Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 31

Read Matthew 20:17-34.

It is difficult for me to read these words without hearing the hymn, "Are Ye Able" echoing in my ears. It was in the United Methodist Hymnal when I was growing up and we sang it often - or at least it seems like we did. I don't know if the Methodists still use it; I do know it is not in The Hymnal 1982 (The Episcopal Hymnal) and I've probably not sung it in thirty years. But music is funny, it gets in there and stays there.
"Are ye able," said the Master, "to be crucified with me?"
"Yea," the sturdy dreamers answered, "to the death we follow thee."
"Lord we are able," our spirits are thine.
Remold us, make us like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.
When I was working on my doctoral degree I took a course at Harvard Divinity School with Francis Schussler Fiorenza. The course was simply titled, "Theology and Power." While it was more philosophically oriented than Biblical, the whole course could be considered a sort of midrash on Matthew 20:17-28. The power that Jesus offers to the Zebedee boys and "sturdy dreamers" from every generation are not positions in the cabinet of a new administration. It is not, as William Sloan Coffin, Jr. used to put it, about "the love of power, but rather the power of love."

For that kind of power we do indeed need to be remolded and formed again and again in God's own image. It is the work of the Spirit to keep calling us back to this theology of the cross, a radically different way of being in the world than that of the Gentiles who 'lord it over each other." There is power here to be sure, but it's easy to get confused. This is not power over anyone, but the power of persuasion, the power of healing, the power that inspires hope.

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