- 23 November 2022
- Bruce Kaye
SHAP. November 20, 2022.
POWER EVER PRESENT CHALLENGE – INCREASINGLY NOW
Malcom Muggeridge and his friend who did not know if he was licking the right boots – ie
coping with power – authoritarian power
In our own day strands of authoritarian power are becoming more prominent
internationally relationships between nations, especially super powers, change as the balances of power change.
Within our own nation authoritarian power is becoming more present as former institutions change and the influence of the powerful grows and the power of the weak and disadvantaged diminishes.
It is a disturbing trend and as christians we need to aware of it and how it influences our society and challenges our christian witness and can infect our thinking.
Think about these:
- In the churches the Royal Commission Report on institutional abuse still lurks in the shadows with many issues still to be dealt with. Those who abused children in our churches were mainly people who held offices of privileged status – teachers in church schools or clergy in parishes exploiting their personal power and bishops who did not fulfil their responsibilities of oversight and discipline – 3 out of 5 archbishops lost their jobs.
- BUT we have yet more to do to the shape of our church institutions so that they inhibit the accretion of personal power which has been seen to provide opportunities for abuse to occur.
- More broadly the abuse of young indigenous men in custody. As a society we do nothing about lengthy reports on this abusive authoritarian power
- The proposed Federal anti-corruption body and its powers to deal with abuse of power by politicians and public officers has taken a tortuously long time to come into being.
- What are the cultural forces that make it so hard for us to deal with the tragedy of domestic violence
The instinct to abusive power lurks like an underground river in our society.
As christians we need to recognise it and confront it in the social relations in our society and in our church.
POWER AND KINGDOM OFTEN GO TOGETHER – BUT NOT FOR JESUS
Jesus lived in an empire that could and did exercise abusive power
So talking about Jesus as king, as having a kingdom, is extremely ambiguous since what he taught was so radically different from the kinds of kingdoms or empires that shaped the language of his day.
BUT Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world.
John 18.33-38 [TEXT]
We do not live in that kind of kingdom, nor in any significant sense do we live in a kingdom.
We live in a parliamentary democracy where the ultimate power belongs with the people.
But the institutions of government can very easily act with abusive and dismissive power – think of the careless way in which robo debt was initiated, or the careless design of government COVID grants delivered to businesses, small and large, which enabled the strong to benefit disproportionately compared to the small and weak
Our lives are set in institutions both government and business corporations. These are places where power can be exercised over individuals in abusive and dismissive ways.
If then Jesus’ kingdom is not one of fighting and violence, or overweening power, what does it look like . What are its characteristics
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST THE KING
Parables of the kingdom: not seeking priority, faithfulness, forgiveness, serving the neighbour, honesty, generosity, gratitude, persistence, attentiveness
ie they portray the character of a follower of Jesus
Teaching to his disciples on seeking privilege and power like James and John and the rest of the disciples Mark 10.42 – 45 [TEXT]
Paul’s idea of a christian life:
Colossians 3.12-16 [TEXT]
Philippians 2.3-5 [TEXT]
This is a very different picture of a community of people than is conjured up by the common meaning of the word kingdom in the time of both Jesus and Paul. Nor is it in any sense compatible with our own contemporary version of bullying power or abusive control.
BUT it is about the character that Jesus understood to be the habits of life for his followers.
This great disjunction between the kingdom of Pilate and the kingdom of Jesus is illustrated by the text in our lectionary for the Feast of Christ the King with which our church year concludes. That text is of the crucifixion of ‘Jesus the King’ by the brutality of one of the kingdoms of this world, of Pilate.
We have come to the end of the church year with the celebration of the festival of Christ the King with our final celebration.
This is a celebration not marked by some great hurrah, not even a hearty three cheers with balloons and bunting or wine and canapes.
Rather its marked by our commitment to the enduring character of Jesus’ kingdom. A kingdom which Jesus told Pilate was not of this world.
Pilate was unmoved and could not give up his existing habits. Unlike Pilate we are called to renew our habits of life as followers of Jesus way.
At the end of the church year this festival of Christ the King invites us to renew our commitment to show in every aspect of our lives the character of the kingdom of this crucified Christ.
A character that includes:
Serving rather than seeking priority
Clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience
Looking not to our own interests, but to the interests of others.
Indeed, letting the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus
A renewal of our lives in this way would be a visible witness to our fellow citizens in our changing and faltering society. It would be a great way to start the New church Year.