The common denominator in this week’s lectionary reading is that each of them are about authority, one way or another. Each of them stretches out the definition of authority, melting it and remaking it into the authority that is given by God, as opposed to the human definition.
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You Can’t Go Home: In Mark 6:1-13 Jesus is in between, seen both as an authority and not. I too often find myself between roles. Am I a fellow mother or a person’s pastor? Am I the pastoral authority or the head of staff? Authority is so malleable. Although he clearly has authority, not in his hometown. He notes this by stating that he is honored as a prophet everywhere except home. (I find it hilarious that he can only do the minor miracle of curing illnesses). As a pastor I have been asked to do weddings of families, friends and even friend’s parents. I do so love it, but its harder than doing a stranger’s wedding. My authority has to be established differently. And when all the work comes to fruition, I am both grateful and amused that people tell me that I did a good job, with a note of surprise in their voice.
I wonder if that’s what it was like for Jesus. Jesus does a very good job of making it clear that authority of blessings was what he had to give. He did not send his disciples equipped with all of the worldly goods they needed. Indeed I’m not even sure how well they were intellectually and emotionally equipped to understand what it was they were doing, after all they don’t really even fully grasp who Jesus was, but they had the authority to spread blessings, and that was enough. I have a whole sermon about how we humans think that blessings are like pie, and that there aren’t enough to go around, and yet here is Jesus, giving our endless blessings. What does the authority to give blessings mean to you?
Prophets and Prophecy: Ezekial is given the dubious power of prophecy. Prophets and Prophecy are hard concepts for us humans to understand. Often, we think of it as the one who can see things clearly and articulate what is going on. Its often portrayed as “speaking truth to power” which is a dangerous thing. If you are going to call out that the emperor is naked, then prepare to be ridiculed, ignored and gaslighted. In fact, that is what Ezekiel 2:1-5 is mostly about, God is saying that just because one prophesies, does not mean that people will listen. What does this prophet authority mean in your ministry and your personal life?
Cabbages and Kings: 2nd Samuel 5 the anointing of David as King, the King that the people wanted. If humans have a lot of trouble grasping the power of prophets and prophecy, the opposite is true about Kings. Humans understand the power structure of Kings, and on some level we crave that authority over our lives. (I’ve been having deep thoughts about the fact that his is probably why God proclaims the coming a a new Kingdom and God as King, because this is a fairly easy concept for humans to get). Its amazing to me, as an American, how much we still understand and gravitate towards that power structure. Kingship is not the best structure for humans, but its the one we “get.” Although the confirmation fo David’s power by the elders gives us a clue as to how how we may be needing to structure power. As a Presbyterian where we strive our best to give more authority to the elders (which we again do not do well, too often the person with the pastor-halo is the only one who people want to receive all of the credit/blame), I can see where this is the start of where we need to go.
Powerlessness and Power: Both Psalm 123 and 2 Corinthians 12 examine power from the position of powerlessness. If humans love a hierarchy, then Psalm 123 makes it clear that we are but servants of God, and dependent upon the Divine. Interestingly, this places us so that all of our power is backed by God’s. In 2nd Corinthians, Paul discusses his pain and hardship as the makings of his strength. This is another tricky concept of power (and also pairs well with the power of prophecy), in that human power can come from the hard things we go through. One phrase to describe this is “God never wastes a hurt.” Theology immediately turns murky here about whether you have to be hurt to understand God and/or is God behind the hurt in your life. However, even as we tread carefully, I think the radical idea that those who are powerless can actually have power is written upon our hearts throughout the Bible, we Abraham & Sarah, Jacob & Rebekah, Moses & Miriam & Aaron, Elijah & Hannah & Samuel, Ruth & Naomi, Esther and ultimately Jesus Christ. There is a rich history of God empowering those who need it, and it begs the question Where is God empowering you in your life?
How are you thinking about these passages this week? Is God speaking to a particular hurt or movement in your ministry? Let us know as your sermon formulates where it is heading.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over seven years. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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