Easter 4C: ALL the Sheep?

SheepFIRST LESSON:  Acts 9: 36-43

To read the passage from Acts

Rather than talking about conversion as we have the last couple of weeks, now the story shifts to Peter’s miraculous raising of Tabitha, or Dorcas.  This is not the first time that Peter has emulated Jesus in this way.  Earlier in Acts 3, we read of Peter’s healing of a lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. So, this raising is not as out of the blue as it sounds to us at the onset.

Here, the congregation in Joppa (and particularly the women) has lost one of the pillars of its community. She was nothing short of a beloved saint, their own Mother Teresa, if you will.  The fact that we are given not only her Aramaic name but also her Greek name Dorcas may imply that her ministry went far beyond even her own community.  In both languages, the name means “gazelle”.  This seems to be a deep and profound loss.  In fact, Tabitha is so powerful that the community does not want to let her go.  She is literally called mathetria, or a “female disciple”.  This puts her on equal footing with the New Testament disciples that we know so well.

The emphasis is not really upon Peter, but upon the community.  They had lovingly anointed and cared for their friend’s body and then waited prayerfully outside while Peter went inside.  This is a congregation who had lost a friend, a role model, a mentor.  This is a congregation who had lost the one who would stand up for them, these helpless widows.  This was one who was bringing about change.  But it also shows that this was a congregation who believed in hope, who believed in the possibility of new life and resurrection, who believed in a God that could transcend death.  It also shows a congregation that was willing to get involved in each other’s lives, to even weep together for their friend, and to dare to hope that life would return.  This was truly a healing community.  This was a community that was open to being transformed.

Now there is no way to verify whether or not there was really a raising.  We have been told before that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.  This may count as a legend or the writer may have just took some poetic license and put it in.  But, regardless, it is a story of transformation—death to life, brokenness to wholeness, hate to love.  It is the story of the power of death and despair once again being overcome and recreated into life.  It is that hope that binds us all.  Maybe we need more stories like that.  They invite us to look for God’s hand in today’s new beginnings.  They invite us to feel the continued echoes of Christ’s story, glimpses of the mystery of God.  Martin Marty said this about this text:

 

“Church rolls were never swelled because people sat up after having been dead. They swelled and endure because people who have faced in faith what Karl Rahner called death, ‘the abyss of mystery,’ are content to leave the details and reportings in the realm of mystery. They want something else. Through and in it all they have seen and known and experienced Jesus Christ’s rising as something that breaks the mold and ushers in a new age in history, including in our personal histories.”

 

1)      What is your response to this passage?

2)      What does that mean for you that this community believed in hope and in each other?

3)      What does that have to with transformation?

4)      What does it mean to “look for” new beginnings?

5)      The 18th century writer Voltaire said that “it is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in nature is resurrection.” What would that mean for our lives if we looked at everything as resurrection?

6)      How much could others sense echoes of Christ’s story in our lives?

 

NEW TESTAMENT:  Revelation 7: 9-17

To read the passage from Revelation

First of all, remember that the writings that we know as Revelation are full of rich imagery and metaphors, some of which make sense to us in our time, and some of us do not.  Remember that the book was written when the Christians of Asia Minor were being persecuted by Roman officials for their refusal to acknowledge and worship the emperors.  Some Christians became martyrs; others weakened and left the faith.  There were enough leaving that there appeared to be a crisis as to whether or not the fledgling new religion would survive.  So, the writer tries to sharpen and make clear the alternatives of worshiping either Caesar or God.  The passage today is one of words for those who are desperately striving to remain faithful.

John begins the chapter by talking about all the people from the twelve tribes of Israel who will be in “heaven” with us—144,000—the perfect number, the complete number of 12 tribes times 12 times 1,000.  The twelve tribes of Israel—the ones to which we as Christians have been grafted—are there.  The writer is reminding us that we may be surprised at what comes next, at who comes next, at how it’s construed.  It is a reminder that in spite of our plans, in spite of our prejudices, in spite of our boxes that we build, God is recreating everything and everyone.

