Powerlessness as Transformation


TOPSHOTS A shepherd boy is silhouetted on June 26, 2013, in Qunu a rural village where former South African President Nelson Mandela grew up. Mandela's close family members gathered to hear a sombre prayer wishing the anti-apartheid icon a "peaceful, perfect, end" as he lay in hospital in critical condition with his life seemingly slipping away. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

St. Paul often talks about his powerlessness. His weakness. But he will also say that his strength is the strength of the grace of God with him and within him.

Paul likened his weakness to that of Jesus on the cross, and he saw our human powerlessness as a way through which the power of God, the empowerment of grace, reveals itself. For Jesus it meant the transformation from death into life.

For Joseph it meant transformation as well. The transformation of a lowly shepherd boy into the great vizier of all Egypt. But his rise to a position of power, wasn’t the nucleus of his power. Joseph’s power was to come to be who he was; to discover his identity and his purpose in life. Who God meant him to be. And how God transformed the cruelty of his brothers into the saving their whole family because of Joseph too finds himself thrown into a pit by his brothers who leave him there to die. He could not get out of the pit unless someone else lifted him out. He was utterly powerless. But it would be within this powerlessness that he would begin his journey to become one of the most, indeed the second most, powerful person in Pharaoh’s kingdom. A kingdom where he had once been a slave. Joseph’s power, his ability to act, was seen by all about him, as the power of the Hebrew slave’s god, Yahweh.

The true use of power is empowerment born from a sense of justice.  Justice the meeting of heaven’s purpose on earth.  The place of Jesus’ greatest weakness is the place of greatest strength. His humanity the opening channel to the sacred. The journey through vulnerability is where valor is born, a steadfast spirit forged in the fire.  From his marginal place, from his powerlessness, from the cross, by way of his humanity he became diminished and raised, both servant and savior, a shepherd-messiah to the small, the weak, the powerless, where he pastures us into God’s open vista, that vulnerability an opening channel to the strength of God in Christ in our lives.



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