23 December 2016
The Battle belongs to the Lord: Part 5
Part 5: The balance of power
Finding security in the power of the resurrection can liberate us to find out what that power can mean in our lives; it also helps us know how to release the power of the kingdom of God too.
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given:
thee we greet triumphant now;
hail, the Resurrection thou!
The triumph of the resurrection is not absent from the agony of our world. Paul in Romans 8.18-25 helps us see that: the hope we cannot see is clouded by the labour pains of longing for liberation and new creation. In St Philip's prayers for Diane, in her dying, you have seen her through some of these labour pains, in the journey to the new creation. That's the strangeness of grief; that by journeying through the agony of loss you can also sense ecstasy too: the ecstasy of being alive yourself and glimpsing the eternal age for the one you mourn.
How do we need equipping then, for this world that is longing for liberty and freedom? We may benefit from drawing on Philip Yancey who in turn draws on Walter Wink's theologies of the powers and principalities, who is drawing on Paul's discussion of the forces we can see and those we cannot see. Walter Wink re-describes for our contemporary ears how the powers can be 'named', 'unmasked' and 'engaged' (these three actions make up his trilogy of biblical interpretations). Walter Wink wanted us to see that the ways in which powers oppress and restrict the flourishing of the kingdom of God here on earth is when power is taken and used for ends that diminish the image of God in us.
The work that we can do to resist and overcome the powers of this present age can become even more apparent and tangible, Wink explains. There are many ways to engage the powers, it is vital that
we understand the battle first and how non-violent means are our best defence against the misuse of power. Then it is possible to see a little more clearly how the powers affect each situation, each context, each tragedy or struggle. That can empower us to prayerfully and practically shift the balance of power. I think that's what you have been doing in your community, it just is helpful to remember what this battle looks like in day-to-day terms.
What I can see is that one purpose you have at St Philip's, that Diane has shared in, has been to name, unmask and engage the oppressive structures and circumstances (spiritual and physical) that affect the many people you serve in Sheffield; in the communities where you live and work. These structures are many and various, they can be physical, material, sociological, spiritual, financial, architectural and educational; typically, they all intersect with each other!
That's a reason to pray for those who wield power over these structures in our city. It is also a reason to see how the Church has a responsibility to challenge and seek to change the way that those who sit in power do or don't join in with our acts of love and prayer for Sheffield. It also comes back to our guerrilla gardening, that's one of the ways to engage the powers; to plant seeds of hope (for example by prayer, worship, mourning, love and action) all over the place to show that God's kingdom is breaking into the here and now.