Friday, January 30, 2009

Mark 1:21-28 - Sermon - Respect My Authority

Mark 1:21-28

Respect my Authority


We have no clue what Jesus said to them. We have no record of his lesson plan or his bullet points. We don’t know what the slides on this PowerPoint presentation looked like. All we do know is they were astounded by his teachings. They were flabbergasted by what he said, the manner he said it in, and the way he commanded their attention and the room. Why were they so astounded? Was it because of the diplomas on his wall? The cost of the suit he was wearing? Scripture says they were astounded because “he taught them as one having authority.”

I would like everyone to stand up at the moment. I know you just got comfortable, but you are not supposed to be comfortable at church, so stand up please. Now I would like everyone to put their arms out to the side and take a deep breath. Now I would like everyone to put your hands strait over your head. Now hold them there.

The people who heard Jesus’ teach that day said he taught with authority. (Keep your hands up) What is authority though? We grant many people authority over our lives, news casters, radio personalities, Oprah. Who has authority over yours? Authority is really power and it needs to be used carefully, if authority is not questioned you may stand there with your arms over your heads just because someone told you to do it. (you can sit down now)

I appreciate the authority you all give me to stand behind this pulpit. The first time I stepped behind this pulpit you all granted me authority to preach the Word of God to you. As our relationship has grown and has continued to grow, it is my hope that my authority will also. The closer we get to one another, the more authority you grant me and the more responsibility I feel to use that authority properly. Those people who were in the synagogue in Capernaum had granted scribes and other teachers of the law authority as well. But when Jesus steps in and begins to teach, his authority goes well beyond everyone else. He teaches with an authority that they have never seen before.

Who are other people in our life that have authority? My grandfather spoke with a ton authority because he was wise. I am sure you have family members that you looked up to and when they gave you a piece of wisdom you stopped and you listened. You gave them that authority because they proved their level of wisdom and love for you over the years. We grant people on TV authority all the time. My favorite person to watch when it came to politics was Tim Russert. Any time he spoke about politics, presidential elections or policy changes, I listened. When you heard him talk you knew he had done his homework and had thought about everything he was saying. He was a newscaster you could respect.

Then there is Oprah. When Oprah speaks the world moves but that wasn’t always the case. On September 8, 1986, when her first show aired nationally, not everyone listened. It took years, if not a whole decade for the nation to turn in and for Oprah’s authority to grow. Now she can make a comment about never eating another hamburger and the beef industry sues her for a major drop in sales. If she says she likes a book, it becomes a best seller. There is one woman who is attempting to live like Oprah dictates for a year. As a social experiment Chicago actress Robyn Okrant, will do everything Oprah tells her to do, on her show, radio show and magazine for a whole year. Oprah has some major authority.

But all of the people I just mentioned, including myself, earn authority over time. They have to prove themselves to people before people learn to respect their authority on that subject or in that arena. Jesus is walking in Capernaum, stops into the local synagogue and in one lesson astounds everyone. They are amazed at his teachings and his authority oozes out of him. Where does his authority come from though? Where is this source of awe that Jesus invokes? Jesus always knew where his authority came from.

Queen Victoria knew where her authority came from also. A story goes that the queen and her husband, Prince Albert, quarreled about something early in their marriage. Albert walked out of the room and went to his private quarters. Victoria followed, found the door locked, and began pounding on it. “Who’s there?” Prince Albert asked. “The Queen of England,” was the reply. But the door remained locked. More pounding followed, but then there was a pause. The next sound was that of a gently tap. “Who’s there?” Albert inquired. The queen’s reply: “Your wife, Albert.” Prince Albert opened the door immediately.

We have to remember we are still in the first chapter of Mark. Mark, in the first 20 verses, has told us the birth of Christ, the ministry of John the Baptist, and the baptism and temptation of Jesus. Now in these verses we have Jesus’ first teachings and first miracle. Jesus’ most famous first miracle is found in the Gospel of John. Of course anyone who can turn water into wine at a wedding reception will always be a favorite. Yet in Mark’s gospel Jesus casts out a demon as his first miracle.

While he is teaching a man with an unclean spirit interrupts them and barges his way up to Jesus. He cries out…”What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” You have a demon now confessing that the man standing before these astounded people, that the one they just heard teach is the Holy One of God. What is Jesus’ reaction? Jesus, using a stern voice, calls out, “Be still, come out of him.” And with that the spirit, in a violent convulsion, leaves the man.

Now the parking lot starts. The gossip hits the grapevines. The people who were standing around and saw this happen have moved from being astounded by his teachings to amazed by his act. The question they keep asking over and over again is, “Where does he get the authority?” Through his teachings, through his personal interaction with the people in the synagogue they knew he had authority. He did not have to prove it. But when he casts out the demon, his authority is proven and word starts to spread.

There is a story about a governor of Massachusetts who was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and he was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. "Excuse me," the Governor said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?" "Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person." "But I'm starved," the governor said. "Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer." The Governor was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. "Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state." "Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."

Some authority is given simply by the place you are put in life. The lady in charge of the chicken, had authority over the chicken. The Son of God had authority because he was God. The Greek word that means authority and is used in this passage means, out of one’s essence. Mark’s gospel tells us that Christ’s authority came from his essence, the basic makeup of who he is. When Jesus was being who he was his authority came to the forefront and astounded people. Then they saw the grace he was able to bestow.

Grace is what happened when the Son of God came and taught in their church. Grace is what happened when that demon left the man. If I told you Jesus himself was teaching Sunday School, you all would show up to hear his lesson. Who would not a demon to leave them? Grace, God’s love, is offered in both the lesson taught and in the interruptions.

Worship is an interruption of our week. It comes every Sunday to break up our weekend and to remind us who and whose we are. Communion is an interruption. Worship is interrupting by taking a moment and giving thanks and partaking in that grace which is offered. The authority and power that is offered is all ours. We can taste it in the bread and wine. We can feel it in the power of prayer and Word being spoken. We can stand in awe as we feel the power of God over us this day. We can show this person our demons and be set free because we worship the Holy One of God.

I am going to do something a little different today. I am not going to pass out the bread during communion. There are few moments when I have a change to pray with you all, one on one. I know many of you have demons you are dealing with today. Your job may not be going well or you may have lost it. You may be struggling with illness or are feeling the pain of someone who is. You may be depressed, anxious, nervous, or scared. You may be looking for guidance or struggling to know where God is leading you. After you receive the elements our prayer rail is always open for you to take a moment and pray before God. It warms my heart to witness families praying together and people coming before God each month. This time though, if you want me to pray with you, extend your hand and I will come and pray. Please be patient but I want to pray with you and I hope you will grant me that opportunity.

God’s authority is awe inspiring. It is amazing and overwhelming. God’s authority comes to us in the flesh of his only Son. That authority is before us now in the form of the Holy Spirit that wraps us up in this time of worship and who is pulling on our hearts strings today. That authority loves, heals, and is truly incredible. Let us now continue to feel God’s authority and power as we say the Great Thanksgiving that is found on page…


Anonymous said...

Thank you,
I appreciate your insight. My older congregation can't keep their hands in the air for any length of time but letting them stand for a few minutes will make the point. Peace,
Beck Schubert,
All Saints Episcopal, Kansas City

Kris said...

I love this idea.... I've worked long and hard to get this congregation NOT to put too much authority in me. They've finally learned that some things can succeed without the pastor running the show. So this can be a very good reinforcement, and a reminder of where real authority lies.

TN Rambler said...

Thank you for the suggestion on communion. I like the idea of praying with the individuals in the congregation.