Original post at http://sacredise.com/blog/?p=1522
Who gets to hold power? Who decides how things are done, how resources are distributed, how people relate to one another? Who chooses what we are allowed to think or believe and what is heterical or unacceptable?
These may seem like strange questions, but, if you’re following the Revised Common Lectionary, they are at the heart of the worship for this Sunday. In the Gospel reading, the religious leaders question Jesus’ authority, just as, in the Old Testament readings, the Israelites question the authority of Moses (in the semi-continuous reading) and the authority of God (in the related reading). The question of authority relates, for us, to the question of power, of the ability to influence and control the world, to determine our own destiny. And, we are not willing to give authority to those whose use of power undermines our ability to control our own lives (even though, we so often do this in spite of ourselves). But, as the Philippians reading shows, Jesus defined authority very differently – which is what disturbed and frightened the religious leaders. Jesus’ authority was a divine gift, and was expressed not in exercising power over others, but in serving others and empowering them to give their lives in service of the dream of a world of love and justice.
Based on this alternative story of power and authority, Jesus offers a parable of two sons. One gives a positive response to his father’s request to work in the vienyard, and one refuses. But, the one who refused did go and work, while the one who agreed, did not. Which means that, for Jesus, faith, love, and authority are all revealed, not by what we say, but by what we do. Our worship, then, really needs the language of action and ritual this week.
So, if we come as congregants to worship this week, what can we do to prepare ourselves, and to enter into the worship more meaningfully? Here are some suggestions:
- We can recognise that attending church, saying certain religious phrases, or even quoting the Bible, are not the things that define our following of Christ. It is the way we live our lives, and particularly, the extent to which we are willing to give ourselves to nurture love and justice in our part of the world, that define whether we are truly following Jesus or not.
- We can release our need to be in control of our lives, or the lives of those around us. We can stop seeking “authority” or power to control our lives and those of others. We can come to worship as an act in which we give up control and submit to the values, priorities and behaviours of God’s Reign.
- We can open ourselves to God’s surprising work in us and in our world. We can let go of what we think we know of power, authority, and of what God does and does not do. And we can embrace the mystery and surprise of a God who works through those whom we would ignore, and who uses the ordinary, the hidden, and the unexpected to bring God’s Reign into being.
And, if we come to worship as those who prepare and facilitate the experience, we might want to consider how we can create space for the unexpected move of God’s Spirit. We may need to be willing to release some of control over how things proceed, and allow for some spontaneity, for congregational participation, and for moments of silence, of waiting and of receptivity.
What ideas do you have for worship this week? Which readings will you focus on? How will you engage with God’s upside-down view of power? And, if you’re leading, how will you create space for some surprising encounter with God this week?
Here is a deeper reflection on the Gospel reading, and here are more reflections and resources for worship this week.