RSS

Tag Archives: power

Channeling Your Inner Herodian

From Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way (2007). Sound like anyone you know today?

judeagreat“I would have been impressed with Herod [the Great] if I had lived in the first century. Herod was the biggest name in Palestine. He was the richest man in the world. He employed more people than anyone in the country. You couldn’t walk out of your house without hearing the name Herod. You couldn’t walk down any road without coming on one of his massive building operations. Herod, Herod, Herod.

“It is impossible, at least for me, not to be impressed with Herod … Politically he was able to manipulate power-hungry Rome … He was not a religious man, but he turned out to be a relentlessly aggressive propagandist…, using it as a means to political power … His building projects were absolutely stunning.

“Herod had done the ‘kingdom’ thing magnificently: his skilled brokering of power, his use of Greek theater and athletic contests to shape people’s thinking and values, his architectural splendor giving everyone a sense that their king was all-powerful and majestic. He had gathered a very diverse population of Jews and Romans, pagans and Greeks, feuding sects and uncongenial political parties, and hammered out a kind of working unity among them … Herod was not interested in God, but everything else was intact.”

Herod. Making Judea Great Again.

herodiansEven in the days of the Herods, the faith community was divided over their feelings about the powerful political family. One group was known as the Herodians, a small clique of avowed partisans of the Herodian dynasty. As godless, manipulative and culturally polluted as the Herods were, Herodians still saw this brand of rule as necessary for the prosperity of the region.

The Pharisees did not see it this way. They thought it spiritual compromise to advocate for the Herods.

Interesting … Pharisees and Herodians have two things in common, and one huge difference. In common: They both attacked Jesus, and tried to bring him down. And Jesus never directly addressed their politics. The difference: Jesus had far more negative things to say to the Pharisees than the Herodians.

What about you? Are you inclined to unite yourself to a political entity, as troubling as it may be, because it beats the alternative? Or do you find such an alliance as a compromise to your spiritual convictions? Any chance you would have a HEROD NOW sign in your front yard, or sticker on your car?

It’s an historical maxim that bad leaders only get worse with age. Take Herod the Great:

“During the last years of his life his proclivities to cruelty accelerated. He became a virtual monster, hated by everyone, massacring at whim. The famous quip from Caesar Augustus back in Rome, a close personal friend of Herod’s, would have served as an apt epitaph over his grave: ‘I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son.'”

As Peterson points out, “Jesus lived as if Herod had never existed. Jesus ignored the world of power and accomplishment that was brilliantly on display all around him. He chose to work on the margins of society, with unimportant people, giving particular attention to the weak, the disturbed, the powerless.”

– EO

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 4, 2016 in 21st Century, Politics

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Lent of Doing, Not of Not-Doing

Image“I gave it up for Lent.”

Often, we enter into the Lenten season with a list of things we won’t be doing – eating meat, drinking coffee, facebooking. But I have been encouraged by two different sources to fill this year’s Lent with motion forward instead of motion against. Today I’ll share the first such influence, the second tomorrow.

The first comes from a bishop in the Anglican Church. In His fresh-off-the-press Lenten devotional, he begins with a familiar Lenten text: “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).

I’m reminded by this text that my source of spiritual strength always, but not inevitably, comes from God. Whatever I can muster up in my own flesh and mind is not enough to get me anywhere. To the degree that I tap into the Lord’s strength, I have the possibility of spiritual progress.

It seems obvious. We get tired, so we sleep to renew our strength. We get weak, so we eat to renew our strength. These rhythms are engrained into our lives, and need no explanation, no convincing. We just do them, because … well, if we don’t, we’ll be at first miserable, and eventually die. Spiritually speaking, it is clear from our text, and from personal experience, that not everyone finds their strength in God. Rather, many (I would say most) live their lives in their own strength.

And I do, too, on all-too-many occasions. Why in the world would I do that?!?!?

