By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab
[11/23/14 – reelecting on Matthew 25:31-44 – United Church, Hinesburg, VT; Luke 19:37c.]
This parable is called the judgment of the nations. A great choice! All the nations, everyone, is measured by how loving and caring they are. Who could not value this king? From the start, Jesus talked of this king – God’s kingdom. A king has power. This king’s power is the power of love and justice. So, the nations are judged by how loving and fair they are.
What an unforgettable story!
Jesus: “I was hungry and you helped me sign up for the Food Shelf.”
People: “Lord, we didn’t know it was you!”
Jesus: “Well, it was. Come, share a new life with me. ”
Jesus: “We were strangers from Guatemala and we just moved next door to you and you came over with a loaf of fresh-baked bread to welcome us.”
People: “Lord, we didn’t know it was you!”
Jesus: “Well, it was. Come, share a new life with me.”
This king’s power is used lovingly and justly.
We know in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come”
How right to reword it “Your power comes.” We want God’s power to win. We want love and justice to prevail over all that is hard-hearted and unfair.
There are two kinds of power – good power and bad power. We know the abuse of power. There are far too many stories today of bad power that hurts people and bad power that is unjust.
We can be afraid of power – afraid to use the good power we have. The gospels can help. We know of Jesus’ healing and feeding the hungry five thousand. We call them miracles. The Greek word for miracle is dunamis. Dunamis means power. Jesus’s miracles were works of his power, good power.
Luke says the crowds on Palm Sunday had come because of Jesus’ power. They had come to cheer because of “all the deeds of power they had seen” (Luke 19:37c).
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The church today has the good power of its moral and ethical stand for caring and justice. The church does well to use that power. I was part of such a good use of power last Monday.
Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA) stands for a morality and ethic of caring and justice. That gives them power. They used that power to call the area legislators – the representatives and senators from the three counties around Burlington – to meet clergy of the area – Jewish, Christian, and Moslem.
Their slogan is a “Movement Toward a Moral Economy.” They presented their goals for 2015 – a more equitable tax structure that raises taxes on areas of top income in order to preserve programs that benefit all Vermonters; and a living wage for all. All the representatives and senators were asked to back these goals.
Now there is controversy about each of these two goals. The VIA people are not out to dictate how representatives and senators should vote. They do want dialog about these goals. The representatives and senators will vote as they see fit when the time comes.
This was a use of good power. The clergy opened the door to debate about these goals. That’s what they were after.
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Along a different line, have you noticed how much the word “agency” is used today? It’s new to me. I know of automobile agencies and insurance agencies. This time “agency” is about individual people. It’s about individuals using their own power to get what they believe is right.
Here is a story of two people using their agency. One is a mother. The other is her daughter.
The mother, Janet, tells it this way.
“Four friends came over to play with my nine-year-old Sally. She disappeared. I found her under her bed crying, “They don’t want to play with me.” I had been here before with Sally who can have a ‘dialog’ in her head about what happens. It’s a dialog of her own fears. It is not a dialog about reality – about what is really happening.”
Sally was not using her power, her agency, to see good things happening – here to see her friends liked to play with her.
“I (Janet went on) said, ‘Sally, your friends have been looking all over the house for you. They want to play with you.’ As other times before, I had to keep it up for some time before Sally finally believed it, dried her eyes, and came out to play.”
Mother Janet was using her agency, her power, to understand Sally and to offer what Sally needed.
Janet went on to elaborate on her agency, her use of her own power – here her sense of reality and the need to talk it. “I knew this situation could repeat for some time and it did. She was not hiding under the bed, but hiding in various ways from the good things happening to her all the time. I was patient with her and, when she was despondent about something, I was ready to point out the good things in the situation that were the reality. In time, Sally learned to think more positively.”
There is a happy end of this agency story. Sally is now a ninth-grader with lots of friends. She is a first-rate swimmer on the school’s swimming team and keeps improving. Recently, she just shaved 15 seconds off the time of the 200-meter freestyle and was “on the top of the moon.” She raises money for events of the swimming team by writing for donations to the parents of friends and to aunts and uncles and grandparents.
Sally is using a number of her own agencies or powers – here to assert herself to make friends, to develop athletically, and to advocate, raise money, for the swimming team’s events.
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So there we have two instances of good power. The VIA group is opening more dialog about public issues of justice. Janet and Sally are individuals using their own good powers for caring – for themselves and for others.
For us as Christians, see these uses of power as God’s Spirit at work to make some parts of the world more loving and just, more caring and fair.
With Thanksgiving Day ahead among other things be thankful for God’s Spirit at work among us all.