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Powerless or Powerful?

June 15, 2021

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. . . they were terrified and asked each other, Who is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him!’” Mark 4:41.

As I write this on June 15, 2021, many of the restrictions imposed in California expire today, and we are beginning a gradual return to normalcy.  

Much of the power over all aspects of our daily lives that we in America took for granted was taken away from us summarily last year due to the extremely contagious nature of Covid-19, and the fear that there would not be enough hospital beds or ventilators for those infected with the virus.  The federal government closed the border for a time and imposed travel and other restrictions, as did most state governments on businesses and churches.  

We were shuttered in our homes for two weeks to “slow the spread,” that turned into two months, then into over a year.  We couldn’t gather with family members or friends outside of our own household.  We couldn’t go to church, get a haircut, eat in a restaurant, or go to the gym.  Birthday, wedding, anniversary, and graduation celebrations were cancelled as were holiday and vacation travel plans.  People hoarded toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer.  We scrubbed our hands until they were chapped. It was unreal at times.  

For months, we felt powerless to make decisions over even the smallest details of our everyday lives.   

The Pew Research Center recently reported that nearly three in ten American adults said that the pandemic boosted their faith.  And no wonder.  The powerless look to plug into the ultimate source of power.  People of faith derive power from God–the eternal Super Power.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, this blog was read in over 50 countries in the past year, including in many countries whose governments restrict their citizens’ freedoms as a matter of ongoing policy. 

Next Sunday’s Scripture texts[1] describe the power God. In addition to his many other attributes, God is present everywhere, he knows everything, and he is all-powerful.  Our texts describe the application of God’s power through the ages as well as his power as expressed through Jesus and now through the Spirit living within us.  But in addition to describing our powerful God, the texts give us some insight into how we can tap into that power.

No super powers existing on earth or in our imaginations can compare or even come close to God’s real power.  God reminds Job of that when he asks him: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . Have you given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place? . . . Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? “ (Job 38:4, 12, 18).   

The Sanctus in the communion liturgy, based on Isaiah 6, speaks of God’s power: “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God of power and might: Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” 

We can see God’s power all around us in creation and are reminded that God is there for each of us.  [See my prior blog on this subject, Power Player of All Time:]

 Jesus Christ came to earth fully equipped with divine power.  But his displays of power were not for self-aggrandizement.  He wasn’t seeking to promote himself or to procure favors or wealth.  He used his powers to help the poor, the sick, and the disenfranchised.  In this week’s gospel text, he calmed the storm and the waters to ease the fears of his disciples: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm . . . they were terrified and asked each other, Who is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him!’” Mark 4:41.

Paul speaks of all of the hardships that he and others endured in their quest to spread the good news to far-flung places of the earth.  He describes the beatings, imprisonments, hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger they endured to spread the good news.  He writes that it was the Holy Spirit and the power of God that kept them going: “In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God, with weapons of righteousness . . . dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:6-10).

You can tap into God’s power through prayer.  E. M. Bounds taught “More prayer, more power; less prayer, less power; no prayer, no power.”  Many years ago one of our former pastors, Stephen Lien, quoted his mother, Orena Lien, who taught him a similar proverb: “No prayer, no power; little prayer, little power; much prayer, much power.”The psalmist itemizes the times that the Lord rescued the Israelites from sure death and destruction, and offers this bit of advice: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124: 8).  Power up.

James tells us that prayer is both powerful and effective: “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them . . . And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” James 5: 13-16.  Power up.

These texts show us God’s power at work around us in his creation.  Paul describes all of the hardships he endured by tapping into the power of God.  The Holy Spirit was with him, helping him all of the way.   Isn’t it time that you tapped into God’s power?  When you wake up during the night and can’t go back to sleep, be grateful that God has given you a special time to spend with him.  Call out to him from the depths of your soul, and ask him to heal you, to restore you, to comfort you, to guide you, to counsel you, to stay with you.  During your commute, while you are out walking or running, or waiting in a socially distanced line at the market, use that time to silently talk to God—to praise him, to confess your mistakes, to unload your concerns, to ask for guidance and help.  Call upon the Lord earnestly from your heart in prayer and he will empower you.

Believers are not powerless.  Power up.

Prayer:  God of power and might, we give you thanks and praise for who you are–the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing Creator of the universe and everything in it.  We humbly ask you to forgive our many mistakes, missteps, and misstatements.  We thank you for the powerful assurance that you love and forgive us as our loving Father.  Create order from the muddles of our lives.  Heal us, revive us, comfort us, guide us, and counsel us always.  We ask these things in the name of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Job 38: 1-11; Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 6: 1-13; Mark 4: 35-41.

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