The Incarnation & Abuse of Power - Kyle Hanawalt & Marijean Sahyouni
First in series: Advent 2017
I have always been an avid news, politics, and current events consumer. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. It is something that I inherited from my family. Hanawalt family meals break like all of the rules of polite society. I can hardly think of a meal, particularly with my dad that didn’t get into politics. Actually it’s funny, when I am with my dad and I don’t know what to talk about, or it’s kinda awkward. My go to is to bring up some recent political event and we are off and running.
But, recently it has felt different to me. I have found all of this world, politics, current events, pop culture. To feel painful. I find myself feeling sad.
And this has been particularly true over the last month or so, as the the news has been filled with story after of story of allegations of sexual misconduct.
SLIDE I don’t know if you have felt the same way, but it feels like every new day a another story of sexual misconduct coming out, and I still feel somewhat shocked by it each time. Like most recently Matt Lauer & Garrison Keillor, really? But, I don’t know why I am surprised My friends who are women tell me they don’t feel surprised They know better than me that it shouldn’t really be a shock that these men in position of power and social status, used that power to take advantage of women who had a lack of power. Isn’t that kinda the most human story every. As we look at history, we see the same thing happening, like everywhere, throughout all of time. That most powerful people take advantage of their power, and most people without power get taken advantage of. In big ways, like these stories of sexual misconduct or in small ways when people in positions of power use that power to keep themselves in a position of privilege.
I think back to what should have been the the easiest job I ever had. When I was in college working at the evanston beach front as a sailing instructor. We literally sat on the beach all day and spent no more than half of it doing any real work at all. However, the job felt kinda miserable, because it was a case study in the reality that people will, however small, will wield whatever power they had. The supervisors, who were also college students delighted in making people submit to their power. Whether it was publically shaming you, literally forcing people to do pushups as a punishment. Or just giving you tasks to complete that had minimal purpose other than the fact they could make you do it.
So, I probably shouldn’t be shocked when I hear another person in power abused that power. But I still am. And it still makes me sad And what makes me even more sad is when I see people hide behind politics to try to protect themselves and their tribe from the reality that this is pervasive and a bipartisan problem Like when Liberals or Conservatives use the this as a way to persecute the other side for their hypocrisy But just take a look at the politics of all of the men who have been exposed… it’s not one or the other side… it’s both Hiding behind politics gets us nowhere… It should just be that as a society we are saying that men in power using that power to take advantage of women is no longer ok. And I pray and I hope that the toxicity of our country's politics does not cause us to miss that point, and I pray and I hope that we allow this to be what it is, our society saying that this is enough. (PAUSE) that last part has me wondering - What if this is a work of God? What if God is actually working to bring all of these dark and evil things into the light? Because I think that is exactly what God is about. SLIDE Like right now - We are in the first week of advent The 4 sundays leading up to Christmas, when we celebrate the God of the Universe coming to humanity by being born as a helpless child, to an unmarried teen refugee mother, with no money and no place to say. A member of a religious minority, who was living under the rule of an empirical power. The God of the universe who first revealed himself to shepherds, one of the least socially significant of people, and to three magi, wise men, three foreigners who were priests of another religion.
You see, from the very beginning, Jesus was forcing the world to reconsider what it thought of power. Could not the God of the universe have come to us a powerful warrior upon a majestic steed? Or at least been born to a roman family, been a member of the empire? Or at least born into a family of some influence? But no, he was born in a barn. To a mother who was culturally disgraced for having him outside of marriage.
His birth and then entirety of the life of Jesus was a flipping of the script, a subversion of power Jesus was born like this and then spent his life caring for, spending time with, and advocating for those without power.
A little while back I was scanning through reddit, as I often do and I came across a thread that really hit me - It was a question someone asked and people were commenting on it.
And the question was, If Jesus were to come back today what would he be most angry about -
What would Jesus most upset with today?
I thought maybe, there would be some interesting responses, but I was kinda surprised to see that there seemed to be kinda a general consensus, which does not happen very often on the internet.
But, over and over again the sentiment was the same.