ImageThe couplet of our verse today indicates the motion-forward that remedies our weak, under-charged existence. Our strength is in God – our hearts are set on pilgrimage. We are empowered as we move toward the goal. We are strong in that we are seeking. Much like bodily exercise, the counter-intuitive reality is that we develop our muscles as we exert our muscles. No pain, no gain.

The Lenten season calls for spiritual fortitude. We don’t get this by not sinning. We get this in our active pursuit of God. So, this year, I am going to celebrate and practice a Lent of doing, not of not-doing. I’m going to set my heart on a pilgrimage to the very face of the Lord … believing that, as I’m heading there, I’ll find renewed strength to live a holy life.

What will that pilgrimage be? We’ll pick this up tomorrow…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 6, 2014 in Lent

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Lutherans, Pastors, Authority

Hosanna LutheranI worshiped with the local Lutherans today (LCMS). It was a very nice morning. The liturgy was rich, the hymnody stimulating, the preaching thoughtful, and the people seemingly very friendly. Though I don’t know it well, I was blessed to share the morning with this part of my family tree.

As a career pastor, I was struck by the wardrobe adorned by the leadership. The white robes, green sashes, crosses around the neck – it was clear who the consecrated ministers were. And there were several men adorned this way…which made me wonder about how leadership is chosen in this tradition.

what about pastorsSo, as I headed out, I picked up a publication in the foyer entitled “What About…Pastors.” In it, an explanation is given for what pastors are, what they do, how they are ordained, and how they should be treated. That’s when I stumbled on this quote from Luther’s Small Catechism:

Book-MartinLuthersCatechism-1868-Fair“When the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command…this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”

Wow.

I’ve been a leader in the church for a quarter century. Not only have I never been treated like this by the people I’ve led, but I have never expected this kind of response. Rather, I have always thought that no right-minded person would have the audacity to equate the validity of his or her leadership to being as valid as Christ’s. To do so would be an over-reach of one’s appropriate role, correct?

In this month’s edition of Christianity Today (Oct. 2013), there is a thoughtful article by Andy Crouch about the role of power in the church. In speaking about “power distance,” he juxtaposes those who create distance between themselves and those they lead through visible expressions of power (high distance), and those who try to look less powerful than they really are (low distance). He then remarks that, “America, today, is about as low power distance as it has ever been – and so is the American Church.”

pastor authorityI get this, and feel it. I remember from the days of my youth the bumper stickers on many hippie-driven cars and microbuses in Southern California that called us to “Question Authority.” That cultural ethos, coupled with some colossal leadership failures in the public world (Nixon, Bakker, Swaggert, Clinton, Edwards, Haggard, Weiner), have left us with little honor for, and therefore little allegiance to, our leaders. So, we’re uneasy when any leaders claim or flaunt their authority. (As an example…the image to the left is the first one that appears when I did an internet search for “pastor authority.” I think it represents our stereotypes well.)

Still, the Bible tells us that authority is both God-given, and very important. Peter tells us to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” This is for our protection, and our advantage, because they are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14). But not only do we miss a blessing if we are out from under authority, we are also in incredible danger. Peter tells us elsewhere that “the Lord knows how…to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2 Peter 2:9-10). Despising authority is an especially grievous offence to God – and it is standard practice in our 21st century western culture.

Francis ObedienceMy ancient and medieval brothers and sisters had an understanding of the value of obedience to authorities. The standard vow made by vocational monks and nuns was always to lives of poverty, chastity, and obedienceFrom the day they were received into the monastery, it was expected that they would give unquestioned obedience to their abbot or abbess – as a sign of their consecration to God Himself. We see that as strange today, don’t we? Do you think they would see our aversion of authority as even more troubling?

So…as I try to reconnect myself to the fullness of my Christian lineage, I do find myself longing to be under Biblcial, God-ordained authorities. I know there is blessing for me there. But where do I find it? Who truly has it, and might even expect it? Who exercises it well? And, if they do, whose expression of “power distance” is high enough that I can recognize it?

Lord, forgive me for despising authority. Teach me godly submission. May your church experience your provision of authority in increasingly healthy ways. For your honor’s sake, and for the blessings that are promised.

-EO

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,