Power vs. Authority
A collect is a form of prayer following this pattern:
- Address (the form of the Trinity who is being addressed)
- Petition (the matter being asked about or requested)
- Signature (an invocation naming a form of the Trinity)
The prayer collects several themes, often the ones from the scripture readings for the day. It is a formal prayer that comes before the readings in our worship services. The collect for this week is
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.It is both true and truly amazing that God become human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth and showed his power chiefly through showing mercy and pity. Jesus proved his power through his willingness to be powerless. This paradox is so counter to how we humans expect things to be. (Some thoughts on the paradoxical nature of Jesus' power is found on the page about "The Lamb of God" in the handout from last night's class on Revelation at http://kingofpeace.org/powerinsymbolism.pdf.) Yet, human history shows that keeping control through power only works so long. Dictators can make the trains run on time, but not forever, only as long as they exert force.
Jesus' leadership through mercy, pity and powerlessness came with authority. Our scripture tells us that those who heard him were amazed at the authority with which Jesus preached. Jesus' authority came out of the life he lived that was synonymous with the Gospel he preached.
While power can not outlive the dictator, Jesus' authority continues. The best example I know of the short-lived nature of power is the poem Ozymandias which tells of a ruler whose power was more short-lived than he had anticipated for it is only the pedestal on an empty plain through which is remembered:
I met a traveler from an antique land-Percy Bysshe Shelley
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The photo above shows the Ramaseum—the site in Egypt on which Shelley's poem Ozymandias is said to be based.