Thursday, March 29, 2018

Power Corrupts & Connects (Holy Thursday, 2018-03-29)

HOLY THURSDAY 29 March 2018,

•• Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14  •• Psalm 116  •• 1 Corinthians 11:23-26•• + John 13:1-15 ••

Title:  Power Struggle. Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper

[__01__]   There was a power struggle at the Last Supper, at the Lord’s Supper. There was a power struggle. And, in our lives each there is an exertion, endeavor, to exercise of our will each day in our relationship to choose express – for example -- GRATITUDE rather than GRUMBLING … in the choice to LISTEN rather than to LAMENT.
            Our Lenten fast of 40 days give us this option and opportunity to follow Christ, but I think that – sometimes – following God’s alternate route is different than our own WAZE/ways or device.
            It is not easy to be in a power struggle for power, for freedom.

[__02__]  On November 4, 2012, the New York City Marathon was scheduled to commence with its usual shotgun start early Sunday morning and line of runners on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island.
          The NYC Marathon – just in case you are college-Final-4-basketball-immersed – is the 26.2 mile race through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, with a finish line in Central Park.
          While it is an outdoor day time event, it does require electricity, organization and there was a power struggle in New York City in November 201, because Con Edison and all the utilities due to Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy as the meteorologists prefer) a few days earlier.
          There were many victims. Thousands were without power, without electricity. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many wanted the marathon to occur… believing it would unite and excite city.
          After much deliberation, the runners did run… a marathon of sorts …but there was no official marathon due to the many obstacles to recovery.
          In this, there was a power struggle, in New York City politics. And, in any power struggle, we may be concerned our relationships.
          We may wonder if we have “followers”.  The mayor had to decide if people like his decision or not. Would the marathon be popular or not?
          In a power struggle, how do I make a difficult decision of my own free will in whatever race or walk I am completing or competing in. Full marathon. Half marathon. Or a regular day’s work.
[__03__]      The Gospel of the Last Supper [Jesus and his disciples the night before he dies]  reminds us that POWER can CORRUPT and POWER can CONNECT.
          Power can be corrupting, toxic, poisonous.
          Power can be connecting, beneficial, inspiring. [like .. electricity…that brings us together.]

 [__04__]  1st. [►POWER CAN CORRUPT]  Power was a corruption for Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. It was a corruption, intoxicating, poisonous not because Judas was executing a coup d’etat in which he [Judas] would land on the throne in the palace.
          Rather, power was corrupting for Judas because of his expectation of what Jesus, the Lord and Messiah, would do after being arrested.
          Judas had a game plan that involved, in theory on paper, good things for the disciples, the Jewish community currently subordinated to the Roman Empire, and of course, good things for Judas himself.
          That is, Judas was playing and gambling that if Jesus were arrested, then Jesus – who is the Messiah and would not dash his foot against a stone – would then assert positively assert himself, and take over.
          In this regard, Judas was not just betraying Jesus but was trying to betray the Roman Empire, but his plan did not work.
          There is a power struggle between Judas and Jesus.
          And, there is a power struggle whenever we expect that our salvation and success and happiness is based on simply a competition or perhaps the working out of our own pre-defined plans.
          Jesus, did he not, lay down his life also for Judas?  Did he not lay down his life for those who accused him and crucified him?
          His response: “Forgive them Father they know not what they do.  (Luke 23:34)
          There is a power struggle when we endeavor to express our CONTRITION … our CONFESSION. There may be a power struggle when we try to forgive someone else.
          It’s not easy.
          The power can corrupting. It can be difficult.
          There is another way.

          Starting shortly after college, I visited annually – almost every summer -- friends and family who had a place on the water in New England. They also have a lovely sailboat. I know nothing about sailing, only how to tow the boat back in after an incorrect calculation of the wind, current et cetera, et cetera.
          On this boat, aboard this vessel, my friend’s father treated all of us as his sons and daughters, as family.
          So, for the weekend, he had about about 20 grown children instead of 5. And, we were hungry … maybe even power hungry. [We were also actually hungry and ate them out of house and home.]
          He treated us as though we knew something about sailing.  Early on, he asked me to wheel, focus on that island up ahead and went below deck. He expressed full confidence in all of us.
          The power was a connection, it was inviting.
          His relaxed demeanor, his expectation that we all – and that I too – would respect his boat, but this was not written down. It was, at times, expressed in actual words but also in attitude.
          We might recall that for the disciples at the Last Supper, they had no LECTIONARY – neither 1st reading nor 2nd reading – no NEW TESTAMENT. Nothing was written down. Yet, they were already the Church, the Body of Christ. The Gospel was being written in their hearts.
          Jesus was also expressing his confidence in them, even though they would later desert him, abandon him.
          As an analogy, do we not receive this in love from others who place confidence in us, faith in us, sharing their destinations and hope with us.
          The power is connecting.
[__06__]      Jesus is making his disciples and you and me – part of the destination, part of the plan which involves not only the struggle for power but the transfer of power.
          Yes, he is our Savior an Lord, but he also promises us that he is the vine and we are the branches  (John 15) and that we can do great things in faith, hope and love by our connection to him.
          He is trying to transfer his power to us.          The sacraments – Baptism, Confession, Holy Communion, Matrimony, Holy Orders – all the sacraments – are on one level a humble recognition of our fragility, our brokenness … yes our actions maybe be rusty or corrupted at times.
          Yet the sacraments also remind us of a transfer of power, a restoration of energy, of grace in our hands and feet, even though our hands and feet also may be wounded.   
          The sacramental experience reminds us about running a race – in connection with Christ – just as Paul reflected in his words to Timothy that Jesus’ body and blood are given to us, poured out for us so that we may also long for his presence and that death leads to new life.
          Paul writes: “For the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me but to all who have longed for his appearance.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
          Jesus’ appearance, His presence is our power, our connection.


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