As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Wednesday 17th June 2020
‘The Ambiguity of Authority’
One of our regular practices at Cruden Parish Church is to pray for the Queen and members of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood and UK Parliament in Westminster. To this would add our local MP & MSP, plus Aberdeenshire Council and others. The purpose of such prayer is reflected in 1 Timothy 2: 1-2, where we pray for ‘Kings and all in authority so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.’ In other words, we pray for people of power and authority, because of their influence, for good or ill, over the nation. Leadership that wise and gifted, thoughtful and compassionate, brings blessing to the nation.
1 Timothy 2:1-7
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.
And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen.
Those who now rule have been chosen by God.
So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed.
Those who do that will be judged.
If you do what is right, you won’t need to be afraid of your rulers. But watch out if you do what is wrong!
You don’t want to be afraid of those in authority, do you?
Then do what is right, and you will be praised.
The one in authority serves God for your good. But if you do wrong, watch out!
Rulers don’t carry a sword for no reason at all.
They serve God. And God is carrying out his anger through them.
The ruler punishes anyone who does wrong. You must obey the authorities. Then you will not be punished.
You must also obey them because you know it is right.
That’s also why you pay taxes.
The authorities serve God.
Ruling takes up all their time.
Give to everyone what you owe them.
Do you owe taxes? Then pay them.
Do you owe anything else to the government?
Then pay it. Do you owe respect? Then give it.
Do you owe honour? Then show it.
In God’s upside down kingdom there is much that does not always make sense. His ways are not our ways, especially when it comes to the subject of authority. A good example is our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Even the most cynical would have to agree that the dignity and integrity in which she has carried out her role is beyond question. And yet what authority does she really have? In the National Anthem, we sing ‘long to reign over us,’ but what does this really mean. As she has little if any real authority, as the longest reigning monarch in British history, there is no doubt she has wielded significant influence. Because of her example and service our Queen has been such a positive blessing.
The ambiguity about authority is also found in the Bible. Paul in Romans 13, tells us that all rulers are appointed by God and we are to submit to their authority. But what about rulers that are harsh and unjust, whose lust for power and incompetence brings great suffering on the people. By time the Book of Revelation came to be written by the Apostle John, the early Christian Church was enduring a period of intense persecution. A lot of it revolved around the Roman Emperor being declared a god who required to be worshipped. The so called ‘cult of the emperor’ became a test of loyalty to the authority of Rome. (It the Book of Revelation it is thought that references to the so called ‘antichrist’ and the number ‘666’ are symbolic references to the emperor) The early Christians suffered greatly at the hands of the authorities over their refusal to worship a false god.
The ambiguity of authority is also found in the person of Jesus Christ. As Christians we believe Jesus to be the messiah and part of the God head or Trinity. He is Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the ultimate truth and the final authority. To him, very knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. This includes everybody! Every believer and non-believer. Yet he was born as a homeless refugee in a byre and spend his life as an itinerant teacher. He was the suffering servant, who endured physical humiliation, mental torment and a lingering and painful death. He even washed the feet of his disciples, a task normally reserved for the lowest slave in the household.
The Christian writer John Stott makes this comment about leadership and authority. “The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.”
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
As we remember in prayer those who have authority over us, let us specifically remember those in authority who have hard choices and difficult decisions to make over Covid-19.
Pray for deep wisdom and sound thinking
Pray for discernment and clear decision making
Pray for compassion and the ability to see the big picture
Pray for the right decisions to be made in releasing the lockdown and the return to family life and prosperity.
Let us pray
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father's love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
A prayer for the Queen
whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant,
we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people,
and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her:
encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good,
until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom.
The Lord’s prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
The Light of God surrounds you;
The Love of God enfolds you;
The Power of God protects you;
The Presence of God watch over you;
Remember, wherever you are, God is right beside you.