Sunday, October 25, 2015

Power versus Authority: the real battle

Sermon prached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Feast of Christ the King 2015

These notes are a reconstruction and amplification of what I said on Sunday. At the moment, I am having to speak more ex tempore rather than scripting my sermons as I usually do. We'll see how this goes. Please do feel free to comment.

The Bible contains many wondrous creatures both physical and spiritual. Of the spiritual beings both  St Thomas Aquinas and the writer formerly known as Dionysius point to nine orders of angels such as seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers, virtues, principalities, archangels, and angels. We're probably most familiar with the angels, archangels and the cherubim and seraphim, but what of the others? What of the powers and dominions?


When we think of powers in a spiritual sense, we often find ourselves thinking of the Powers of Darkness. The Greek and Latin words used here are subtly different in meaning. The Latin word has the sense of force and can imply coercion, the Greek has the sense of authority. Do power and authority mean the same thing?


No. The point is subtle but they are different. Just because someone has the power to do something, does not mean that they have the authority to do it. We have the power to pick up a bag of sweets, or light a match, or to fire a gun. We can do these things - we have the power to do them. However, we do not have the authority to pick up a bag of sweets when it means we're intending to leave without paying. We do not have the authority to light a match when we intend to burn someone's house down. We do not have the authority to fire a gun at someone whom we intend to kill unlawfully.

Notice that it is the lawfulness of an action that gives it authority. Authority possesses power held legally.They have a right in themselves which is the sense of the Greek word. Authority recognises the right of the author over what has been created. Despite the outcry of her readers, J.K. Rowling has every right to kill off Dumbledore without criticism. This is why God has supreme authority as He is the author of all Creation.

. As human beings can and do create our own laws for living, they only have authority if we consent to them. If we do not consent then the rest of society may coerce us through the power of numbers, yet they cannot change the level of our consent.

The Powers of Darkness only have authority over us if we believe that they do and if they do, then they possess laws in themselves. The powers of darkness draw authority from the simple act of being against God and it is while we turn from God that we are indeed subject to darkness as an authority. We pay our dues to darkness for as long as we recognise the false authority which is not God. The Law of Satan is anything that leads to misery, pain and death, all these were paid to him by Our Lord so that we should not be bound any longer to the power of Darkness. Through the death of Christ, the Powers of Darkness have no authority over us. We can be forced to do things by powers stronger than us, but those powers have no claim on anyone who accepts the true authority of Christ.


Christ is King by authority from God in His inheritance as the Son, by human law through His lineage from King David, and by our loyalty to Him through His ransom on the Cross. The task that we face is always looking for what has His authority in our lives and what has not. Through the Divine Will, we have free-will. We can choose freely who is to be king of our lives, but we must accept the consequences of that choice in full. In Christ our King do we find the power to live lives governed by light and not by the powers of darkness. That makes us pretty powerful ourselves!

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