Power is exercised on flesh

In anticipation of Easter (wow…it has been a while) I preached a Palm Sunday Sermon about life under the powers and principalities.  I hoped to demonstrate how the powers were on display during Holy Week as Rome and religious authorities exercised their dominion over Christ’s human body, but my thesis was that  “The powers”, abstract as they might seem, are always felt in the flesh.  Christ’s body was the intersection, not just of God and man, but of the powers, too, for in his body he bore the wounds, feeling the real tear of Rome’s talons.

So I’m probably late to the party, but it seems obvious now that the powers are always felt, in some way, in our flesh.  Just as God is incarnated, and faith is embodied, so too do the powers and principalities act on our flesh.   A great deal of their power rests on their hiddenness today, but  when people decide not to abide by the rules, these powers rear their ugly, violent selves.  So I’ve been wondering how I experience the powers at work on my own body, how our church experiences the powers and principalities trying to exercise dominion in our particular flesh.

Where this struck pay dirt for me was how tired we all are.  The fatigue we feel at the end of the week – the drudgery kind that makes you want to turn on the TV and go to bed instead of going to a Bible study or church on Sunday, this  is the power of capitalism at work in our bodies.  So we live our lives according to the rules of wallstreet and church is an extracurricular activity.  Wall Street and the job market and the banks and the rent determine what is extracurricular, not our faith.  Work is good, but the kind of work available, if at all, demands more than we can give and still live in genuine human relationships to others sometimes.  Stringfellow teaches me that this power of industry is really the power of death at work.  Sometimes when the alarm goes off, I agree.

But others have it much worse, and the human body is afflicted by the powers in many ways; some we choose, some thrust on us.  The death and violence manifests particularly in the treatment of women and minorities in  the US.  These are the bodies the powers at work in our world deal with violently; a witness not listened to enough by those in power.  Of course not.  The more I think about how total the forces that make the world go 'round are, the more I feel the need for someone to save me.

Somehow, I feel that this month has been good to contemplate our discussion of the Holy Spirit coming up.  I'm beginning to try digest how the Holy Spirit is the only truly real alternative to the powers that run our world – living by faith is the only genuine alternative to the powers triumphing in our bodies.  Furthermore, I hope to sketch out a theology that can take seriously and materially the Holy Spirit’s power and work in us today beyond a static idea of “salvation.”  In some sense, Christians claim exorcism where the powers are excercised, but what does that mean in the grit of life?  As usual, I feel under prepared with too little time, but I’m hoping that the Spirit moves regardless.  :)


  1. Yes applied Christian power politics 101


    This image is featured in the book The Pentagon of Power by Lewis Mumford. A book which is essential reading for understanding how we got to here in 2011.

    Plus more applied Christian power politics



    Note the unspeakably vile film being reviewed in the last reference.


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