Many Different Kinds of Power

Many Different Kinds of Power

November 06, 2012
Written by Daniel Hazard

Luke 5:17

". . . the power of the Lord was present to heal them."

Reflection by Donna Schaper

Last Wednesday at our church, Judson Memorial in New York City, about 20 of us gathered, along with one dog, to light candles, sing a few songs and say a few prayers.  We also walked our giant canvas labyrinth, which was easy to put out in the dark. It has white stripes.  We observed what our hearts know: there are many different kinds of power.  Last week, too many people were saying they were "out of power," or "powerless."  More precisely, we were without electrical power.

The Sunday before last, I innocently preached about the need for new folkways, new rituals, and new ways of being. I actually said, "For most of us, the major ritual of our lives is to remember to plug in our cell phones."  I pontified, "Wouldn't it be great if we kept a good Sabbath with such rigor, or also prayed intentionally before we ate or before we slept?  Not to mention how great a Jubilee, an automatic normalized forgiveness of debts, would mark our political economy?"  Well.  When Sandy hit, we were wandering around with cell phone chargers in hand in lower Manhattan, looking for a plug that had power.  No lights, no traffic lights, no hot water, and no working plugs. It was dark outside and sometimes also dark inside.

To keep from being complete fibbers, we just had to do a service. We had to remind ourselves that there are different kinds of power than the kind we don't have. There is people power and candlepower, physical power (you can't volunteer for the Red Cross if you can't lift 50 pounds or stay for 12 hours), magical power, the kind that makes you think the A train will be humming again soon.  There is the power to hear words anew: infrastructure, nature, air, wind, fire. There is the power to recognize, as the labyrinth shows, that in every end there is a beginning.  New York will be changed. We know that.   Worship helps us say what we know out loud.  We have known for a long time about climate change and aging infrastructure.  Now we know that we know, in a different kind of power, the kind that moves people to change.

As we went back to our dark homes and our meager food, we didn't forget to give thanks for the Sabbath we had just had because nature had demonstrated astonishing infrastructural failure.


Thank God for worship, which helps us say what we know out loud.  Amen.

About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Check out her blog, Grace at Table, at

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