But whatever it is that we call “heaven” or the “afterlife” or (not my favorite) “our great reward”, the work will not be done.  Whatever you think comes next, we will indeed rest from our labors, but the worshiping and ministry and building of the Kingdom of God will continue.  We will be guided to the waters of life, true life, and God will wipe away every tear from every eye.  No more tears….just meaning and relationship and shalom.

But when we read this, it is not just an account of the future.  It is, after all, a testament to the idea of the Kingdom of God that is now as well as something to come.  We are given glimpses of what will be, a “vision”, if you will, to work toward.  The writer known as John broadens the vision beyond what we can imagine—people gathered from every nation and language on earth, all giving praise to God, to the TRUE one on the throne.  In a sermon, “Glimpsing Heaven in Thin Places”, the Rev. Dr. Nora Tubbs Tisdale says this:

I’m guessing that included in that crowd, too, are going to be a lot of people who surprise us by their presence there.

My maternal grandfather, a lifelong Presbyterian minister, died some years ago at the ripe old age of 98. There were many things I loved about my grandfather–his integrity, his intellect, his deep faith in Jesus Christ. But we regularly disagreed on a host of social, political and church issues, including the ordination of women to ministry. Sadly, my beloved grandfather never came to terms with what I did with my life and always thought that I was forsaking my true calling by going into ministry.

My husband, however, made me smile through my tears on the morning of my grandfather’s death–which just happened to take place early on World Communion Sunday. “Nora,” he said, “Who do you suppose is serving your grandfather communion in heaven this morning? Clergy women perhaps???”

If truth be told, we all have our blind spots, our prejudices. And, consequently, I have a feeling that we’re all going to be surprised by who is sitting at the Lamb’s eternal banquet table with us in heaven. Surely we will see people there we considered unforgivable, unredeemable. People against whom we have long held grudges or prejudices. People from nations we branded with the label “enemy” or people we failed to even see in this life because of their poverty, disease, or station in life. They will all be there. For no matter how inclusive we think we are in our embrace of others, heaven–according to John’s vision–will be far more so.

But inclusivity will not be the only surprise awaiting us in heaven. I think we’re also going to be surprised by what people are DOING in heaven.

When heaven is depicted in romantic art, what we often see are a group of cherubs playing their harps, while people lounge around on clouds of ease, as if on a perpetual vacation.

But when we peer through John’s veil, what we see is that heaven is actually a very active place. And what is it people are busy doing? They are worshiping and serving God and others–doing those very same things that gave them the greatest joy, the greatest meaning, in their life here on earth. (Available at http://day1.org/1117-glimpsing_heaven_in_thin_places, accessed 21 April 2010.)

But, as I said, this is not just meant to be a vision for the future; it’s a vision for now.  It’s the way to encounter holiness even here on this messed up old earth.  (And maybe the messed up old earth is what we’re supposed to be working to transform into God’s Kingdom anyway.  You think?)

 

1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What does this idea of glimpsing holiness now mean for you?

3)      What changes if we embrace this image as one for “today” instead of one for “whatever comes next”?

 

GOSPEL: John 10: 22-30

To read the Gospel passage

This Gospel passage may be a little bothersome for us.  We may identify a little too closely with those that were gathered around Jesus. There’s a part of us that wants so desperately to know that Jesus is the Messiah, to hear it explained and spoken to us with clear, plain, undeniable proof.  We read this and we begin to question a little bit whether or not we’re even qualified to be a sheep!

The image of the shepherd is a powerful metaphor for the Messiah in Israel’s collective memory.  They didn’t need to have it explained to them; it was part of them.  And by Jesus implying that they were not part of his sheep, he was saying that they were not part of his way.  The claim that he makes that he and God are one is not necessarily some sort of partial-Trinitarian claim.  It is rather an expression of unity.  He is saying that he and God are unified, united in the work that is being done.  And he’s implying that those who understand this are also part of this unified Spirit of God.  But only those who are part of this way, who understand what it means to be united with God, who embark on that journey toward a oneness with God—only those will actually hear the holiness that is God.

For us Christians, the story of Jesus—his teachings, his miracles, his healings, his birth, his life, his death, and his resurrection—and making that story our own is the way that God is revealed to us, the way that we find that way to God.  As (once again) anti-Semitic as this version sometimes sounds, Jesus is not claiming here that he is the only way that God is revealed; he is claiming this his way of relating to God and working with God is the WAY to God.

