Holy Week Blog, Monday: Power that corrupts.

John 12:1-12 NRSV:

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them[a] with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it[c] so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


I think one of the important things happening in the Gospel of John is the power dynamic at play. Time and again the Jewish religious leaders try to assert their power over Jesus. It’s a power they’re used to wielding. If they decided to put someone out of the synagogue, they were out. If they wanted someone stoned to death, it usually happened. In this passage, they conspire to murder Lazarus because Lazarus as a living, breathing miracle of Jesus was eroding their power base.  If the Jews’ religious power disintegrated because of Jesus, they are left with nothing. They are the big kids on the block, and when their power is threatened, they seem unwilling to stop short of anything– even premeditated murder– to eliminate the threat.

I guess my response to this is something like a warning to leaders in the church to be aware and very careful how we use power. Power really does tend to corrupt, and religious power is pretty potent stuff among religious people. So be careful. Be careful not to hold too tightly to the little kingdoms we build. Be careful, lest we do the wrong thing when the Real Kingdom comes and threatens our power… because it will threaten our power. In those moments, remember it’s not about you. (Nor is it about me, either.) If the Kingdom of Jesus means I lose my position as the big cheese (and make no bones about it— that’s precisely what it means.) then so be it. Come, Lord Jesus

Blessings,

Mark

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Lentblog 2015, Day 34: Christ in Us.

Colossians 1:24-29, NRSV

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25 I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.29 For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.


Kind of a back-to-basics message in this passage for me tonight. Paul waxes eloquent a little about his commission to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles… to share the big mystery that has been revealed after being hidden for so long. What’s profound to me is his statement in v.27  of what the mystery actually is: The Mystery is Christ in us. Paul talks a lot about people being “in Christ.” But here he speaks of Christ being “in” us.

The other main thing in that verse is this, methinks: The hope of glory is Christ, not us. Christ in us is the hope of glory. It’s not a human-made thing. It’s not us pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, trying to better ourselves. The best stuff really does come from outside ourselves. If it is human-made, or somehow it becomes a thinly-veiled form of humanism or something, then it’s not the Gospel. The power of the Gospel comes from Jesus. Paul admits as much in v.29 when he says his stuggle is powered by the energy inspired by Christ.

That’s a good reminder of the fact this whole thing really does rest on his strength and not ours.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 6: The same power…

Ephesians 1:17-23

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God[f] put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

NRSV


Paul continues his prayer of blessing and thanksgiving (which is typical Pauline letter structure) by reminding them of the “immeasurable greatness” of God’s power. What hit me about this part of the passage was that the power Paul prays will be evident to the Ephesians was the same power God put to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead. Same power. The same Spirit, the same power, the same live-giving, grave-defeating, all-loving power that raised Jesus from the dead can be Power Memeactive… in me.

I already knew that. And I regularly pray that the same Spirit that raised Jesus would raise me, too. But this caught me again tonight…. and I’m reminded during the beginning of this Lent season that resurrection can’t happen without a death. Easter happens only because Good Friday happened first.  Lest we think that the power we’re talking about here is not without sacrifice, we’re kidding ourselves. We will be raised with him… if we die with him (see Romans and the baptism imagery there). So this is power, for sure… but power redefined. And in our culture we like power. We like to wield power. We like to be powerful. The weak are weak because they do not have power.

But Jesus comes along and reminds us that power redefined is NOT a power trip designed to satisfy our need to be right, or important, or blessed, or something. It is the power of the Resurrection that happens… after Calvary. Because of that, it’s power redefined. And that’ll really bake our noodle if we think about it.

Blessings,

Mark