further thoughts

A common theme in all three of today’s reading is the connection between power and love.

The reading from 2 Kings omits the verses in which, at the stopping points in the journey of Elijah and Elisha, all the other prophets of Yahweh keep asking Elisha whether he knows that his master will be taken from him. One suspects that they dare not approach the powerful prophet Elijah himself, so instead they test his apprentice’s power. The relationship between Elijah and Elisha is not merely a master-apprentice relationship, however: Elijah has been Elisha’s father in all but the biological sense. It is the love between them that gives Elisha the power to stay with Elijah in spite of being told he may leave, to the very end; one senses also that Elisha’s stubborn love is a greater comfort to Elijah on his final journey than the great man would like to let on; and it may well be as much a sense of loss more than anything else that impels Elisha to make the first test of the power that he has inherited.

The passage from Galatians is less symbolic. Paul explains—perhaps with some exasperation—that the salvation of God confers power, but not the power to do whatever one darned well pleases irrespective of the effects on others: it is instead the power in others’ lives that one gains without seeking it through reliably acting in love, and it is the power of each exercise of love to heal and hallow the worn and aching hearts in this worn and aching world.

Jesus underlines the point by living it. His followers must not throw their weight around, nor have they leave to expect wealth, renown, acceptance, or even a place to stay that isn’t someone else’s to give. Ours are not to be the lives in which the loose ends are neatly tied up and under our control. Instead, Jesus tells us, we should prepare to give our love and even ourselves for the sake of restoring God’s justice and mercy for all souls.

For Nov. 25, 2012: Christ the King/The Reign of Christ, Year B

The Reading            Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

In 165 BC, the very existence of Judaism was threatened. The Book of Daniel, written in response, contains an early example of apocalypse, or writing about the end times. Today’s reading tells a vision of a judgment scene presided over by a dazzling Ancient One—the Ancient of Days, in older translations. The court gives a grant of everlasting kingship and glory to someone like a human being. Listen for echoes of this in the second reading.

The Response            Psalm 93

The Epistle            Revelation 1:4b-8

The reading from Daniel related a vision of awesome judgment and the commissioning of one like a human being as eternal king. The book of Revelation, written at the end of the first century AD, is both a letter and another apocalypse. Today’s reading is from the beginning of the book; it sounds a theme like that in Daniel, but now the “one like a human being” is named—as Jesus Christ who loves us.

The Gospel            John 18:33-37

 

Further thoughts

On Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate both the end of the Pentecost season and the dominion of Jesus Christ over (as the book of Daniel puts it) “all peoples, nations, and languages”: this formulaic phrase is clearly intended to include absolutely everybody, whether by association, birth, or culture.  The book of Daniel foresees one like a human being to whom this dominion—this power—is given; we Christians naturally assume that Jesus the Son of Man is intended. The reading from Revelation names the one who comes in the clouds as Jesus but otherwise paints a similar picture: Jesus is coming in glory and judgment and, crucially, power. Revelation specifies that on his account all the tribes will wail, and that makes sense given what we think we know of the way power works.

In the gospel, however, the picture is different. Jesus who was and is and is to come stands before the local representative of the great Roman Empire. Pilate, like the rest of us, knows what powerlessness looks like and he knows what power looks like—but Jesus looks like… well, Jesus: if an ordinary man under accusation, then remarkably unshaken before the Roman who can quite easily order him crucified; if a king, then disturbingly unconcerned with the familiar trappings and prerogatives of power.

So just what kind of king is this, anyway?

The kind of king who attends to the despised and broken-hearted. The kind of king who performs astonishing healings and forbids the word to spread. The kind of king who declines to be stampeded by society into condemning obviously guilty women. The kind of king who washes his inferiors’ feet. The kind of king who undertakes to die to save the very people who are out to kill him and yet whom not even death can vanquish.

And if Jesus so breaks the mold when it comes to kingship, what must it mean for our place in his kingdom that he calls us not subjects but brothers and sisters and partners in bringing God’s love to the world?


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