‘Who’s Got the Power?” ~ sermon for November 25, 2018

November 26, 2018

‘Who’s Got the Power?” ~ sermon for November 25, 2018

As we end our liturgical year we turn this morning to John’s account of Jesus’ encounter with Pilate following Jesus’ arrest, just hours before his crucifixion.

While weare getting ready for advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth, we are reminded that although Jesus Christ came to usher in a reign of peace, he was instead murdered by those in power who felt threatened by his presence.

Hear now a reading from the gospel of John 18:33-38.

Here ends the readingof God’s holy word.  May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessings.  Amen.

Please pray with me.

Almighty God, you remembered the oath you swore to David and so established a glorious realm of salvation through Jesus of Nazareth, his heir.

Train our eyes to see your righteous rule, that, standing firmly in hope before the powers of this world, we may heed your voice and be constant in your truth.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer Amen.

Sermon

When I first read Webster’s Dictionary definition of ‘Power’ as the ability to act or produce an effect, it seemed way too simple for me.

In our world today power seems much more complicated than the simple ability to act.

But then I start thinking about what it means to be unable to act or incapable of producing an effect.

What does it mean when someone has no sense of agency over their own life?

When Pilate is questioning Jesus, Jesus artfully turns the questions around so that Pilate seems to be calling Jesus a king.

Pilate, a man perceived to have much power in the Roman Empire, finds himself at a disadvantage with this radical troublemaker.

Pilate believes he is the one with the power but Jesus brings Pilate around to the question, ‘What is Truth?’

I picture Pilate repeating that to himself all night long…What is Truth?

Earlier, in John’s gospel, Jesus responded to his tormentors by saying, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)

Free to act.

Free to produce an effect.

If you continue in my word you will have power.

This is the truth of the gospel.

When we embrace Jesus Christ as our savior and commit ourselves, as Erika did this morning, to live a life in service to God, we then have more power than anyone else.

Being firmly rooted in faith, in values that you follow, empowers you to navigate the world.

What are the things that have power over you?

What influences your life?

Your decisions?

Your relationships?

If it is not God then you are giving up power.

You are assigning someone or something else the power to determine your actions.

When my sons were young and someone was picking on them in school I would often say, ‘Don’t give that person any power.’

Later I would say those words to victims of domestic violence as I gently tried to coax them to believe in themselves and their personal power.

More recently, I find myself repeating this to adults who are feeling bullied by the cultural discourse.

My friends, our power does not come from money or status or education.

When you have faith and trust in God you are like a super hero – endowed with power that no one can take.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, afraid,  or confused tap into the divine source within.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love.

Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”

Our God of love has created each one of us with a source of power that could transform the world.

If we seize that power and allow our Jesus-like selves to identify with the king whose ‘kingdom is not from this world’ we will find new life.

I read an interesting piece in the Washington Post Acts of Faith blog this week examining our cultural reluctance to talk about God.

Jonathan Merritt  identifies “a quiet crisis” in our inability and discomfort talking about God.

His book, Learning to Speak God from Scratchconfirms the famous adage attributed to A.W. Tozer: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

What is your image of God?

Do you envision a king?

A super hero?

A warm, compassionate, comforter?

Whatever your image may be, know this.

God created you in God’s image.

You have the ability to be as wonderful, caring, loving, forgiving and compassionate as God.

Imagine if everyone decided to live in that world?

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves what it is that we believe.

Let the words of our United Church of Christ Statement of Faith sit with you this week.  (turn to the back inside cover of your hymnals)

As we read through this statement together, choose a phrase or two that resonates with you and let it be your prayer this week.

Ever since discovering the United Church of Christ, only thirteen years ago, the words of the final paragraph have touched my heart:

God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in that  kingdom which has no end.

Let’s say this with one voice:

We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus our brother, and to whose deeds we testify:

God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image, and sets before us the ways of life and death.

God seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.

God judges all humanity and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through prophets and apostles.

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator.

God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God.

Amen.

Let us pray.

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for inviting us into your realm. We subject ourselves to your rule and we pray that we might be strong enough to seize the power you have given us.

Help us to speak freely about our love for you and your steadfast love for us.

Help us to remember that all we have comes from you – the gift of life, the beautiful earth, our families and friends.

In this season of Thanksgiving, remind us of all that we have to be grateful for.

Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.

For those who are sick, we pray for healing.

For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.

For those who feel powerless, we pray that your divine love might transform their lives.

Hear us now, holy one, as we turn to you in the sacred silence of this Meetinghouse with the prayers of our hearts.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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