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Authority…

January 28, 2015

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I am not preaching this week, but I did want to take some time to chew on the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Mark 1:21-28. In this reading, Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum where he taught in the local Synagogue. The locals were astounded at his teachings, saying he taught as one with authority and not like the Scribes! The word we translate in the NRSV as authority (exousia) can also be translated as power or weight, as in moral authority or influence. Yes, the people were speaking in what could be a revolutionary way. To put Jesus above the Scribes would have been incredibly insulting to the Scribes (and also the Pharisees and Priests) and would not long go unnoticed. And when you add to that the casting out of the unclean spirit from the man, the unclean spirit which clearly identified Jesus as the Holy One of God, there is little doubt amongst the people in the Synagogue that Jesus is no ordinary Rabbi! And there was little doubt that Jesus would find himself on the radar of the religious authorities who would be greatly threatened by him.

Authority is a word I am quite familiar with, especially from my time in the military as a chaplain. There are several types of authority which I both experienced and actually had during that period of my life. First there is a certain authority which came with rank. It was seen daily in the salutes which were exchanged between Enlisted members and Officers as well as between junior ranking and senior ranking officers. It was also very evident in the “chain of command”. Everyone knew their place in the pecking order and proper respect was given to those of senior rank and higher positions of authority. One thing I did experience was the difference between respect for the rank and authority of an individual and respect for the individual. Respect for the rank and position of a leader or senior ranking individual was a given by virtue of the authority their rank or position held. Yet the respect given to the individual leader as a person was earned, not assumed. I worked for many senior ranking Chaplains and Officers throughout my career. And I tendered the proper respect and courtesy to them according to protocol. However, I must admit to working for individuals with the rank authority who had zip when it came to moral authority. The saying we used was “respecting the rank doesn’t necessarily mean respecting the person as an individual.” We have all had those bosses in the past I am sure where that thinking would make sense.

The picture above is of a castle near Doolin in County Clare, Ireland. Over the course of my six plus years in England, Scotland, Ireland and Europe with the Air Force (on vacation and on duty) I saw a LOT of castles. Back in the time when they were active, Castles were often tangible reminders of the authority of the Lord or King who was in charge. After William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he set about having castles built throughout the land as a reminder to the people who was in charge. Of course, the armed forces along with the castles made it abundantly clear who was in charge! Even though the castle represented the authority of the ruler, it took more than castles to reveal the moral authority of the ruler. During World War Two, King George VI of England could have easily sent his wife and daughters to safety and far away from the bombs dropping in London. But he chose to remain and have his family stay as well. Their courage and the fact that they not only stayed but would go out and be with the people of London during this time is a major reason why not only George VI but his wife Queen Mary (the late Queen Mother of current monarch Elizabeth) were so beloved by the people. They commanded something more than the simple respect due their position.

I think that is where the difference lay between the authority recognized by the people which rested on the Scribes, Pharisees and Priests and the authority which the people recognized in Jesus. Even though many didn’t fully understand the source of Jesus’ authority, they recognized it in the way he treated the people. Unlike the Scribes, Pharisees and Priests, Jesus didn’t “lord” it over them. He didn’t prance around in his finery and look for the best places to sit and eat and be noticed. He walked with them… Got to know them… Didn’t look down on them… And he loved them!

The question for Christ Followers today is this: Are you a person who demands special treatment and acts holier than thou? Or are you a humble servant of the Lord who is trying to follow Christ. Some of the best leaders I ever worked for were humble servant leaders. They may have had the rank and title, but it was their humble spirit and servant leadership which made people want to go into battle under their command. What type of authority or power do you “demand”? If you demand it, you are on the wrong path. Take it from our Lord who had all authority in heaven and on earth. He didn’t “lord” it over people, he walked with people and was a servant. How will you walk this day?

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One Comment
  1. pynkoski2 permalink

    This:
    “Some of the most profound experiences that I have had in ministry is working alongside of others. They may not have the advanced degrees or special denominational titles; but they do so much more than simply give lip service to their faith. They put their faith into action as they walk with others through good times and difficult times. They share the love, justice, mercy, and peace of God in a way that words cannot express. They do more than talk about faith, they live it out.”
    This is the heart of it, the heart of discipleship – the eschewing of lip service and that willingness to accompany others. It is the move from the “propositional” to the “relational.”

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