“C” is for Charisma (February 24, 2012)

…Opening To…

The glory of these forty days we celebrate with songs of praise; for Christ, through whom all things were made, himself has fasted and has prayed. (Hymn from the 6th century; trans. Maurice F. Bell)

…Listening In…

As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. After going a little further, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers. (Mark 1:16-20; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “C” is for charisma. There are plenty of other good “C” words that I could have chosen; certainly, that are more “churchy” – well, “church,” for instance. Charisma isn’t really a word that’s used much when talking about following Jesus Christ. Perhaps, you’ve heard a preacher talk about Christ’s own charisma – how he attracted crowds, how people followed him seemingly on a whim.

However, you might see a problem with this use of “charisma.” Perhaps, you’ve heard talking heads on the news talk about the charisma of politicians – some just have it, others don’t. Often, politicians trade on this so-called charisma to make up for deficiencies in their political acumen or their knowledge of the world. In this sense “charisma” becomes the commodity they trade on to win office, and therefore it is seen as insubstantial, as part of a smoke and mirrors campaign to get elected. When we talk about Christ’s charisma winning the crowds, we are dangerously close to this kind of political showmanship.

But the word “charisma” is a really old word, and its longevity can save it from the political scene. “Charisma” comes from the Greek word charis (χαρις), which means “grace.” If we remember this root of our English word, then we remember the root of the “compelling attractiveness” that “charisma” has come to mean. The root is God’s grace – not smoke and mirrors, not showmanship, but the elegance and abundance of God’s freely given gifts stored inside a living being.

If Jesus had charisma, and I’m sure he did, then I bet it was this kind – the kind nourished by the grace of God.

…Praying For…

Dear God, your gift of grace picks me up when I stumble and teaches me to dance to the rhythm of your love. Help me to move with this rhythm in my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glad that you have given me the strength and the will to reflect on my journey with you.

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