It’s one of my favorite Greek words, in part just because it is kind of fun to say, especially if you put a good Texas drawl on the second syllable making it exousia! (It practically “oozes” out of your lips, doesn’t it?) And that’s appropriate because if you break it down, the term actually comes from two other words, the one meaning “out of” (ex), and the other (ousia) signifying the “substance” of something.
In English, we most often translate it as either “authority” or “power.” It’s said in Matthew 7, for instance, that unlike the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus taught as one having exousia or authority, and two chapters later, Jesus demonstrated that power by not simply healing a paralyzed man but by forgiving his sins as well.
Likewise, the word shows up again in Matthew 21 when the right of Jesus to speak as He did was questioned by the chief priests and elders. Equally significant, however, is the fact that in Mark 6, as well as in John’s gospel, Jesus gave that same exousia to all those who received Him and believed in His name.
For in the end, exousia is about the genuine moral influence that a person may exert with others, something which comes not out of what degrees, or titles, or positions they may happen to hold, but out of who they actually are, that is to say, what lies at the core of their personal substance or essence.
We Methodists live all around this idea, of course, especially those of us who are clergy. For we are not only those who have been given authority at our ordinations–or more correctly perhaps, been encouraged to exercise the authority we already have in Christ– but we are also those who live under the authority of someone else, namely, that of a bishop who appoints us to serve.
Fortunately, however, here in the Texas Conference we have a new bishop whose authority stems not just from the corner office in which he sits, but from the person whom he is in the Lord, a committed and visionary follower of Jesus who has spent his life encouraging others towards the cause of Christ.
It is in that sense that we are delighted to welcome Bishop Scott Jones to our conference. For the days ahead will be challenging ones for the good ship Methodism and we are going to need a steady hand at the helm indeed.
I have it on good authority though that we are being blessed by such a leader.