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Lenten Devotional: Mar 22

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Today’s Texts: Exodus 4:10-31; 1 Corinthians 14:1-19; Mark 9:30-41

“Leadership is found in becoming the servant of all.  Power is discovered in submission.”  – Richard Foster in The Celebration of Discipline

Submission is often a word stereotypically associated with Asian America, everything from sexualized submissive Asian men and women, to many of our mother countries that have known the subjugation of colonialism and devastation of the desires for empire.

If we live our lives in love with God’s Church long enough, we may witness the abuse of power in the guise of an invitation to submit. Although we may have experienced abuse of submission in community, this must not disqualify the good that can be cultivated by relationships where godly submission is practiced.

These three scriptures for this day grant unique and radical invitations of the spiritual discipline of submission in community as we look at the scripture through the lens of Jesus.

In Mark 9:30-41, Jesus predicts his death to his followers. Jesus in essence, is modeling his submission to the will of the Father in his coming death, burial and resurrection.

“Christ’s submission to the Father did not make him less than the Father. It was a way the Son gave glory to the Father….Submission is not something God forces down our throats – because forcing people to submit is oppression. Therefore, biblical submission does not trap people in abusive relationships that rob them of their freedom…And it always works in conjunction with our personal freedom.”  – Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

In the next breath, the disciples begin to argue about who is the greatest among them, followed by who they can legitimately classify as belonging in their circle of Jesus followers.

These arguments image a worldly understanding of power: that identity and worth is based on who must be diminished in order that another flourish. We see this dynamic repeated in the relationships from today’s reading from Exodus 4:10-31, as well as in 1 Corinthians 14: 1-19, where the ancient congregation at Corinth wonders who is greater in the church due to the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

Our worth is based on the God who loves us and makes us in his image. Our power comes from drawing from and giving away God’s limitless power so that others might flourish.

The welcoming of unwelcomed small children (one of the most powerless in their society) is equal to embracing Jesus himself, the God who identifies with the powerless. The offering of a cup of water in Jesus’ name grants the reward of being considered part of Jesus’ inner circle.

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Anna Lee-Winans

Anna Lee-Winans is a staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship‘s Graduate and Faculty Ministries at New York University, where she has served for the last eight years. Born and raised in NYC, she graduated from New York University with a BA in Journalism (’97) and a MSW (’01), working as a social worker in a pediatric AIDS clinic before joining staff with IVCF. She is deeply committed to an integrated life of faith, justice, learning and calling.  She enjoys her husband James and laughing with her nephew and niece.

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