Grace is a verb

We made it through Easter and now Pentecost. Jesus is raised; the Church is born anew. We all deserve a vacation, don’t you think? Well done, good and faithful servants.

I have been pondering what it means to live as a good and faithful servant ever since Lent. At Virginia-Highland Church, we hosted a foot-washing service during Holy Week. I remember relishing the story. The disciples are getting settled at the dinner table, chatting about this and that. Judas will soon leave the gathering and turn Jesus into the authorities to be arrested. Jesus knows that his time with them is drawing to an end. He takes in the scene—these people he has come to love—and then goes from person to person with a bowl and a towel, kneeling before them, washing their feet. It is his final attempt to help them see that true power, service, influence, and grace all are wrapped up in how we love one another, not just ourselves.

As we encountered Pentecost on Sunday, I found myself remembering Jesus’ lesson to us and wondering, “What does it mean to live powerful lives in light of Jesus’ example to us?” What would my life look like if the power I sought was activated by my inner journey rather than my outward conquests?

After a particularly frustrating exchange with someone I deeply admire this week, I posted on Facebook that I have come to believe that narcissism is just as dangerous as consumerism. It numbs us to our need for one another and silences the voices of the quiet prophets among us. What I mean is that when our egos tell us that we are better than someone else, or allow us to pass judgment against others, we have abandoned the most sacred part of our humanity. Can we really wash the feet of the person we have just condemned without it changing us? Perhaps that is the point. Grace is a verb.

My hunch is that to live a power-filled life has something to do with living and loving vulnerably in the hopes that our lives intersect with others in ways that matter. Richard Rohr, in his book Jesus’ Plan for a New World , said, “Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using that as power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion. I must admit, it is rare to find people who hold both together in perfect balance—who have found their power and use it for others, or people who have found love and use it for good purposes.”

What would living powerfully look like for you?

We are all counting on you to find out. The world needs more power-filled people who unleash love into an unsuspecting world. I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be “cunning as serpents but gentle as doves.” It is a beautiful combination of power and vulnerability, and we need more of it in our world.

Come, Holy Spirit.


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