People who like black and white answers and who prefer plain meaning to subtlety and allusion may find this passage frustrating.  Who are we kidding?  People who like black and white answers and hard and fast rules of who and what’s in and who and what is out will find the whole Christian walk frustrating.  We usually find ourselves asking, “How long will you keep us in suspense?”  Wouldn’t it be easier if you just told us what to do?  Wouldn’t it be easier if you made it plainer to understand?

The truth is that for most of us the challenge is not in following Jesus.  We like the road.  After all, we know how it ends up.  The challenge is not following, but recognizing Jesus’ voice.  That is the hardest part of this Scripture passage.  We have not really learned what that means.

In keeping with the metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep, remember that in Jesus’ day, sheep were in constant danger—from thieves, wild animals—they could be snatched away at a moment’s notice.  But they knew the shepherd and they listened.  As long as they could hear his voice, they knew they were OK.  They knew they would not be snatched away.  They knew that they would know where to go if they just listened.  In fact, if you’ve ever been around livestock, it seems that is all they know.  They just follow the master.  Maybe they’re not as dumb as we think.  Maybe they do a better of job of shutting out the competing voices than even we do.

Now don’t get me wrong…going this way with Jesus, hearing the Shepherd’s voice, if you will, does not guarantee an easy road, regardless of what those preachers of the prosperity gospel may tell you.  You can do everything right; you can walk the same road that Jesus walked; you can open your lives to others; you can feed all the sheep in the world—and bad things will still happen not because you did anything wrong.  It’s just part of life.  But read on…”I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

But you have to listen.  And you have to know to what and to whom it is that you’re listening.  That is probably the hardest of all.

 

1)      What meaning does this passage hold for you?

2)      What does that mean to listen to the voice of God above all the other noises to which we are subjected?

3)      What does this passage say to us about transformation?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 

Miracles are retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. (C.S. Lewis, 20th century)

 

The note we end on is and must be the note of inexhaustible possibility and hope. (Evelyn Underhill)

 

Blessed are the ears which hear God’s whisper and listen not to the murmurs of the world. (Thomas a’ Kempis, 15th century)

 

 

Closing

 

Truth-telling, wind-blowing, life-giving spirit—we present ourselves now for our instruction and guidance; breathe your truth among us, breathe your truth of deep Friday loss, your truth of awesome Sunday joy.

 

Breathe your story of death and life that our story may be submitted to your will for life. We pray in the name of Jesus risen to new life—and him crucified. Amen.

(“Prayer of Illumination”, from Prayers for a Privileged People, by Walter Brueggemann, p. 179)

 

Easter 2C: Faith’s Shadow

doubting-thomas

FIRST LESSON: Acts 5: 27-32

To read the Acts passage

During the Season of Eastertide, our first readings are not from the Old Testament but rather the Book of Acts—the beginnings of the believers’ story after the Resurrection. All of a sudden this seemingly bumbling and clueless band of disciples that had followed Jesus around all through the Gospels suddenly seems to “get it”. But remember, too, that earlier in Acts (our Pentecost story), the Holy Spirit had come upon them. They were not alone but were empowered by faith in the Resurrected Christ. They were, in effect, becoming the church. Walter Brueggemann writes that “in the Book of Acts the church is a restless, transformative agent at work for emancipation and well-being in the world.” (April 9, 2007, available at http://theolog.org/2007/04/brueggemann-sermon-starter.html.)

Now they feel compelled to speak the Truth as they see it, even when the act of speaking the Truth is a dangerous one. They speak of Jesus as one in the same as the One and only Lord, God Almighty. And obeying and speaking this truth is above all human authority. Peter and the apostles understood that with the Resurrection of Christ, they were to look to new leadership. They were to follow Christ, rather than the political and religious leaders that were in place in the society.

