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Power, with Peace

Power, with Peace

It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged here (more than a year and a half!). I regularly write at EmbracingFollowership.wordpress.com and ChurchCentral.com, but neither of those platforms is the right place for this particular post. And rather than let the thought go—unwritten, unreflected—for lack of venue, it seemed best to rekindle this space of admission and exploration. Writers write, so they say.

In my spiritual life, I find assistance in using a devotional book entitled A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. I appreciate its liturgical nature, each week offering an invocation, a Psalm, Scripture passages from the lectionary, readings for reflection, an invitation to contemplation, the lyrics of a hymn, and a benediction.

This week’s entry, marking the third Sunday in Lent, contains this short benediction: “May God be your source of peace and power all day long. Amen.”

Those words of blessing caught my attention—“peace and power.”

Having worked all over the world, and having spent the last several years thinking about authority, influence, unity, humility, and cooperation (all in the context of writing my book Embracing Followership), the notion of peace being coupled with power is something truly remarkable, and unworldly.

Skimming across the surface of history would easily reveal that an accumulation of power rarely breeds a stable peace. Stretching all the way back to “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” brings us to the character of a galactic emperor who rests his rule on the might of a planet-destroying battle station and the dictum that “fear will keep them in line.”

Power with peace…not a combination that mankind has been terribly successful at achieving. All the more reason why these words of blessing are so significant.

“May God be your source of peace and power….”

I heard a message on Wednesday night at a mid-week Lenten service. The minister was discussing Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:47-53). In the midst of betrayal by Judas, in the midst of aggression suggested and perpetrated by the other disciples, Jesus exudes power, and establishes peace.

At a time when Jesus appears stuck, as much like a sheep among wolves as ever—when He Himself even affirms the prevailing of the power of darkness—He affirms His authority as Master and peacemaker. When chaos, confusion, and conflict are about to erupt, Jesus silences all of it; clearly the Master of His followers. When injury results from impetuous activity, Jesus lays His hand on the victim, restoring Him; clearly the Creator even of His antagonists.

There is no doubt about His power. And yet He submits. He sacrifices Himself to establish peace. He could have perpetuated the conflict, resisted the arrest, caused more harm than His disciple’s single sword thrust, but He sets things right and goes along to the coming sacrifice. Like a sheep being led to the slaughter.

Power with peace.

Not as an instrument for domination, or coercion, but as a means to rescue and relate.

What would it be like to be powerful, and yet unburdened by thoughts of maintaining a hold on that power? (I think of so many politicians.)

What would it be like to be powerful, but sober? Or better still, altruistic?

What would it be like to be peaceful, but not passive?

What would it be like to be a peacemaker, not a peace-faker or a peace-breaker?

And what would it be like to be powerful—capable of so much—and simultaneously peaceful about the use of that power, about the circumstances of life? More so, peace-focused in the application of that power?

Apparently, Jesus knows what it’s like. And our invitation is to live like Him, to have Him live through us.

And so, we find these daily words of blessing:

“May God be your source of peace and power all day long. Amen.”

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Posted by on March 4, 2016 in Life, Prayer, Theology

 

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Sheep Have No Strategy

Sheep Have No Strategy

Sheep are perhaps one of the oldest sources for metaphors of human life. The Bible makes frequent references to sheep as God teaches us about who we are and who He is.

A recent week’s vacation at a cabin on a farm provided me with an opportunity to observe a flock up close and personally.

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One of our sheep neighbors. We nicknamed him “Lambert.”

My wife and I remarked how the sheep appeared to have a rather amazing work ethic: but for the very heaviest of downpours, they kept to their singular task: munching grass. Hour after hour, they labored away, doing what they were meant to do, lying down to rest when needed, and scurrying over to the farmer when he made his appearance at the gate.

I was especially intrigued about the way they went about their lawn mowing duties. I would watch the sheep graze in a particular area of the field for a few minutes, but when I checked on them an hour later, they were in a completely different section of grass, completely disconnected from where they were previously munching. The field became spotted with tufts of grass that had been nibbled and those that had been ignored. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to the sheep’s approach to their grazing duties. It was as if they merely followed the wind, and then hopped, skipped, and jumped their way around the field, eating without any particular system or plan.

My conclusion: sheep have no strategy.

They just do what they were meant to do, without concern for achieving maximum output for minimal input. They seem unbothered by patchy results. I never once saw them confer together about the best way to go about the day’s task. They just stood up from their places of rest, and sometimes began munching right away, sometimes took a few steps to graze over here, and at other times they would walk to the other end of the field entirely! Plenty of grass within reach, why meander so far?

Unlike us, the sheep seem to focus simply on the task at hand. They know what they are to do, and they do it.

How often do we favor planning and discussion over actually doing the work that God has for us? Sure enough, the Bible does warn us to take account of things before jumping blindly into a project which we will be unable to finish (Luke 14:27-33), nor to take lightly our commitment to Christian faith and relationship with God. But once we do know what God would have us do, perhaps we should be a little more sheep-like and not paralyze ourselves with debate about how to do the work. Rather, like the sheep, we should, in faith, just do it.

After all, we have the Good Shepherd leading us.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Life, Theology

 

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Look at me: no more vanity!

My last post, on Feb 27, was an exercise in ego: I couldn’t bear to interrupt my perfect record of blogging something at least once a month ever since I began in August 2011. And so, I fed my vanity with a rather vacuous entry.

It’s now May 1st, and as I look at the Previous Posts archive on this site, there is no entry for April 2014.

I’ve done it! I let go of the obligation and the ego, and didn’t post anything. I resisted the urge to satiate my vanity once again. From now on, forever, there will be a hole; the streak has been broken.

I’m healed!

Or have I merely replaced (upgraded, downgraded?) my vanity with pride? Have I set aside ego for some sort of minor rebellion, some kind of subtle manipulation?

The facts that I have noticed my “victory,” the truth that I waited until today in order to preserve my absent April, assure me that my sense of self is alive and well, perhaps a little too “healthy,” obese from having gorged on itself without respite for even a single month.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Life

 

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