Easy, Jesus would be upset about the same things he was upset with when he lived
He would be upset about those in power taking advantage of those without power.
He would be upset about people people using their imperial, ethnic, or most pointedly, their religious power to elevate themselves and take advantage of others.
You can see this in Jesus words in Matthew 23(NIV)
4 They(The Pharisees, those who carried the religious power) tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. 8 “But you (my disciples) are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
Makes me think about all of these famous people being exposed right now
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
I think if we based our conclusion, on what would Jesus be most upset about, on current christian culture and reputation it would lead us to maybe think that if Jesus was here today he would go around and be angry at all those young people and their sin and degradation and rebellious ideas. Whatever that means.
But, the truth is that he literally never did that when he lived.
SLIDE In fact, he opened a door for inclusion to those who came from different places religiously. And He offered healing and hope, and restoration, to those who would be called sinners.
When he addressed the women at the well, a women who had many lovers, he addressed her with care and invitation. When he saw people throwing stones an the women caught in adultery, he stopped the crowd and called them out. Jesus wanted people to find freedom from the things, the habits, behaviors, thought processes, that prevents people from full life. Or in other words, sin.
He challenged everyone he encountered towards more, But he only expressed his anger towards those in power. He was angry with the romans who abused their position and wealth, and he reserved a particular anger for religious people, like in the passage we just read, that used their religious beliefs and practices to elevate themselves over other people, to garner more power for themselves So, if he was here today, I think it would be upset about the very same things he was upset about when he lived. He would be angry with Christians, and any religious person that uses their faith to elevate themselves over others.
He would be angry with men people like Roy Moore, Al Frakin, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstien who used their power to take advantage of women. So, this is why I wonder if all of this is a work of God, because all these powerful men are getting brought into the light, which is the kind of thing Jesus did his whole life doing. SLIDE And we want to be a community that walks in agreement with the way of Jesus. SLIDE How do we do that? To help us think more about this I would love to Invite up MJ, our pastor and coordinator of women’s events and groups. The advent season, Christmas. Full of hope, full of memory. We remember the story of a King, born in poverty. A woman and a man who took a risk and trusted. The lowly birth. The confounding of the powerful. Healing and restoration at the core of this event. For me the hope, memories and story are colored by a climate this year in which we have seen truth to power in action. Many in power have been brought down. Abuse is at the center, and as it is exposed to light, its foundations have been laid low. I pray this cleansing continues. The men and women who have come forward have taken a risk to share their story. They have been brave. Mary and Joseph were brave. They encourage me to be brave as well, even when I do not feel brave, but weak and scared. But I have joined with my brothers and sisters and have said ME TOO. Your story is important, it matters and it is precious. If you can relate in any way to Kyle’s message today, I encourage you to share your story in a safe space. Your story is important. As a community with Jesus, we hold each other up, take risks together and move forward with courage.
As a Jesus centered community we believe that we have a role to play To Offer healing restoration to those who have been taken advantage of Jesus spent his life offering healing, restoration. We believe that Jesus is still offering healing and restoration today. As a Jesus centered community we believe that there is healing for those who have been take advantage of, abused. And in a moment we will have a chance for people to respond to that as we move into a time of prayer and song. And we also have a role to play in challenging and Interrupting those abusing their power. I when I say this, I mean vote and advocate for politicians and policies that work to curb the abuse of power, but I also mean this very concretely, to challenge and interrupt when we see people using positions of power to take advantage of others When we see men using locker room talk, to speak up and say no that is not ok. When we are on the train and we see a women being treated poorly. To speak up - to interrupt. I think a while back when I was in a restaraunt and Vince and I were having lunch... The last thing I want to encourage is for us all to realize that everyone here has power somewhere in your life, Work Family Restaurants and we can use that power to maintain the way things are, or we have the ability to break history long cycles of people using power poorly We have the ability to be intentional about how we use the power we have, to use the power we have to live make life better for those without power. To as exalt those who are humbled. At our work, with our friends, with our families, with people who serve us ins shops and restaurants. We have the opportunity to use whatever power we have to protect and elevate the dignity of those who are vulnerable. Please stand with us and I would love to have MJ pray over us