Friday, March 7, 2014

Power and Authority

While I was at Local Pastors' Licensing School, one Scripture passage was read a number of times: Luke 9:1-6.  I will quote verses 1-2, 6 from the NRSV: "Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal... They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere."

The reason the instructors at Licensing School emphasized this passage (though "emphasized" might be a strong word) is that they wanted us to hear that being a pastor brings power and authority.  Of course we all recognize that a pastor or priest of a church has power and authority in the community.  It's position of power and authority, after all, so obviously the one holding that position would have said power and authority.  "You," the instructors said (paraphrased, of course), "do not want to misuse that power and authority."

But crap got real when an instructor on sexual ethics, Will Green, joined the party at LPLS.  He said that the power and authority we have as pastors is real.  Pastors don't have power and authority simply because they sit in a position of power and authority; pastors have power and authority because Jesus has sent pastors out with power and authority.  And when Jesus sends someone out with power and authority, Jesus isn't saying, "Here, I give you a position of power and authority."  No, Jesus says, "Here, I give you power and authority."  This is especially true when we consider what kind of power and authority one must have to heal and cast out demons.

For Will Green, instructor on sexual ethics, he wanted us to hear that, having real power and authority, the attraction people have toward those with power would be all the stronger than we are used to, and thus we need to better ensure that we are spiritually safeguarded from succumbing to sexual temptation.  For me, author of Created Human Divinity, I couldn't help focus on Green's words: "This is real power and authority, given to us from the one with divine power and authority." 

My dear reader, even if we don't agree with my premise as posited in Created Human Divinity that we are created divine like Christ, we need to somehow incorporate into our theology and into our lives the fact that Jesus has sent out his disciples with real power and authority.  Luke 9:1-2 is not the only place where Jesus says to and does for his disciples what we reject for our own lives.  Why do we reject the power and authority for ourselves that Jesus gives to his disciples, that the Holy Spirit hands out constantly throughout the Acts of the Apostles?  Why why why?  Why do we dull our eyes with the lens of impossibility when we read Scripture?  Why can't we open our eyes with the lens of possibility and potential when we read Scripture?  Why can't we open our hearts with the valve of possibility and potential when we approach God in prayer?  Why do we constantly beat down our souls by saying to ourselves that we are nothing but dust?  Yes yes, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," and all of that, but we are not nothing but dust.  Jesus says that we but dust so that we do not forget our dependence on our Creator, God; but Jesus accompanies that by saying to us and then showing us that we are much, much more than that.  At the very least, we can carry Christ's divinity through the world, for it is Christ's divinity that gives us power and authority.

So this Lent I hope that we recognize that we are completely and entirely dependent on God, who has created us.  That is the purpose of Lent, after all.  But I hope that we realize that we are completely and entirely dependent on God for the purpose of proclaiming the kingdom of God and bringing the good news everywhere.  How do we bring the good news everywhere?  With the very real, divine power and authority given to us by Jesus Christ.  If you can start to see that this is true, or even have an inkling that it may be true, then it might be time for you to read Created Human Divinity.

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