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POWER

Again and again I see people attracted to power, good power of course, but power; the ability to sort things out, to provide the right answer, for we believe that there must always be a solution if we work hard enough to find it. Jesus did promise to his Church “power” when the Holy Spirit came upon its first leaders. Yet that power is surely something quite unlike the ability to enforce a solution.

One of the aspects of Anglicanism which appeals to me is the absence of much power or authority to enforce things while affirming the power to teach, preach and proclaim, in life-giving and self-sacrifice that which is true and right. Even in this exhausting Advent waiting for +Rowan to tell us what the rest of the Communion wants done with us, I am attracted to the idea that he may not have the solution and that he has been unable to get +Barry Morgan and +Peter Akinola to be of one mind in one place and so must simply tell us to get on with that which God calls us to do in preaching the Word and administering the sacraments until day light returns..

As a boy I had on my bedroom wall a bad reproduction of that very Victorian Holman Hunt painting of Jesus, in alb and cope, wearing the crown of thorns, holding a lantern standing at a door. “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” Jesus doesn’t batter the door down. I wish our TEC leaders would realize that, rather than relying on Caesar to deal with schismatics. No stakes or racks or thumbscrews, but we still hand our malefactors over to the powers that be. Do we somehow believe that as the powers that be can no longer torture and kill it is now quite Christian to hand CANA or SJ to the judges of a secular and separated power?

+Rowan only has the power to knock at the door of a virtual place inhabited by Provincial leaders, many of whom would bring down the house rather than submit to each other in Godly love and self-oblation. Until the folly of our present actions (demanding our own way what ever that way is NOW) becomes obvious to us, perhaps all +Rowan can do, bearing a flash light and a brief case full of the advice written by this and that archbishop or presiding bishop, is knock and stand and wait.

To some this weakness signals impotency, the failure of Anglicanism. There are churches or even denominations which afford something more powerful. I can only remain where I am, believing that our willingness to lose, to die is that which enables us in faith to leave it to God to make all things new. We must not dream of winning as the world wins. We must not adopt the way of force to win. We dare not.

My wife discovered a poem by +Rowan which she put on her blog today. I haven’t previously read it. (Extraordinary, we want a strong leader and God gives us a Celtic poet, a gentle man.)

He will come like last fall’s leaf fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

And God’s will for us today will come in like manner, or so I believe and hope.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for another thought-provoking piece. You sent me scurrying back to a dissertation written over 30 years ago, for power is a word rich in meaning in the NT and intertestamental, and early patristic literature. There is also the difference between kratos and dynamis (and, indeed, exousia).

    My preliminary thought is simple – Rowan is probably (correctly) seeing the “power” which the Lord promised to his disciples (Acts 1:8) as being the “power” of servanthood. The power of domination is the power of the principalities and powers, which has been overcome by Christ (Colossians 2:15).

    We in Britain are going through another of our periodic Tutankhamun flurries. I know next to nothing about egyptology, but the famous sarcophagus appears to show the king holding in one hand a whip and in the other a shepherd’s crook. Archbishops, even of Canterbury, are given only the crook – and instrument of rescue, not of force. (Remember that lovely bit in the Epistle to Diognetus 7:4 “he sent him as seeking to save, as persuading, not compelling, for compulsion is not the way of God.” – hymn 489 to you in ECUSA)

    I don’t know what Rowan will do or say, but he knows well enough that it won’t all be solved by a letter from Lambeth, by the cracking of the whip he does not hold. I think of lines by Wilfred Owen, written in the context of the First World War:

    The scribes on all the people shove
    and bawl allegiance to the state:
    But those who love the greater love
    lay down their lives. They do not hate.

    There is a lesson in discipleship being played out as we look at this sorry mess created by people who have confused the dynamis of the Holy Spirit with different exousiai and archai. In advent we read from Isaiah. May we hear his words: “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength”

    Fr John Marshall
    Gloucester UK

  2. (Extraordinary, we want a strong leader and God gives us a Celtic poet, a gentle man.)

    Didn’t some Jews say something similar a couple thousand years ago?

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