Today I heard Jesus ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). In response, I find myself still formulating my answer, and I pass on some thoughts, along with a request that you pray for me.
While working with Mark 1:21-39 for the sermon on Sunday, I found myself wanting Jesus to give me participation in his exousia, often translated “authority;” sometimes “power,” etc.
In Mark 1, Jesus teaches with such exousia-authority, that people feel astonished. Then he casts out an unclean spirit with exousia, and people feel so amazed they ask, “What is this?” So I find myself asking Jesus for exousia in my preaching and teaching. I find myself needing exousia in pastoral situations, in which I can sometimes feel at sea. I find myself wanting exousia in my whole life as a pastor. And I find myself wondering: Does that take the form of healing from certain factors in my life formation?
Some background: Formation—God’s formation of our lives—takes place not primarily in church activities; but more often, in our families of origin, our lives at school and work, our relationships, injuries, and life as a whole.
For example, formative for me is the experience of having attended eight different schools during Grades 1-12. Four of those moves—Grades 3, 5, 7, and 12—took place with the school year already in progress. Such moves evoked much anxiety, and they affect me to this day. In some ways, I feel still in recovery from the move in Grade 7.
When I moved into a new school, my primary goal was to avoid getting beat up or humiliated in some other way. So I kept my head down and learned to get along. In some ways, the frequent moves served me well. I learned resilience and gained an appreciation for different cultures. (Being introduced with the name “Kok” also prompted me to develop a sense of humour. Like I say, it wasn’t all bad. J )
But for a while now, I have wondered whether my instinct to fit in has in subtle ways hindered my calling as a pastor. Once again, the story has at least two sides. On the one hand, my frequent moves opened my mind to the truth that with respect to any congregation, Christ has already been at work long before I arrive and will continue to lead as Good Shepherd long after I leave. So I do not bring Christ to anyone; instead, I seek to discern Christ in everyone.
On the other hand, my instinct to fit in perhaps dims my vision regarding joining Christ in doing a new thing. Hence, my prayer for exousia. Maybe I should seek to preach and teach in a way that leads people sometimes to ask: “What is this? A new teaching!” And certainly I need exousia to lead people, including myself, against the evil one, “the prince of the exousia-power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:1-2; compare Luke 4:6) As Tom Wright says, Jesus’ exousia led people to flock around him; it also led rivals in exousia to crucify him. So with fear and trembling, I ask Jesus for participation in his exousia, which makes a pastor or any other leader “slave of all.” (Mark 10:44)
Please ask Jesus to share with me some form of the exousia he gave to his apostles (Mark 3:15 and 6:7). And consider for yourself Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)