Now it is important to not begin to fall into this account as one religion against another. This is NOT the Christians vs. the Jews the way some of our Christian brothers and sisters may try to make it. In fact, “Christianity”, per se is essentially a movement within the established faith. Peter is speaking here with the “authority of our ancestors”. He is speaking from the tradition of his people—his Jewish people. Think of it more as a “family feud” or a difference in belief. The words “to Israel” are important. This is not the beginnings of a religious war between two opposing faiths. Here, both sides were convinced that their truth was THE Truth. But it is not unlike our own setting with our own internal struggles between conservative and progressive, traditional and contemporary, right and left, or whatever designations you care to use to fill in the blanks.

Here, Peter was a witness. We know the end of the story. He and others are martyred for their belief. But the important part is that Peter was a witness, doing what all of us are called to do as followers of Christ.

I think it’s important to note, though, that being a “witness” does not call one to be mean-spirited or to wound others who do not think the same way in the process. Peter and the disciples still viewed themselves as part of those to whom they were speaking. They were not pulling away; they were not dismissing them as “wrong” or “evil” or anything else. They were trying to open the conversation of faith. But, of course, they were having to do it with authorities that had the upper hand.

There are those that will see the Scripture as a call to “war” between the so-called “secular humanists” and (I would say) so-called “people of faith”. J. Michael Krech says this in response to that:

 

[Some people] will see as heir to Peter’s boldness the public high school valedictorian who inserts a prayer into her speech at graduation, despite being warned by the school principal not to do so, thus obeying God rather than human authority. Other Christians will see as closer to the spirit of Peter the protesters whose placards and chants of “No War for Oil” break up a congressional committee hearing on Department of Defense appropriations.

In nations where governments are fairly chosen by the will of the people and orderly processes exist to hear grievances, it may be appropriate that the protesters who interrupt a congressional committee’s proceedings be removed from the room. In nations where the constitution and national heritage encourage mutual respect for people of various faiths and those who hold no religious faith at all, the school principal is correct. Praying your prayer to a captive audience at a public school graduation is not an act of courage but of bad manners…

When [one] speaks with the boldness of Peter and the other apostles, it does, at least over time, encourage hearers to take principled if unpopular stands in the workplace and helps lead us all to be seekers of truth and agents of reconciliation. (J. Michael Krech, in Feasting on the Word, David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. “Second Sunday of Easter”, p. 381, 383.)

 

  • What is your response to this passage?
  • Our new United Methodist vows of membership themselves call us to vow our “prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness”. What does that mean to you to be called as a witness?
  • Why is that so difficult in today’s society?
  • What does it mean that we are called to be “transformative agents”, as Brueggemann said?

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT: Revelation 1: 4-8

To read the passage from Revelation

This passage is the beginning of what was essentially a formal letter for that time and two-thirds of our passage for this week is essentially the salutation for that letter. The writer named John begins by wishing his readers grace and peace from God. He describes God as “the One who is”, sort of like the Old Testament tradition of God interpreting God’s own name as “I am who I am.” The “one who is and who is to come” presents the timelessness, the eternity, of God. It also speaks to that “already and not yet” characteristic of the Kingdom of God.

The number “seven” (used here for the cities and for the spirits) is intended to mean perfect or complete. The seven churches are named later in this collection known as the Book of Revelation, but it is possible that at the beginning, he was representing all the churches of western Asia minor (modern-day Turkey). Perhaps the writer is trying to depict a God that is beyond what we can imagine, beyond the limits of one human. And once again, we have the depiction of God as the ruler over all, one in our midst, always with us, guiding us. So, in the beginning—God, in the end—God, and throughout it all—God. God’s presence and power transcend all human notions of time. And Jesus Christ, the third figure named in the greeting, is also presented with three corresponding titles—the “faithful witness” (in his ministry, death and resurrection), the “firstborn of the dead” (vanquishing death), and “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (a new sovereignty on the earth.)

Remember that this Revelation was written at least a generation or two after Jesus’ death and Resurrection. The Christian faith was already solidified. And once again, the passage draws to the witness of that faith. There was a definite disparity for those early believers between being “Easter people” and living in the realities of what was often a harsh and cruel world. They were being persecuted and they needed a way to make sense of their faith. Revelation was written to encourage those Christians who were struggling to have faith in light of everything around them when evil seemed to be the only thing at work in the world. It was intended to bring a vision of hope to those whose only way to be “safe in their faith” was to abandon it altogether.

