Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.
Day 72, May 24, 2020
Power. Power is present at some of the key moments in the biblical story. The presence of power can signal the beginning of a time of great despair, as with the ominous introduction to the Book of Exodus, “A new king came to power…”. (Exodus 1:8) That new king, that new Pharaoh, did not know about Joseph, about all the wonders and works God had done to bring Joseph and his family safely to Egypt. That new Pharaoh used his power to treat the people of Israel ruthlessly, forcing them into difficult and demeaning labor, enslaving them, and making their life bitter. Pharaoh’s use of power was cruel and inhumane. In the great song of celebration that marks the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery the people give praise to the God whose power set them free.
Samson’s life is almost a case study in how not to use power. This bold and brash young man has great physical power, but his use of it often seems frivolous. Samson uses his power to tear apart a lion with his own hands. Samson makes good on a debt incurred because of his boasting and bragging by using his power to crush 30 men from Ashkelon. Samson uses his power to break the ropes Delilah used to tie him up. But when Samson foolishly reveals to Delilah that his long hair is the secret to his power, that long head of hair is cut off, and so is his power.
The gospels begin with a testimony about power. As crowds flock to John the Baptist, crowds eagerly awaiting a messiah, John the Baptist says, “One is coming after me who is more powerful than I. I am not worthy even to untie his sandals.” That coming one is Jesus. Jesus has amazing power, power to heal, power to make whole, power to walk on water, power to calm storms, power to turn water to wine, and power to feed multitudes. But whereas Samson’s use of power seemed frivolous, the way Jesus used power was very focused. Jesus used his power to glorify God. Jesus resisted the one who tempted him to use his power for personal gain. Jesus did not use his power to gain life, Jesus used his power to lay down his life.
John 13 begins by telling us Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world. His death was fast approaching. Jesus knew his death was fast approaching. Although his death was fast approaching, John 13 also tells us, “Jesus knew the Father had put all things under his power…” (John 13:3) What did Pharaoh do with his power…he oppressed and made life bitter. What did Samson do with his power…he squandered it on flashy displays that bolstered his ego. What did Jesus do with his power? In John 13 Jesus took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:4,5)
We do well to think carefully about power, and the use of power. On this Sunday before Pentecost, Jesus promises the disciples they will receive power. And sure enough, the disciples receive power. The reception of power is what the Day of Pentecost is all about. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples, filling them with power. The power we receive is not a power to oppress others. The power we receive is not a power to make life bitter for others. The power we receive is not a power to be used frivolously and it is certainly not a power to be used to bolster our ego.
The power we are given is the power to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who wrapped a towel around his waist and washed feet, the same Jesus who said if you want to be great in the kingdom, learn to be the servant of all, the same Jesus who, “Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
• Jesus, who had all power, lived a life marked by humility
• Jesus, who had all power, became a servant
• Jesus, who had all power, became obedient to death.
• Jesus, who had all power, laid down his life for the world
• Jesus, who had all power, laid down his life for us
These are good things to remember all the time. These are good things to remember on a Sunday when Jesus tells his disciples, “You will receive power…” And it seems to me these are good things to remember as we struggle to figure out how to make our way through this Coronavirus Crisis. We are not left alone to muddle our way through this crisis. We have power. We have power that is from God. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. What a unique opportunity to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, witnesses who have received power, and witnesses who constantly seek to be faithful to the one who humbled himself and gave his life for others. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
With the love of Christ,
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