(Click above to read the passage)
“When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
(Click above to listen to the full sermon)
Today’s Gospel and Reading are placed together for a reason. They are about having authority, and also about what someone in authority ought to look like in the world.
Since authority is kind of a loaded word, and we all have an idea of what it means to us, I thought I’d start by getting us all on the same page with this one.
Authority has three main definitions:
1. The power or right to give orders and make decisions
2. A person having power or control in a particular sphere
3. The power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.
So there are a lot of people with authority, for various reasons, but today we are looking at Jesus and his authority, and what that means for us.
Because even with all his God-given authority, Jesus still shares it with us – and that’s important, because we are called to go out into the world and use that authority on behalf of others. Not ourselves, which is tempting, but for others. Our neighbor in need. Those suffering around us. Those without a voice or placed on the outside. This is who we are called to serve on behalf of.
So in the words of Philippians 2, paraphrased mostly by Eugene Peterson and a little by me:
To you, Prince of Peace:
If you consider yourself a Christian,
if you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ,
if God’s love has made any difference in your life,
if being in a community of faith in the Spirit means anything to you,
if you have a heart,
if you care for others at all –
then remember this:
you’re on the same team,
so love each other, and be kind.
Put yourself aside, help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
God has already given you any advantage you could ever need.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and became human! He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death. For you.
Well Amen to that.
Now let’s get to it.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Have you ever had an issue with someone in authority? Why?
2. What was the thing that made you push back or question their power and authority?
3. What do authenticity and authority have in common?
Who is in need of care this week? How can you use your position of authority, the privilege of your place in life or work and use it to lift someone up?