And for those of us who have left the beauty and glory that was Easter morning, with the more than full sanctuary, the beautiful flower arrangements, the “Hallelujah Chorus”, and the high-church celebration, now what? We are not persecuted for our faith, but it is indeed hard. It is hard to stay faithful when there are so many things that tug at your life. And, how in the world do we follow that exhibition on Easter morning? How do we top that? What next?

 

To understand Revelation for our day, we have to understand the nature of hope. For Christians hope is not a wish. It is not a tooth under a pillow, or fingers crossed or just one more Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes try. Hope for a Christian is an assurance, a firm and binding promise. It is a sure thing. Hope is not a feeling. It is a fact. It is a fact rooted in the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and assured by the amazing, steadfast, unshakable love of God for God’s people. God will not be shaken. Hope is independent of circumstances and it will never be conquered by evil. Even if hurt seems to be winning, the battle for God has already been won.

Several years ago when I was a pastor in the Denver Colorado area, a colleague of mine told me a story of a friend of hers who was traveling home to Denver on a Sunday afternoon from a conference north along the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Fort Collins. The conference had been a good one. The man and the woman were driving home full of what they had learned and talking about how they might use their new learning in their work situations. As they rounded a curve in the road they came upon a serious motorcycle accident. The motorcycle seemed to catch on something and flip into the air. The driver, without a helmet, was thrown fifty yards or so, and the bike landed not far away.

The two were the first to arrive. The man was driving and pulled off the road just north of the accident. Before he shut off the ignition the woman was out of the car and running to the side of the accident victim. The man stopped another car and sent the occupants for help while he began to try to direct traffic. At one point in the chaos he glanced at the woman. She was crouched next to the unconscious young man, stroking his hair and talking to him.

When the ambulance arrived and the young man was whisked away, the man and the woman got back into their car in silence. There was blood on the woman’s hands and around the hem of her skirt.

After a moment, the man said, “I saw you talking to that young man. He was obviously unconscious. He may even have been dead. What could you possibly have been saying to him?”

“I just told him over and over,” she replied, “I just told him, the worst is over. The healing has already begun.”

To those long ago hurting ones to whom John wrote, to those long ago ones whose lives were marked by pain and fear, by weakness and oppression of injustice and death, whose lives were marked by the terror of the now and haunted by the past and uncertain of the future, to those ones and to us, to you, God through the words of Revelation offers us a vision of a brand new life; a life lived in a brand new order in a brand new way. Maybe the images in Revelation are frightening and confusing to you, serpents and lakes of fire, but what is that to us? What God has to say in this letter is that no matter what comes against you in this life; no matter if all of the power of pain and chaos of the universe seems to overtake you all at once; no matter if you can not control one single thing or fix one single thing in your life, the worst is over, the healing has already begun. The lamb is on the throne. Come Lord Jesus, come. (From “Saltwater Apocalypse”, a sermon by Rev. Eugenia Gamble, November 16, 1997, available at http://day1.org/821-saltwater_apocalypse.)

 

  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What does this passage say about the calling to “witness”?
  • What does it mean to embody Christ, to embody Easter, to become “Easter people”?
  • In what ways do we understand hope?

 

 

GOSPEL: John 20: 19-31

To read the Gospel passage

You have to wonder what the disciples were thinking locked behind the door of their house. Were they afraid that they would be next? Were they disillusioned that things had turned out that way? Were they feeling remorse or guilt or shame at the parts that they had played (or not played, as the case may be) in the Passion Play? I suppose it’s possible that they were a little afraid of the rumors that Jesus HAD returned. After all, what would he say to THEM?

But that’s not what happened. Things were going to be OK. Jesus was back. The disciples rejoiced. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them. They were sent. They became the community of Christ. And so I supposed they went off merrily praising God and being who they were called to be. This is a premise for discipleship. Jesus offered light and truth through his relationship with God. Now the disciples are called to offer light and truth through their relationship with Christ. All except Thomas. Poor Thomas. He wanted to see proof. Why couldn’t he just believe?

