I Need Your Help--the Power of Powerlessness

This week I have a special treat for you.   I wanted to introduce you to my friend and colleague Danny Hunter.  Danny is a PhD Candidate at Asbury Theological Seminary and his area of research interest is Partnerships in Missions.    He offered the following devotional at our weekly seminary. 


He began with this interview with Jean Vanier on the power of powerlessness.

Well, its good to be with you this morning. I want to begin by reading a familiar passage to you from Phillipians Chapter 2:5-11.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Good morning! I’m Danny. I think most of you know me, but…How do you know me? We say we know each other here, and we talk a lot about how great the community is in the ESJ school. And I’m very grateful for it. But where does that sense of community come from?

I’ve been spending lots of time lately thinking about how we encounter one another in the Body of Christ. And that’s exactly what Paul is dealing with this passage. The issue he’s addressing is how do we live with each other in the community of God’s calling? And Paul says the answer is found in having the same thing in our head that Jesus did. It’s that easy. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wondering all the time: Jesus what were you thinking when you did this, or when you said that?

Discovering the mind of Christ seems pretty elusive to me most of the time, but Paul seems to think it can be summarized very neatly: humility, self-lowering, frailty. He tells how Jesus, enjoying the supreme glory of perfect indwelling with the Godhead, deigned to be clothed with human flesh. And then, having suffered the ultimate indignity for divinity: to be ensconced in matter and time, he said, that’s quite enough humiliation for one lifetime thanks. NO! It says that he humbled himself more, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. That’s amazing to me, not only that he let go of his power and his glory, but that he decided to reveal himself to us in just the opposite way: in powerlessness and frailty. It is this mind, Paul says, that is the mark of Christian community.

Leslie Newbigin draws on this passage in the Open Secret when he portrays the Cross as the only valid place of encounter for the Christian. He says that in an authentically Christian approach, we don’t meet the other at the point of our strength but the point of our weakness. While he’s talking specifically about encountering people of other faiths, how much more is this true for us as we meet as sisters and brothers in Christ. The place where God chose to definitively encounter humanity was a place that revealed him to be frail and vulnerable. If this was true of Jesus, who was a partaker in the divine nature; it is much more appropriate for us. And if that is how God chose to meet us, it is how we must choose to meet one another.

That video we began with features Jean Vanier, one of my favorite authors, and I love how he unpacks this mystery of the kenotic community. There is so much wisdom packed into this video, I wish we had time to watch it all, but my favorite part is where he says that the key to community is learning the magic words: I need your help. And I’m so grateful for a community where we take our powerlessness seriously, and where we can honestly admit to one another “I need your help.”
So as we prepare our hearts for prayer this morning, I want to encourage you to take a few moments right now and behold your powerlessness. Think of places in your life where you feel the need to cry out for help.

Now I want to do our prayer time a little different this morning, so just get together with one other person. If there’s an odd number of people you may do a group of three. But keep it small. We’ve just got a few minutes left, and I want us to pray for each other. I invite you to look each other in the eye and say, “I need your help” and then just share one thing that they can lift up in prayer. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, just share something that you’re comfortable sharing with each other. I only ask that you be honest, and take advantage of the opportunity to meet each other as frail human beings; and as people called to bear each others’ burdens. So now let us share something of our frailty with each other, as we carry those burdens together to meet with Jesus at the Cross.