What is Power?
Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul Lutheran Church,
[Mary said,] "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." - Luke 1:52-53
As I write this, news is breaking of a large explosion causing many casualties, outside of the Hamid Karzai International Airport In Kabul, Afghanistan. My heart aches, once again.
After spending the past week moving our daughter, Annica, into her dorm at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, and spending much time in Washington DC for the first time, I came to realize the immense power that exists in that city, on behalf of our entire country and world. As we visited and reflected at each of the sites of well known monuments including, JFK's grave, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, MLK's memorial, Lincoln's memorial, WWI and WWII memorials, Korean War memorial, Vietnam Mar memorial, Washington's Monument, Jefferson's Memorial, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and even Ford's Theater, I stood in awe and wonder, with so many historical images, both during and before my lifetime, passing through my mind. I felt so powerful standing in those places where people of such power stood, or lived, or led, or died at another time. So much power.
And yet, as wars and injustices and hatred and discrimination and violence continue to exist in our local, national, and global communities still today, I wonder how far we've really come and powerful we really are. We, as a nation, I was reminded this past week, have endured and thrived again, and again, following some pretty horrific events in our nation's and our world's history. We will always endure and thrive again, but when will the pains and injustices that cause our hearts to ache so much, cease to happen at all? Is that a naïve question? I don't think so. Citizens of every country and followers of Jesus and most religions of the world, have been asking that question for generations - Why doesn't God fix things?
In his book, "Just Wondering, Jesus", Tom Ehrich addresses such a question, suggesting that one answer to it has to do with freedom.
"God has left us free to choose life or death, blessing or curse. We can get along or we can get a gun. The only lasting peace occurs when we rise above hubris, find better ways to express fear, master our bloodlust, and give up our triumphal claims. But the question remains: what is God doing to help us make better choices? Our venue for discerning peace of war, fulfillment or abandonment, hope or despair apparently isn't the large stage where affairs of state are determined. That is the realm of power, greed, and control - sometimes exercised with grace, more often not. There power corrupts, and the outcome tends to warfare. God, it seems works a different venue, closer to home, closer to life as we actually live it. It was no accident that messiah (Jesus) and herald (John the Baptist) came to common folk, not to the grand. God's working for peace happens far from the throne of worldly power (Washington DC). God's peace isn't the absence of war headlines from Baghdad (Kabul). God's peace is one soul laying down sword and shield." -Thomas L. Ehrich, Just Wondering, Jesus: 100 Questions People Want to Ask (Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publ., 2005), 102.
Ehrich's wisdom is causing me to reflect again today - not on the steps of a grand, carved, marble monument known to all the world, but in the quiet confines of my humble office, in our humble church, in our humble city. The power lives within me. Will I continue to want peace, but make war? Will I continue to yearn for love, but sow hatred? What is it that I want? What is it that I will make happen? These are really important questions for all of us to reflect on today. I invite you to do so. And please, pray for all who are suffering in Afghanistan and in countries and communities around the world.
I look forward to being with you all in worship this Sunday, as we again, come together in love, to be equipped to go out in love, to share Christ's love - with joy!
See you in Church!
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Pastor Dale Stiles
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