Good morning! Thanks for the wait….I went off to breakfast before I could pull together the devotional. Hopefully you are having a nice Saturday as well.
Mark 11:27-33 (NRSV)
27 Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28 and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” 31 They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
In the lectionary today we find this question of Jesus’ authority. This tends to happen here and there throughout Jesus’ ministry. Those who have some authority want to know why Jesus has some as well. He hasn’t worked through the training. He is a Rabbi but certainly not higher. He is working on things way beyond what they would expect. Does it really come from God?
When I was ordained the Bishop told me to take my authority. It is proclaimed in a loud voice, “Take thou authority.” My Lutheran colleague jokes about that all of the time. He routinely asks me to take the authority since it was told to me in this context. That command really isn’t in the Lutheran liturgy for ordination it turns out.
I started thinking about it today…what is authority? Why is it questioned so often? And why do we need to ponder on it for Advent?
I went to the internet for some of my answers. It is on the web, it must be true! The official definition of authority is “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” This is the google definition anyway.
This seems to come into question a lot, doesn’t it? Right now the world is questioning who has the authority to punish others, to beat others, and even to kill. The world is questioning the obedience demanded or at least it seems that way from my seat. On a local level, I hear lots of questioning who gets to live where and where people need to be and who needs to tell them how to live in certain ways. These seem to be questions about authority.
On a Church level, authority is questioned all of the time. Who gets to be the one in charge? Who gets to decide who preaches where and who gets married? Who gets to decide how worship happens and where the Church’s mission lies?
It starts to get really confusing and nit picky. One person says the bible says this while the other person says it says that…and it comes down to, what kind of authority does even the Bible have?
Makes me tired….
In true Jesus fashion, he takes alllllll of that conversation and pulls us back into the present by saying, “Ok, get out of your heads a bit and look at this thing that happened.” He turns the conversation on its head, confronts the folks who think they have the authority and does ministry anyway.
Sometimes we get turned on our heads in the midst and realize that ministry is happening anyway, whether we said it could happen or not.
Here’s the thing….we have to let go a little to recognize it. It surprises us. It confounds us. And maybe we don’t have control over it anyway. This means we have to let go of egos and needing to be right to show up and have the conversation anyway. We have to recognize that we are humans to humans. Not force to force. This is the only way that the kingdom of God can happen. If I let go of the need to control every aspect of the life of the church, church might just happen. If I can let go of a moment, the need to control the other, I might be able to actually see the other.
Advent is just such a season to zoom out for a moment to see enough to let go of the fight of who is right.
This week I have had two very hard conversations with two people I love very much. On either side, we have a hard time seeing the other’s point of view and yet we sat down at the table for hours to say, “I love you and I want to still commit to this meaningful relationship.” In order for that to move forward, we have to meet each other, let go of who has the authority and have the conversation in a way that doesn’t cause the other harm.
This is hard to do and drains a lot of energy but I am proud of those kinds of conversations. This is the only way to move forward. To see one another.
Where will you zoom out this season?