Sunday, March 15, 2009

Power

Power is the glue that holds society together.
Everyone has some form of power:
- some people are powerful enough to tell whole nations what to do
- some people have the power to command large companies
- many of us exercise power as parents
- and some of us only have power over the dog.

Whether we command a dog, or command an army: the issue is not how powerful we are – it is what we do with our power that counts.

John’s Gospel Chapter 2 tells a story of how some people used their power to make themselves rich – and in the process make the lives of other people miserable. This is the story of people who came to the temple to pray. They were told that they needed to bring an offering with them. The rich people would bring a lamb and the poor people a dove.
And this is where the problem began: because it could not be just anything. It had to be a perfect gift without any blemish. These gifts were inspected and if there was a defect, then they were rejected…. But wait!
All was not lost, because the temple officials would keep offerings right there in the courtyard. These had already passed the examination…... “For a small fee we can sell them to you”
And so the trading began: And you can imagine a Middle Eastern market… haggling over the price.
 “Trade in your sheep for one of ours”… but the temple sheep were more expensive.
 “Trade in your Roman money for our special temple money”…but the exchange rate has gone up – and it will cost you a bit extra”.

What really happened is that there were some had studied the religious law. These were the people who knew the system, and used it to give themselves power over those who were not as educated. And in the process they became rich.

This is not unfamiliar with us;
This past week we have seen people use the system to give themselves unfair power:
• Bernie Madoff understood the system of the New York stock exchange… and stole $65 billion.
• Schabir Shaik, a very wealthy convicted criminal, used his connections to spend his prison time in hospital until he was set free on medical parole after serving a fraction of his prison time.
• There are officials at the Home Affairs Office in Langa who use their position to grant residence in our country – for a few thousand rands…. cash, no receipts.

This is destructive power.
It is selfish power.
It is power used to benefit some at the expense of others.
Jesus is quite clear – this is not the way God wants us to live.

When the temple officials used their power for enrichment – Jesus overturned the tables of money.
When the inspectors tried to make something on the side with special doves and sheep – Jesus chased the temple animals out of the courtyard.
When the officials tried to stop people from praying without paying – Jesus made a whip and chased them away.
This is another kind of power.
This is power that opposes oppression
This is power that resists exploitation
This is power that confronts corruption
This is power that says no to dishonesty.
This is the Power of God.

2 comments:

Cecilia said...

This is beautiful and powerful, Pete. I agree: THIS is the power of God. Thank you for this witness.

Pax, C.

barbara said...

You have a way of illustrating things so passionately and succinctly...thank you.