The Festival of The Epiphany

If you have rules, you will always have those who work to get around them. “Did God actually say …?” sort of thing (Genesis 3:1) seems always to have been a part of us where we will do what we want irrespective of what others might say – if we want to do it enough. We want to march to the beat of our own drum and live according to the sound and words we say. This is
fine if we are hermits on a desert island but as soon as we are in community with others then we will always be working out whose words we follow. Rules and regulations are just the current agreed words we, as a community, say we will follow. Except we aren’t a community …or maybe we are! So I am surprised that I am surprised when I read recently that as part of the recent Russian constitutional amendments there is legislation that gives former presidents and their families immunity from investigation and prosecution for their life times. Whatever justification for this might be, a basic fundamental of community is accountability – to someone, somehow. We are very much aware of conflicts of interest and
power in the one word ‘corruption’ – something that is never accidental, it is always deliberate. I was also intrigued by the idea of presidential pardons and the media speculation about whether a president could pardon himself. I read up on the US Constitution Article 2, Section
2 and was fascinated by the history of this power to pardon and its use. I don’t disagree with pardons per se (how can I who live by them and who pronounce them?!) but it is still intriguing how, when, where, and why they exist and should be used.

To pardon oneself or to orchestrate words to say “I’m not accountable” are, to my ears, words that sound like deification. I hear “I make the world – that is, the relationships with the people around me – in my image, according to my will”. And there’s a part of me that resonates with such sentiments – I could save a lot of words about the church restructure if everyone did as I say 😉 – but three things tell me that such words and sentiments will not end well. There’s my experience of both conflict and reconciliation and the old adage ‘two heads are better than one’ because we can learn from each other – and I’m (strangely) not always right. There’s history totally full of human grabs for power and corruption that never produce the golden age of whatever. And then there’s the true God who has the power and doesn’t say what we do. Our God speaks. His words create. They are also ‘out there’ – independent of us and their existence, if real and true, mean that we are not hermits and we are accountable to someone other than ourselves. And then in the person of Jesus we meet Immanuel, God with us, who uses his powerful words to forgive, help, heal, bless – even when humanity rejects him or tortures and kills him. Jesus, with all his power, never used his words for himself, always for us. Jesus was not corrupt but chose to serve his creation (community) when he didn’t have to or need to but because he is gracious and kind.

That is why his followers can seem so out of step with this world and live as if they are accountable to God – because they are – but not out of fear but in awe and wonder at God’s grace – his love – that brought Jesus to Earth and onto a cross. Such a God who speaks to create life and salvation changes life here in every way. And that means Jesus’ disciples are always listening to the words around them, to the claims made, to the tasks of the moment, and seek to serve others while always listening to God’s Word for his pardon and his guidance so that we don’t have a crack at self-deification. GS