A reading from Ephesians 1:17-2:10.
"I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who
believe, according to the working of his great Power. 1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and
has made him the head over all things for the church, 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
2:1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2:2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone
else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in
Kingdom of This World Power vs.
Kingdom of God Power
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. This is the Word of the Lord. THANKS BE TO GOD!!!
For the Christian, to gain Power is equated with knowing Christ. Knowing Christ more deeply, and comprehending what God the Father has done in raising him from the dead, increases the Power of the individual believer, and this Knowledge inspires him or her to live life more faithfully in the ways and in the mannerisms fit for Christian Community.
Let us note here that the behavior and mind-set of the sincere Christian is in contradiction to worldly ways and worldly means. Thus, there is a tension for the Christian, a struggle in which the follower of Jesus must engage between the Power of this World and the Power of God.
In Remaining Faithful to Christ –or what we might term as living in the world but not being "of the world,"--the Christian is called upon to recognize the oftentimes subtle and elusive differences between the Christian ideas of Power and the World’s view and enactments of Power.
Worldly power seeks domination and control through coercion and force. As was written by Leslie H. Gelb, author of POWER RULES,
"Power is the capacity to get people to do what they don’t want to do, by pressure and coercion, using one’s resources and position. The Idea is to cause the other to worry about what one, i.e., the Ruling Entity, can do For Them or TO THEM[!]." .......
"At its core, Power is Psychological and Political Pressure."
Most of us do not easily realize nor recognize that we may be or are manipulated by Power Elites and Power systems at work over us and through us every day. But, like it or not, We are influenced by the Ruling Entities that reign -- seen and unseen in our society, marketplace, nation and world. From our Christian Point of view, we can understand what the author of our Ephesians
text was meaning where it says:
2:1 You were once dead through the trespasses and sins 2:2 in which you once lived" (these are our personal realms of Power, where we will use our personal influence to gain what we want for ourselves, which is not always evil, but there is the potential that our Selfish Interests will lead us astray–resulting in any number of sins).
Then there is the "following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient."
Herein lies a New Testament Definition of Wordly Power. It is not necessarily a definitive Entity or Person, but it is more ambiguous, like a SYSTEM or WEB in which we are easily entangled, indeed we can easily become ENAMORED with the spirit of the world (or this age), because Wordly Power offers An Idea or a Philosophy (such as capitalism, Communism for Exmple) Worldly Power
presents an Ideal that sounds RIGHT. And it is easily attainable... for people or whole groups to grasp and hold onto--the spirit of the world (or of this age) offers immediate Rewards–or Benefits of Membership that appear very attractive!
Worldly Powers may offer adherents opportunity for personal Gain, "You can have your own Position!" or Station of Power, or Security (after all–we all want what is essential for ourselves or best for our family’s welfare).
There are also the rewards of Prestige, Money and/or Notoriety.
Wordly Power appeals to us–it is Seductive and Gratifying, but it is a False Realm.
Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich offers a devastatingly poignant example of Worldly Power, disguised as the politically and religiously correct Party to join and/or support, but a party system deeply embedded in the worst kind of evil.
Hitler’s Nazi Socialist Party knew that to hold Power and Control over the populace required mastery over the people by use of carefully orchestrated Psychological persuasion. THE NS clearly understood how to manipulate masses of people.
This began with A GRAND PLAN Utilizing Nationalized Architecture and Adapting Familiar Historical Figures, which we Lutherans have the unfortunate distinction of identity with our own Martin Luther-- Hitler knew that by such subtleties he could easily win the unquestioned support of his unwitting citizens.
HITLER’s GREAT HALL was defined as the "VIA TRIUMPHALIS," An Architectural behemoth designed to hold 180,000 people! It was to be a "Place to worship the Fuhrer."
Atop the cupola if The Great Hall was to be placed "A great Bronze Eagle with a Swastika in it’s talons, but just before the outbreak of German Hostility in 1939, Hitler ordered, "That has to be CHANGED! Instead of the Swastika, the Eagle must be seen as clenching the GLOBE in its claws!"
Hitler and his Third Reich was to be viewed as "Lord of the World."
