Friday, 8 September 2017

Power And Prayer

The Late theologian and non-violence advocate, Walter Wink, wrote,

“Intercession is spiritual defiance of what is, in the name of what God has promised. Intercession visualizes an alternative future to the one apparently fated by the momentum of current contradictory forces.”
“The message is clear: history belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being....Even a small number of people, firmly committed to the new inevitability on which they have fixed their imaginations, can decisively affect the shape the future takes. These shapers of the future are the intercessors, who call out of the future the longed-for new present...the reign of God.” 
Becoming aware of the vulnerable and persecuted is difficult. For one thing, the very nature of vulnerability means powerlessness and invisibility. It is what happens when people exercise power over others. It is a dishonouring of the power of God, who chooses to reveal Godself in the reflected image of the most vulnerable. When we recognize the face of the crucified One as our example of Godly behaviour, we convict ourselves of being more attracted to Human power than following humility.

I see people wielding power - and it is not pretty. In a time and place where we have the opportunity to empower the poor and vulnerable, I see Christian leaders choosing values that I believe to be inconsistent with the Gospel of Liberation and the God of self-giving. I see risk-assessments based on avoiding the spiritual disciplines of faith, generosity, service, acts of justice and sacrifice. I see ecclesial procedures built upon short-term 'business practices' (under the guise of somewhat simplistic compliance policies) instead of a focus on obedience to the call to participate in God's mission.

Such deception of the people of God is perpetuated by claiming that an object of our role in mission is to 'build the Church' - as if this is about building the legal entity. The scriptural charge tells us to Go - Make Disciples and Baptize. It focuses our work on relationships of empowering, not relationships of exercising "power-over".

To pray is to make ourselves vulnerable before God and open ourselves and the world around us up to the transforming work of the Spirit. When we pray for our enemies (or for those we disagree with) we are brought into the possibility that, through the forgiving spirit of God, we might sacrifice ourselves for the sake of those who hate us, judge us or belittle us. How can we do this? When we pray, we also learn that the opinion that counts is God's, no one else's.

So, God, today I pray...

For the abusive, unjust and ungenerous in our churches,
For their meetings, their collusion with dominating powers and their strategies,
For victims and perpetrators, for onlookers and bystanders,
For those who are silent and those who have been silenced.
Come,  Good Shepherd,
Lead us to the waters of life
And help me not to drown the idiots!

1 comment:

  1. Something is going on with us which seems to be based in a fear that the church will die. Which is not surprising, given the shrinking of our numbers. Sustainability and viability need to be in view, but I can't help feeling that we think our first priority (beyond our rhetoric) is to keep the Uniting Church alive... when discipleship is to deny ourselves and follow the cross bearer, which means risking death.

    So somehow all our policy is skewed by this. It means we devalue small congregations, discount the incredible things they/we do, and since "the very nature of vulnerability means powerlessness and invisibility," as you say, we lose sight of the people for whom we exist... perhaps especially for those in our midst.

    If we must keep the church alive, then living out what I see the gospel this week making our imperative ( is almost impossible. It gets in the way of being the church which is determined to stay alive, and it means then we miss our central calling which is to cherish and nourish those among us, and be good news to those who come near us. If we attended to love within the body, and refused to push folk out, we might have far less problems with shrinking congregations.


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