I’ll keep this short and let the young scholar speak for himself. First, “Brodieheg” in the title above is both the nickname of my cousin Joyce Heginbotham’s grandson, Brodie, and the author of his blog, Taken Forward. He’ll introduce himself below. Joyce was mentioned in an article posted in the very first year of this site two decades ago as the granddaughter of Walter Pearce, my dad’s brother. She also generously helped write that story. Second, Brodie is the divinity student proudly described in a later article entitled, “Preachers Among the Pearces & Their Associated Families.” The purpose of this piece is to let you enjoy the inspirational words of this young man and encourage you to read the musings of his other blog compositions. Here’s Brodieheg, or if you prefer, Brodie:
My name is Brodie Heginbotham. I’m a Divinity School student at Duke University studying the Bible, the practice of Christian Ministry, and Faith-Based Organizing and Advocacy. I grew up in Edenton N.C. I went to high school at UNC School of the Arts. After high school I got a degree in Religious Studies, Greek, and Journalism from UNC Chapel Hill. In college I married the brilliant Gwen Heginbotham, who is probably my favorite person ever (top 10 for sure). My aim for my life is to do interesting things and be more like Jesus.
I believe in asking questions and seeking truth. I also believe in setting that truth free to change the world. This blog is just my place to write about things that God is showing me and things I see in his word. I hope you enjoy skimming through it! I’m very inconsistent with when I write, and my writings are just as much for me as for anyone else. I’m not great with the application WordPress, so if there are mistakes or cosmetic inadequacies, please forgive me! (Cosmetic inadequacy was my nickname in high school)
Power in a Post-Easter World
After Easter, I started reading the book of Acts. I figured it would be a good way to remember that Easter, though it is often described as the “Super-bowl” for churches, is not some sort of championship that marks the end of a season. It is the beginning of a new world order into which we now must learn to live. The way the Church calendar is structured, Lent feels like a long ramp-up to the ecstatic expression of joy on Easter. Often we find ourselves leaving Easter services or cleaning up from family brunches thinking “now what?” Most of the time, we return to life as usual.
This return to life as usual is even reflected within the church calendar. After Easter, there is a tiny sliver of Pentecost, and then a large chunk of “ordinary time.” And while the steady cyclical rhythm of the church calendar helps ground us in the tradition of the historic and global church, and helps us synchronize with the seasons of creation, the label of “ordinary time” is a bit misleading.
Living in a post-Easter world is anything but ordinary. The Resurrection of Christ sparked the beginning of a new world order that we cannot ignore. Life will never return to something resembling “ordinary.” In this new world order, everything has changed. Up is down, Heaven comes to Earth, the lofty are brought low, the lowly are lifted high, the first is last and the last first. Christ is the firstborn in a new species of humanity, inhabiting an Earth that is made new in the multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure project that is the recreation of all things in God’s Kingdom.
One poignant example of how everything changes in the post-Easter world is how power is distributed and wielded in the first chapter of Acts. The early chapters of Acts are held together by several unifying themes. Some have observed the role of community life and fellowship, others highlight the role of the Holy Spirit in animating the new Church. There are economic and political themes that emerge as well. One theme that I only noticed for the first time this week is power. The word “power” featured prominently in Acts 1:8, a frequently quoted verse among missionaries and evangelism-focused churches. But as we zoom out and look at the surrounding verses, we will see that the role power plays in this early Church community is much larger than appears at first glance:
So when they had come together, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:6-9)
The question the disciples have is: now that you have resurrected, are you going to seize power for yourself and establish your Kingdom? Jesus’ answer: not really.
Of course, the disciples hear in verse 10 that Jesus will return in the same way he ascended, and so the story of Christ incarnate as the Church’s leader is far from over. But the message is clear: Jesus is not wielding power. Instead, he is giving it to his disciples, all of them. Becoming his witnesses in all the earth meant carrying his power within themselves. This requires a full measure of trust and vulnerability on Jesus’ part. Jesus is not in the business of power-grabbing.
He says “y’all will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” In other words: the power that was won against death and empire on the cross, Jesus now surrenders and distributes equally to the early Church community (men and women, by the way, see verse 1:14). Power, in the new world order, belongs in equal measure to the whole of Christ’s Body, the Church. It is not wielded and exploited by any particular figure.
But that is not where the chain of power distribution ends. Yes, the disciples are awaiting to receive divine power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, but notice what they then do with that power. When it comes time to make the first executive decision of the new world order, choosing a new apostle to replace Judas, Peter stands up, not as a patriarchal leader, but simply as an organizer of the collective power-sharing community. Together, they select a pair of people who would be a good fit, since they both have been following Jesus just as long as the apostles and were witness to the living ministry of Jesus, and watch what happens next: they give the power Jesus gave them right back to God. They pray: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And then they cast lots, letting God, through chance, reveal the best path.
When Jesus won dominion of the world away from Death and Sin on the Cross and then was raised to life as the leader of a new world order, he did not use power in any way that we can recognize. He was even directly asked if he would seize his rightful power, and instead, he distributed it to everyone who chose to live into the new post-Easter reality. He shared his power with the Church. And in turn, instead of seizing power itself, the Church gave the power back to God in prayer and trust in God’s guidance.
Now, this open-handed, even distribution of the Church’s power fell apart within a few decades after these stories. Empire, wealth, and the systems of the world entered the picture and made power-grabbing popular again. But here in Acts 1, we have an image of what it means to wake up to the post-Easter world. The return to ordinary life after Easter is anything but ordinary. It calls us to a new world order where power is not held by anyone, but by everyone. It calls us into a radical trust in God, since God has expressed a radical trust in us. Anyone striving for power and influence will not be comfortable in the post-Easter world. And this is just one simple area in which everything in the new world order is flipped upside down. God knows there are more.
If you notice other ways that the post-Easter world has radically changed, reply and let us know!
Last revised 4/15/21