Lord and Power
Matthew 7.21 Not everyone who calls me "Lord, Lord" will enter the
Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my father in heaven wants
them to do.
have always been uncomfortable with the continual use of
the word "Lord" in the Scriptures and with the Church's traditional
obsession with it and the notion of power.
Yet it is true that those of us familiar with Christ's use of the idea of
power understand that it refers to the power of being powerless, and that
the title "Lord" has more to do with service than with hierarchy.
However, it is easy for someone outside the Church and
its tradition to get a little confused with our proclamation of service on
the one hand and our love of hierarchy on the other.
It's not just mainline churches that are guilty of this confusion. Many
so-called free churches and Pentecostal churches have difficulty dealing
with people who question the authority of the pastor or who cannot meet
prerequisites for membership - like being able to recite the phrase
"Jesus is my personal Lord and saviour" or being able to speak in tongues.
Many of us can easily get caught up as practitioners of religion in the
seductiveness of hierarchical power. Some of us get caught up in the
spectacular, such as prophecy, healing, tongues and other bits of faith
that can make us feel and appear religiously or spiritually powerful.
Today's Gospel reading, for me, cuts right through my obsession with power
and authority. It reminds me that true power does not lie in public
profession of faith and belief, nor in the an ability to perform the right
religious acts at the right time, in the right place.
These things may denote respect, authority or power
within our religious groups. But I don't believe them to be of the essence
of those Christian beliefs and practices that identify people as followers
On the contrary, to me Jesus seems continuously walking
away from fame. I think even in his own time people were getting much too
caught up in miraculous stories and so avoiding the real challenge of
discipleship - which seems to me to be service.
Another aspect of this reading for me is how it challenges the apparent
certainty of some religious zealots in their confidence about salvation.
There are some religious people for whom salvation is a sort of contract
struck between themselves and God. They do the right things and say the
right formulas and "Bingo!" - God gives them eternal life. But heaven
forbid if you mess up because then you just won't get a seat in heaven.
Eternal life has not been a great bargaining thing for
me personally, because at the moment I am quite happy with whatever years
I am given. Though when I reach 80 I might change my mind!
The eternal life that I believe God gives us consists of the quality
of life we are part of in the here-and-now when we are positive
participants in community in the way that Jesus suggests.
In other words, eternal life is what happens when I am
fully involved in the community around me. Every action of justice, love
or peace in which I participate reveals another aspect of the Kingdom for
me to embrace.
Feeding someone does far more than getting up in front
of people and saying "The Lord Jesus is my personal saviour". The phrase
does nothing more than make a few believers feel good because someone else
agrees with their view of the world.
The world is saved when we take seriously the commands to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked, and visit the lonely and the outcast and the sick, and
when we treat each other as we would treat God. At the end of the
Eucharist the phrase "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord" or something
similar is often said. I am always tempted to elaborate and say, "Go in
love and peace to love and serve God through our love and service of each
Running around telling everyone that we know the formula
for what pleases God is for me a waste of time. So much more can be said
through my action to love another human person or another part of God's