Power Plays, Year B, 4th Sunday, Easter

Year B, 4th Sunday, Easter

Acts 4:5-12  •  Psalm 23  •  1 John 3:16-24  •  John 10:11-18         Threshold

Images of power abound in the texts this week, power of all kinds. The dictionary app on my Mac says that power as a noun is:

  • The ability to do something or act in a particular way
  • The capacity or ability to direct or influence the actions of others or course of events
  • Physical strength or force exerted by someone or something
  • Energy produced by a mechanical, electrical or other force to power a device 

The word, ”power”, literally appears in the readings from Acts and John as the translation of two different Greek words, “dynamis” or “exousia”. There are subtle differences in the kind of power each word describes. “Dynamis” is “strength and ability, inherent power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.”[i] The religious and civic authorities in Acts ask Peter and John, ‘“By what power (“dynamis”) or by what name did you do this [healing]?’” The writer of Acts names the power residing in Peter as the Holy Spirit. “Exousia” is the “power of choice or liberty of doing as one pleases, the permission.[ii] In John Jesus declares that he decides if he lays down his life for others. “I have power (“exousia”) to lay it down, and I have power (“exousia”) to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” 

What is the power inherent in the shepherding of God in Psalm 23? There is the power of direction/protection and physical strength by virtue of being the shepherd with the rod and staff that can guide sheep along tricky paths. The power of protection and direction is extended in the shepherd’s knowledge of safe, green pastures that are free of noxious weeds and still, pure water sources without the danger of a sheep being swept downstream to drown. The metaphor broadens as the psalmist praises the shepherding God’s power to lead sheep, and by implication human beings, even through the dark valleys of death and to provide sumptuous feasts, fine oil and overflowing cups of wine. Here is the energetic power of sustenance and nurture. 

What are the manifestations of power in I John and John’s gospel? In contrast to the use of power over other people that the authorities in Acts seek to use to silence Peter and John, I John and John speak of empowering power. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (I John 3:16). This is the power of “exousia”, the “power of choice or liberty of doing as one pleases, the permission. Peter and John willingly take up this power in their determination to proclaim the love of God in Christ despite the risk of arrest and imprisonment. Jesus is the example of this power of love in the gospel passage. The preaching elder in I John proclaims the reciprocity of living in the community of God generated by this love and empowered with this love.

The exploration of power in our texts will lead you to the discovery of metaphor and imagery in story. What story do you know outside scripture in which the power of “exousia” is demonstrated? What stories hold the healing constructive power of “dynamis” in contrast with the over-bearing, destructive power of “dynamis”? As more food for thought on the use of power in these scripture texts I leave you with three quotes I discovered in my exploration this week.

Blessings on your story journeys, Jane Anne

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

“It is not power that corrupts, it is fear.” Aung Sang Suu Kyi

“It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.” Paulo Coehlo

Stories

In her book, Doorways to the Soul, Elisa Davy Pearmain tells the story of “The King and the Falcon.” I think it holds images of “dynamis” and “exousia.” I also found the story at http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=dutton&book=tortoise&story=falcon. Below is a synopsis. 

A king went hunting with his beloved falcon who had served him for many years. After a long day of hunt the king was separated from the rest of the hunting party and ready to return home. He was very thirsty so when he chanced upon a small stream coming flowing from the top of a rocky hill he stopped to drink. He took out his drinking cup and filled it but just as he put the cup to his mouth his falcon who was flying free instead of riding on his arm swooped down and knocked the cup from his mouth. The king was surprised and a bit irritated. He picked up the cup and filled it again. Just as he lifted the cup to his mouth it happened again. The bird knocked it from his hand. Now the king was quite angry. He filled the cup again and once again the bird swiftly knocked it from his hands. As it did the king drew his sword and in one blow killed his falcon. The cup rolled into deep crevice in the rocks and could not be retrieved. Muttering to himself the thirsty king climbed the hill to drink from the source of the stream. There he found a pool and in it floated a dead and very poisonous serpent. Then he knew why his friend the falcon had knocked the cup from his lips. With great sadness he retrieved the body of his dead friend and put it gently in his bag. Then he headed for home vowing never to act in anger again.

Below is a description of geese and their habits in community with one another. I found it while researching quotes and stories about power. It speaks of the generative possibilities of power shared.

Why Geese Fly in Formation

Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in a “V” formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People who share common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, she suddenly feels the draft and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.

When the lead goose gets tired, she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. It pays to take turns doing hard jobs.

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. An encouraging word goes a long way.

Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by a gun shot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow her until she is either able to fly or until she is dead, then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with the group. If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

Source http://www.wisdomcommons.org/search?searchtype=all&q=Why+Geese+Fly+in+Formation&x=0&y=0

Source type: Website: SisterSong “The Goose Story”

http://www.sistersong.net/

 

 

[i] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1411&t=KJV

[ii] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1849&t=KJV


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