I had lots of emails with questions on the reflection for June 23 regarding the power and authority of God. My premise was that God’s exercise of his power is exemplified first and foremost by his sharing of the creation with creation itself. That point was not specifically stated that way in the reflection, but that’s the premise. God is lining us all up to share his power and authority for an eternity, but it begins here and now.
The set of verses in Matthew 7 for Thursday, June 23, begins with Jesus separating those who know him from those who do the will of the Father. Doing deeds in Jesus’ name accomplishes nothing if not based upon the will of the Father in heaven. It’s a difficult text on the surface, because God seems hard and fast about following the “will” of the Father, and few of us have a good grasp of what the dickens that means.
The point Jesus makes is that listening to the words he speaks is not enough. We are charged with acting on them. If you put the two thoughts together, then both the will of the Father and Jesus words emanate from the same source. The Jews listening to him are astonished, not just at his words, but at his authority. Jesus speaks as both the source of scripture itself, and the living teacher who explains what it means. Eventually, it becomes clear to them all that Jesus speaks as God himself.
Hearing Jesus words, he tells us, connects us directly to God the Father. Our connection to the Father, then, will naturally connect us to his will. If we know the Father, then we will hear his voice. Since that’s quite a questionable actuality, Jesus solves the problem by sending us the Holy Spirit. When you live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God shows how things fit together. The Holy Spirit is the living voice of God in our being.
The Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned in Chapter 7, but his is our divine SIM card to God and our continual understanding of the will of the Father. Read all of Matthew and the rest of the Gospels and the Holy Spirit part gets kicked off as the happy ending that sets up the book of Acts. One set of verses is full of detail, but the entire library of scripture tells the whole story.
In total, the follow on of being born anew by letting the Holy Spirit live in us places us in a de facto one to one (us and God) and one among many (Body of Christ) relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Our experience of the powerful beings we deal with warps our understanding of God. Leaders in our life – everyone from our parents, to our teachers, our mentors, and our civic leaders – skews the proper implementation of power and authority that God laid out for us. No one can represent specifically what God means by authority, and therefore power. Why? Because we’re all in the mix together. Our combined authority comes directly from the connection we have to God as our creator Father, in the name and life of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. That means that we all share in God’s creation, and each of us represent his power and authority. When some of us are lost, mute, or nefarious, the blend of humanity in concert with God runs foul.
Any rouge or individual grasp of power in the form of control over another human being trashes the God connection. God shares willingly and with abandon. No one is left out. We, however, cordon off those we do not want to be with or manage those we don’t want to go beyond prescribed boundaries based upon our own historical and spontaneous earthly constructs.
The freedom of human will causes this problem among us, because a significant portion of our relatives, friends, and citizens, not to mention the long list of foreigners we don’t know, both cordon us off and manage our lives in ways that we do not find helpful. No matter how many saints God puts in our paths, the primary concern we have is for those who threaten us. And yet, this is how God works with us, through the power and authority that each of us bring to the environment where we live. The more of us who follow him, genuinely and actively, the more God’s sharing of the creation is awakened in others and witnessed to the world.
That’s God’s design. No one person and no set of persons holds the reigns of connection to God. We all have reigns. Most of us either don’t know that we do, or we use them to go where we want and accomplish what pleases us. Jesus clearly explains that building our lives (analogy, our house) upon rock (very symbolic, biblically, for the person of Jesus) assures that we will not collapse upon buffeting and outside forces. Anything else that we base our lives upon is like constructing our castle in and on sand.
We get our messages crossed. We think that Jesus and his authority talks to us as a teacher, giving us a life course in kindness, surrender and sacrifice. The real message is that Jesus is God incarnated, resurrected in order to conquer death, and offers to live in us in order to fulfill his design of the universe and our place in it as his brothers and sisters. That’s a far different message from an urgency we may feel to feed the poor so we can go to heaven.
Jesus tells us that God knows our heart, is speaking to us, and wants us to gather in Jesus name to support each other. We gather in order to strengthen our wills to align with the Father. We encourage each other to listen to the leading of the Spirit and to call upon Jesus at every moment.
Or, we should.
In effect, our understanding of authority largely comes from those who concoct their own image of what is godlike. A proper understanding of representing divine authority comes from knowing God and agreeing to channel his authority through our gifts, our love of each other, and our confirmation that God loves us. No other exercise of authority matters. Our practices of authority and power, however, seldom fit the model of walking with the Spirit. It’s why our world looks the way it does.
And in the not too distant future, God will repair the universe, and gather only those who desire to be connected to him. Maybe he’ll do it when enough of us gather together, truly connected through the Holy Spirit, and finally cover the earth with believers. Maybe he’ll do it when the believers have shrunk to only a few, and it’ll be time to compost everything. Maybe he’ll do it gradually, rippling conversion through the next generation of the internet.
No matter. What’s truly important is our own God connection, our gathering with other believers to nurture us, and our witness to the world.