Worldly Power, even in it’s cruelest forms, as evidenced in Architectural and Political INDOCTRINATION, backed by coercion and violent Forces, easily sweeps away the Populace and may corrupt the most faithful of proselytes and Christian Leadership.
Let there be no mistake,
By the Power of the Prince of the "Kingdom of the Air" or in the realm of the Kingdom(s) of this World. One will find specific ploys that are commonly used when empires and movements are being established by human means, Including:
Institutionalized hatred, the naming of the "non-conformists" as the Enemy, and scapegoating of Minorities, differing Ethnic Groups or those of a differing Religious belief from that of the Ruling Political Party.
The Christian must not be fooled into these subtle but deceptively elusive uses of seemingly Biblical concepts – there is great evil when Worldly Powers are vying for our loyalty and attention. In the Midst of such sensitive and sometimes indiscernible WORLDLY matters -- Let the Christian take great care and draw ever Closer to Jesus’ in the wholeness and Diversity of his Life and
Christ did not conquer by the Sword, but by his own death on the Cross! By his humility and suffering he made the truth known, that Humankind and State will most often fail and fall for their self-protection, the death of the innocents is tragically Where TRUTH is Revealed.
In our dealings with the Powers of this World, the Christian needs to ask him/her self, to carefully consider all that is being said and heard. We must be wise to analyze every movement and carefully reflect on what are the implications (or OUTCOMES) for the People and/or Matters with respect to Jesus Teachings and Living in the Way of Jesus kingdom.
By what means is a New World Order to be carried out?? At what cost may we call ourselves or any country The/An "INDISPENSABLE NATION"??
Is there a way for us to be the POWER of God within the POWER of this world?? HERE is the Centrality of the issue: QUESTION. How can we remain in this World....(ALIVE!) And work within the Systems that seek to own us or cause us to OWE them allegiance?? Can the Child of God RISE ABOVE WORLDY POWERS to lead and serve Christ?? Bringing Salvation and Kingdom Values to bear??
I think that Jesus knew exactly what he was up against, even as we heard in this morning’s Gospel Text from Luke 13, calling Herod that "wise old FOX!!!" Indeed, the Christian is called to be wise as a serpent(!) in such matters.
Here is where the Christian is to rely on his or her God given Wisdom. Perhaps gaining strength in knowing that "Christ [is] the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1, 24). ...
We, as God’s children, may wish to Consider That it is Christ Jesus living in us who will enable us to testify to his righteousness and to live peaceably among our neighbors.
To utilize our knowledge about God and the unique calling of Christ on our Lives, to Speak out against Evil, to be Compassionate and to conduct ourselves, not out of fear and repression in the shadow of worldly powers.
But doing Christ’s Deeds of Power!!
Because, the Christian knows that IN the life lived by faith in God’s Grace we have overcome the World, not even the fear of death was coercive over those early saints who gladly offered their bodies to sword or other brutalities, though we do not wish to depart from this life, yet in this Power we have In JESUS, +++ this hope and POWER to live by, in that God.....
"raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." This is the Christian’s Hope and Life Philosophy.
The Power held by the Christian in his or her hope in Jesus, enables the Gospel to shine thru Worldly subtleties, revealing their temporal faults. Because of the Power of the Hope living inside of us, the Faithful can share in good deeds done in his name and living for the encouragement and consolation of others both new and old to the faith.
Even as the Apostle Paul has said, "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1Cor.1:18). And so the Christian seeks to live faithfully and boldly for Christ, with the Power of Christ, as his or her Motivation – the Christian Overcomes the world because Christ has overcome the Power of Hell and
Death and thereby, the faithful live to Proclaim his Life-Giving Presence and Salvation to all who dwell in the darkness of worldly tyrants, institutions and regimes!
Let us Pray,
Lord Jesus Christ, by your Cross and Resurrection, you have overcome the world. You have dispelled the fears of death and no worldly powers can claim a greater offering than what you give to us–even the joy we have in serving you here and eternal life with God. Fill us ever with your Powerful words and deeds, that we might live to serve you and praise you forever and ever. Amen!