Power to the People
Every 10th grade world history student learns that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In Game of Thrones, power is that luminous jewel that makes kings of those who have it and servants of those who don’t. In Ukraine, power comes in the form of Russian soldiers protecting “national interests”. On Wall Street, power shows up in Italian suits and capitalism’s “invisible hand” that, besides turning the gears of globalization, also tends to buy those I-bankers ever more Italian suits.
The message we hear about power is that it’s dangerous. People that don’t have it want it. And people that finally get it turn evil and use it to serve their lust for even more power – be it the Iron Throne, Eurasian gas pipelines, or Armani pin stripes.
In sum - power is bad. Good people should avoid it.
But I think that there is a problem with this picture. By focusing on all ways power can corrupt us, we can miss the real opportunity to actually do something about all the corruptions of this world.
That’s one way of telling the story of how Root and Branch got started. When Neil, Tim and I first met, we spent a lot of time critiquing the ecclesial powers that be. We decried the weak-sauce preaching at so many American churches. We lamented the old, tired church programs that lost their effectiveness decades ago. We shook our heads in shame as we watched how the most conservative and least intellectual Christians always seemed to be the ones to capture the media’s attention. And in response, we generally doused the establishment with relentless torrents of self-righteous vitriol.
After quaffing deeply from the vats of Haterade (which Tim keeps in great supply), we were finally convicted that what we were doing was too safe. Critiquing power isn’t enough. We need to leverage our power. We need to take stock of the unique and powerful gifts that God has given to each of us and try to do something new, vibrant, and faithful.
But this is only the beginning of the story. When a handful of people begin to invest their talents, new talented people join and the talents multiply exponentially.
I have to say that I am in awe of the amazing talents and passions present in each one of you who have been a part of Root and Branch so far. We have chefs, preachers, activists, greeters, visionaries, musicians, thinkers, teachers, and artists in our midst every time we gather to break bread.
And all those gifts add up to some serious potential power. This is the kind of power that can create a radical new faith community where there wasn’t one this time last year. It’s the kind of power that can transform strangers into neighbors. It’s the kind of power that can change those corrupt power structures of this world - one person at a time.
Speaking of gifts and powers, Liz B. is preaching this Saturday. And it so happens that the text she’s reading is all about investing our gifts and talents in God’s work for the world. So as we prepare for her sermon, I hope we all take a few moments to reflect on the unique constellations of talents and passions that God has created in each of us and to recognize the potential power that they give us. And more than that, I hope we’ll take the next step and begin to imagine how this power can be leveraged at Root and Branch, not towards our own selfish gain, but for the common good.