On one level, Jesus, with all the grace that Christ offers, gives Thomas exactly what Thomas so desperately needs—proof. Thomas missed his initial opportunity, but Jesus returns. I think we give Thomas a bad wrap—after all, for some reason, he missed what the others had seen. (It is interesting that he was apparently the only one who had ventured outside!) He just wanted the same opportunity—and Jesus gave that to him. He wanted to experience it. The point was that the Resurrection is not a fact to be believed, but an experience to be shared. And perhaps, part of that experience is doubt. Constructive doubt is what forms the questions in us and leads us to search and explore our own faith understanding. It is doubt that compels us to search for greater understanding of who God is and who we are as children of God.

Hans Kung is a Swiss-born theologian and writer. He says it like this: Doubt is the shadow cast by faith. One does not always notice it, but it is always there, though concealed. At any moment it may come into action. There is no mystery of the faith which is immune to doubt. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Doubt is the shadow cast by faith. Faith in the resurrection does not exclude doubt, but takes doubt into itself. It is a matter of being part of this wonderful community of disciples not because God told us to but because our doubts bring us together. Examining our faith involves doubts, it requires us to learn the questions to ask. And it is in the face of doubt that our faith is born. God does not call us to a blind, unexamined faith, accepting all that we see and all that we hear as unquestionable truth; God instead calls us to an illumined doubt, through which we search and journey toward a greater understanding of God.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to belief. (Remember that ALL the disciples had seen Jesus. Thomas just wanted a more tangible showing. The only one in John’s Gospel that really saw nothing was the so-called “Beloved Disciple”, who ran to the tomb and saw nothing.) They have the relationship in Christ to which God calls us. They understand the Christian community—you come together and hold on for dear life as you search for a greater understanding of something that will always be a mystery. But what an incredible mystery it is! And we are given the grace to embrace it.

Frederick Buechner preached a sermon on this text entitled “The Seeing Heart”. In it, he reminds us of Thomas’ other name, the “Twin”. It was never really clear why he was called that, but Buechner says that “if you want to know who the other twin is, I can tell you. I am the other twin and, unless I miss my guess, so are you.” He goes on to say this:

 

I don’t know of any story in the Bible that is easier to imagine ourselves into than this one from John’s Gospel because it is a story about trying to believe in Jesus in a world that is as full of shadows and ambiguities and longings and doubts and glimmers of holiness as the room where the story takes place is and as you and I are inside ourselves…To see Jesus with the heart is to know that in the long run his kind of life is the only life worth living. To see him with the heart is not only to believe in him but little by little to become bearers to each other of his healing life until we become fully healed and whole and alive within ourselves. To see him with the heart is to take heart, to grow true hearts, brave hearts, at last. (“The Seeing Heart”, by Frederic Buechner, in Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons)

 

 

  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What does doubt mean in your faith life?
  • What does community mean in your faith life?
  • What is your response to the notion that those who have not seen and yet have come to belief are the Blessed?
  • What, then, does it mean to have a “seeing heart”?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth…and the resurrection of the body…as it was meant to be, the fragmented self made new; so that at the end of time all Creation will be One. Well, maybe I don’t exactly believe it, but I know it, and knowing is what matters…The strange turning of what seemed to be a horrendous No to a glorious Yes is always the message of Easter. (Madeleine L’Engle)

 

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth. (Pierre Abelard, 12th century)

 

But the proclamation of Easter Day is that all is well…In the end, [God’s] will, not ours, is done. Love is the victor. Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream. Christ our Lord has risen! (Frederick Buechner, “The End is Life”, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, 292)

 

 

Closing

Yours—we gladly attest—is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Yours—we gladly assert—are the heavens and the earth. It is you who had made all that is, sun, moon, stars, rivers, forests, minerals, birds, beasts, fish—and us. We say, “in your image.” Yours the kingdom and the power and the glory—and then us.

 

You do not will us to be powerless either, so you endow us with the power to work, to rule, to govern. We reflect you in our working, in our ruling, in our governing. Ours is the chance for justice and/or injustice, for mercy and/or rigor, for peace and/or war. We grow accustomed to our power, sometimes absolutizing, and then we are interrupted by the doxology on which we have bet everything:

 

Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. And we are glad. Amen. (“On Creation”, by Walter Brueggeman, in Prayers for a Privileged People, p. 165)