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Friday, February 3, 2017

Week 2: Submarine, Day 14: Power Transfer

Week 2: Submarine
Day 14: Power Transfer
Word for Ears Day:
"Investiture" n. the formal bestowal, confirmation, or presentation of rank, office, or a possessory or prescriptive right, usually involving the giving of insignia or an official title.

"You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Acts 10:37-38
"He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."
2 Corinthians 1: 21-22
The social networks are likely to be awash this week with all the latest political vomit as the inauguration of President Trump transfers power from the left to the right, from one value system to another, from one regime to the next. Now, before you click away... this is NOT THAT POST. I'm as sick of it all as you are. We will keep talking about baptism. It's the last day of that theme for this week.
But.... Did you realize that baptism is politically radical? Baptism protests the power structure. Baptism is the outward display of God transferring power from the Ruler of this dark world to you. Baptism is your Inauguration Day! Baptism taps into a long Biblical tradition of royal ceremony. When a new king over Israel would be chosen, they would be anointed with oil as a sign of their appointment. The new king would stand there before his people for the first time with a soaking head. When religious people today talk about "anointing", they usually mean some kind of special spiritual gifting or equipping by God, but Biblically, the word "anoint" is used to speak of the investiture of kingly office. The link between traditional Hebrew anointing for royalty and the baptism of Jesus is very clear in the verse from Acts above. It's actually even more clear in the baptism story itself. The words of God affirming His son as the Spirit descends on Jesus are a quote from Psalm 2:7, a coronation psalm for the crowning of King David. The kingdom is shifting hands! There is a new inauguration! By combining the Genesis narrative (Doves and Water) and the anointing tradition, the gospels are showing that Jesus is both a new way to be human (a new Adam) and a new way to be royalty (a new David).
So what are we to make of this act of royal anointing then being distributed broadly to all the followers of Jesus? It's one thing for Jesus to be anointed as the new Messiah, the new Davidic King. At the time, that may have made some political sense. After all, the Herodian dynasty which had tried to promise a new era of Israelite nationhood was really stinking up the place and everybody was hoping for a new King to make it right. But when this Jesus's unique form of being anointed becomes the sign of all who would participate in His Kingdom, the implication is that he is sharing the role!
"Christening" is another word for the kind of anointing that was done to signify the chosen Hebrew King. "Christ" is not, therefore, Jesus's last name. His mom and dad weren't Mary and Joe Christ. "Christ" is a royal title. Jesus "the anointed". Jesus "the king". That's what we are saying when we say "Jesus Christ". And "Christian" means "little anointed." Or as Bob Eckblad has put it, "Annointling". In becoming both a new Adam and a new King David, God had redefined the scope of human authority, and in the process undermined all human pretension. Remember how Satan had tempted Jesus by showing him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, "All this is mine and I will give it to you if you just bow to me." Jesus, in perfect obedience to God, even to the point of self-sacrifice, had disarmed any authority Satan had, winning it all for himself. That wasn't mere spiritual authority, but the right to all earthly authority as well, whether it be political, organizational, familial, or otherwise. When Jesus then called all who followed him to be baptized, he was calling them into a new authority over themselves... not to Lord over others, but to have true autonomy and self-control and to be ambassadors of his Kingdom, spreading grace, truth and peace and this new found value of all humanity remade in the image of God. "All authority in Heaven and Earth have been given to me... therefore go and make disciples."
Think about the nuance here. Jesus is saying he has all cosmic and earthly authority, for which the Hebrew expectation would have been that he would then call on armies to go wipe out all the oppressive and evil forces in the world and expand the nation of Israel in the name of peace. Jesus doesn't call for the sword, though, and he speaks of a Kingdom that has no discernable borders or flag. It's a kingdom "within you". He recruits teachers. Rabbis. That's who makes disciples, after all. But go further and think of what kind of teachers he has called: Teachers who are sent with divine authority and identity as the anointed ones of God, speaking equally to kings and to prisoners, residents and foreigners (Matthew 10:16-20), but who don't see themselves as better than anybody else (Philippians 2:3) and aren't even supposed to think of themselves as teachers, or masters or Rabbis, or fathers, or mothers..."leaders".... but as equals with anybody they are sent to (Matthew 23:8-12, Galatians 3:28). And then there is this holy irony that while they reject these titles and positions for the sake of their one "Master", that master then tells them he doesn't think of them as servants, but as friends (John 15:15).
In light of the political agenda of Jesus, his broad distribution of power, and his elevation of his disciples to the status of "Christians" and Sons and Daughters of God, our fights and debates over politics and our fears over which earthly kingdom most approximates God's desires are not only laughable. They are idolatrous. The Kingdom of God will only be voted on within you. YOU have been inaugurated. What will you do with your term of office?

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