Sermon: Full Authority…Sharing the Gift to Lead

Bulletin showing Father Manny's title changed to "Vicar"

I’d like everyone to stand up, please. I know we just sat down after having the Gospel proclaimed…but humor me for a moment, okay. So, now, turn around, in your place. Wonderful, you all did a marvelous job. Now, place your hands above your head and say, out loud, “Yes, Lord.” Come on, now. Everyone, out loud, “Yes, Lord.”

Okay, that’s enough. Let’s sit ourselves down and let’s get those thoughts out of our heads that have us asking, “What’s wrong with Manny?” Bear with me…

This little exercise goes to the heart of what I wish to share with you regarding this “full authority” of which today’s Gospel speaks. But first, we must discuss where this comes from…this “full authority.”

And it starts with the synagogue and the scribes. Wherever 10 or more Jews live and are gathered, a synagogue was to be established. The synagogue wasn’t so much a place of worship. It was that, but more importantly, it was a place of learning. The synagogue service consisted of a few prayers, the reading of the Word of God and an explanation and teaching of that Word. No singing and no sacrifices made. Singing and the sacrificing of offerings took place only in the Temple. It was in the synagogue that the people gathered to be instructed and taught what the Torah said. There were many synagogues, but only one Temple, and that was in Jerusalem. And who did the teaching?
Who instructed the people of the laws of the Torah and of the ancient covenant between God and the Chosen People? It was the scribes.

The scribes were a select group of men…no women…and these men, literally laid down the law. They taught what the Torah said. The belief amongst the scribes was that if the Torah was the Living Word of God, then it must be lived accordingly, to the very letter of the law. There was to be no deviating from the law, none whatsoever. Let’s be honest and realistic, it is nearly impossible to live life according to the very letter of every word in Scripture. Take a look at the Book of Deuteronomy and see how many laws are there. Granted, this was written and meant to be enforced upon and by the Hebrew people. But, let’s not forget, we as Christians have our heritage firmly rooted in the Jewish tradition…so the Old Testament is applicable to us, too. You know, things like the 10 Commandments can be found in the Old Testament…these laws are our laws, too.

The scribes would talk at length about the laws and how the people were to live accordingly. If a problem arose, or there was a matter of what one was to do, the scribe would quite clearly and plainly tell that person or that group what was expected of them.

And, their responses, their answers came directly from the Torah…they didn’t have to go to any other source. The civil code of law amongst the Hebrew people was the law found in the Torah. The scribes pulled the laws out of the Torah, the laws that dictated how the people were to live. What started out as religion became legality…one morphed into another. In fact, the scribes were created because some one was needed to explain the Torah and to help enforce the laws and teachings. We have the same today…biblical scholars, all who feel they have the true explanation of the scriptures and thus, they know just how we are to live our lives. It can all get pretty messy and complicated.

But now, we have Jesus who enters into this synagogue in Capernaum. It is the Sabbath, the day of worship and the people have gathered in this small house of prayer. Jesus begins to teach the law…he is preaching to the people and they are amazed. Who is this guy, they’re thinking? Where does he come from? Where did he learn such things and from whom does he have His authority? The people are amazed and they are listening with full intent and attention. Jesus has them captivated. Yet, Jesus is also confronted with a crisis. In their midst is a man possessed by an evil entity. Jesus intervenes and he expels the demon from this man…this evil spirit comes out of this man and he is left writhing on the ground. Jesus has cured this man of the unclean spirit. AND, he preformed this both miraculous and merciful act on the Sabbath…the day no work is to be done! The people are left in awe…they wonder, aloud and silently, who gives this man the authority to teach and preach and to perform such acts as this? Is this man truly the Messiah, they wonder? Is His authority divinely provided?

The authority I took earlier having us all stand up and throw our hands in the air and speak out was not the authority of God…it was misguided authority and only meant to exemplify a point. So please, excuse me for taking such liberty…though I do admit, it was sort of fun, too.

We know, of course, just where Jesus does receive this authority. He receives it directly from God, the Creator. This authority is given to Jesus in order for Him to do God’s work, on earth and to bring the people into the Light and out of the darkness of their past.

The authority I took earlier having us all stand up and throw our hands in the air and speak out was not the authority of God…it was misguided authority and only meant to exemplify a point. So please, excuse me for taking such liberty…though I do admit, it was sort of fun, too.

Authority is a gift not to be taken lightly, nor for granted, nor is it to be abused. Authority is a privilege…it is not a right. It is imposed upon us and we are to do with it that for which it is meant…TO BRING THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS TO OTHERS AND TO DO SO IN JESUS’ NAME.

All of us have this gift of authority and we are to use this gift to help build and create God’s Kingdom, today, in this place, in this sacred and holy space. We use this authority for the greater good and not for our own grandeur nor for a higher place on the totem pole of popularity. That stuff doesn’t matter…it didn’t matter with Christ, for He considered Himself the least amongst the people. For the last shall be first and the first shall be last…the greatest amongst us will be the least and the least will be the greatest. These are some pretty daunting and challenging words…cuts us to the quick and should certainly make us think long and hard of what it is we are called to…being a Christian isn’t always very pleasant, is it? Then again, life in general is pretty demanding. In order to smell the rose, we must maneuver about the thorns. To gaze at the rainbow, we must first endure the storm clouds and the flooding rains. To truly gaze upon the face of God, we must first live our lives here on this spinning orb, this earth, this home of ours. And we are called to live this life of ours in service to others, in humility and with hearts laid bear for God to plant even more seeds…seeds that will blossom and bear much fruit…the fruit we share with those who hunger and thirst for the Word…for Jesus…for grace and for salvation.

We are not scribes. And believe you me; I for one will never claim to have all the answers for all the questions and all the concerns and for the crisis’s that will arise. A scribe would…but I’m no scribe. I’d wager to say that none of us here are scribes…and that may well be a very good thing! I will present myself as one who is searching and on the same journey we are all taking. I will willingly bend, but not break…I will yield when I must, but not to capitulate, that is, to surrender, but always to go forward for what is best and what is for God and of God. But, as Jesus to serve as my example and my love, I will present myself with a level of humility, with compassion and with a willingness to do what I can, how I can and with God’s grace and Jesus’ support, with a measure of success. And, this is what all of us must also wish for and strive to attain and accomplish as we work at building, rebuilding and forever building God’s Kingdom here on earth as we go about our work of strengthening, growing and loving our community of St. Nicholas.

Authority has been given to all of us…let’s take good care of this gift and use it properly and wisely and always, for the good of the Church, the good of St. Nicholas and the good of each and every member. Ours is a sacred trust and authority is meted to us because we are God’s people and God has faith is us. My sisters and brothers, I have faith in you because, again, God has faith IN US. That’s all I need…that’s all I want…God’s faith in us and the faith we have in one another to do God’s work, right here, right now…because we are driven by love and our faith. That’s what it’s all about…love, faith and doing it all for Jesus and in Jesus’ name…

Lastly, I promise, and taking a bit of an advantage of the gift of authority, can I have the church give an AMEN…and again, AMEN…

There you have it, my sisters and brothers…that’s affirmation that we do believe and
God, I just have to believe is pleased with our faith, with our hope and with our love…all for HIM.

4th Sunday after Epiphany. B Cycle. St. Nicholas. January 29, 2012
Deut. 18: 15-20; Psalm 111; Cor. 8: 1-13; Mark 1: 21-28

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny


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