December 2, 2000
A DIALOGUE ON THE
SUBJECT OF POWER
Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical
year, we were told by Rev. Billy Shand, Rector of St. Francis Episcopal
Church, Potomac, Md..
is supremely ironic to me that the Church should be celebrating this day at
this same time our nation is in a time of weary anxiety, even as we hope for
a fair, honest and just resolution. The irony lies in the fact that when it
is all said and done, we are still talking about something that is only a
four year term. Against the measure of the eternal kingship of Christ, what
is that?'' he asked.
Months earlier, the pastor had selected John 18:33-37 to read, when he could
not have imagined the situation that the nation now finds itself. Nor could
he have imagined a more appropriate Gospel for us to hear, ''a dialogue
between two men on the subject of power.''
''Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, was one who understood power, who
dispensed power, and who lived by power. He was the embodiment of the
greatest power of his day, the might of imperial Rome. He held the power of
life and death, and encounters Jesus who represents no power at all,'' said
ancient words of the Gospel do have a new relevance in the midst of
America's struggle for power.
''Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him,
''Are you the king of the Jews?'' It is a question that appears in all four
Pilate asks, ''What is it that you have done?''
replied enigmatically, ''My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my
servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is
from another place.''
are a king, then!'' said Pilate.
answered, ''You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I
was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.''
''What is truth?'' Pilate asked.
''Does not Pilate not speak for many of us?''Rev. Shand asked. ''Week after
week, we gather in this church in search of truth, truth to give meaning in
a world where so much seems up for grabs. The sad theme of the intellectual
classes these days would have us believe that there are no great truths.''
quandary of this election is not unique. There were disputed elections for
President in 1800, 1824 and 1876, and the Republic survived. Yet in the
quiet recesses of our minds, some of us feel ''our society may have lost
something'' in the sad struggle over this bitterly close election.
''What are we to do? Think again of Pilate. Power was his stock in trade,
and yet when he confronted Jesus, his power did nothing to lead him into
truth. Have you ever stopped to think that of all the noble Romans, the name
of Pontius Pilate is the only one you say week after week'' in the Apostle's
one level, it roots the events of our Lord's crucifixion in a particular
historical moment, when Pilate was in power. A fundamental Christian belief
is that God acts in human history.
more subtle and important reason to remember Pilate, Shand said, is that
''In a world which believes it can act on power alone, in the midst of
struggles for power and longing for truth, there stands before us the figure
of the Eternal Word, the one who is Lord of hosts and King of kings. Pilate
met him face to face, but washed his hands when he left him, and went away
wondering, ''What is truth?''
''Pilate stands as a lesson from history's pages of what we must not do or
''Rather the path of the Christian is to look to Jesus and to his eternal
truth to help mold our ways of thinking, to help us see things in a
perspective that extends beyond just four or eight years. We do not have to
repeat Pilate's mistake, to look Truth in the eye and yet go away empty.
live in the sure and certain hope that God is working his purpose out, even
in the midst of the confusion that prevails in our own time. I am asking for
trust - faith - that this is so.''
weeks I been transfixed by the struggle for the White House, squandering
hours on cable TV watching every development and commentary. The nation is
the truth that really matters can be found on neither side, but above.
Copyright 2000 Michael J.