Ultimate Power


4th September 2020

It’s hard to escape thinking about power. Quite simply, we need power to get things done. Most of us feel pretty powerless most of the time, and we’d like a little more power. At the same time, we fear others having too much power. Power is useful, even necessary, but it’s also dangerous. So we’re concerned about how people obtain power, how they use it when they’re in power, and how we limit the power of those who use it badly. If you think about it, a good many of the stories in the news are about how power is obtained, used and to be limited. And if we’re honest, we know we wouldn’t trust ourselves with too much power. We can’t escape power and thinking about it.

So what does ultimate power look like? What does it do? I’m talking about God’s power. Whether or not you believe in God, surely, if he exists, he is by definition the source of ultimate power. So what does his power look like? Is he primarily angry and judgmental? Or is he primarily gracious and merciful?

Most Sundays I like to pray one of the Collects of Thomas Cranmer. These are the short prayers he wrote or adapted for the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer in the 16th century. A collect asks for just one thing, both ‘collecting’ the people in prayer and ‘collecting up’ their prayers into one.

Here’s how the Collect for the 11th Sunday after Trinity begins: God, which declarest thy almighty power, most chiefly in showing mercy and pity…  What does ultimate power – God’s power – look like? Here’s the Collect’s answer: it’s in showing mercy and pity.

There are three great works of power involved in God showing us mercy and pity. First the incarnation, where God himself becomes a man, the man Jesus Christ. Second, the atonement, where this God-man offers himself as a sacrifice to God for our sins. Third, the resurrection and exaltation, where God raises this same Jesus from death to life. And it’s all for our salvation, all for our forgiveness.

As we see power obtained legitimately or dishonestly, used generously or selfishly, and limited out of necessity, we’do well to reflect on how God uses his power: for our forgiveness.

Let’s pray: God, which declarest thy almighty power, most chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Give unto us abundantly thy grace, that we, running to thy promises, may be made partakers of thy heavenly treasures, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Chris Hobbs