Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 29, 2012
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching — with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. — Mark 1:27-28
This week’s Revised Common Lectionary lessons have a lot to say to anyone who leads, as in some way they all address questions of authority. Who gives it? What does it mean to have authority? How does one exercise authority correctly? What freedoms come with authority? In whose name is authority given?
We start out with Moses telling the people that God will provide a prophet/leader for them. This is a good thing. God will even provide the words for said prophet/leader. Then, however, we learn that God says “But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak — that prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20). Remember that, preachers, as you climb into the pulpit this coming Sunday. Gulp.
Next comes Psalm 111, a powerful song of praise that recounts God’s glorious majesty, redeeming nature, and steadfast ways. Check out the last verse: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who practice this have a good understanding. God’s praise endures forever” (10). Clearly, if we value knowledge and understanding, we do well to remember from whence it all truly comes.
Speaking of knowledge and understanding, Paul tackles the notion of responsibility that comes with the freedom of a disciple. The issue is a local one about eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. Christians in the Corinth community were not prohibited from doing that, but they were not free to do something that would cause a sister or brother to stumble. It is a fine line, one that we still walk today in our own contexts with different issues.
Finally, in Mark’s gospel, we learn that Jesus taught with such authority that even unclean spirits recognize him. Yes, Jesus is the ultimate authority in the form of God made flesh and walking around in the world. In case we had any question, that is.
We are called in the Body of Christ to serve in a variety of leadership roles (Ephesians 4:11). They key here is we are called and gifted by God. We are connected to the divine power source through the work of the Holy Spirit; therefore, it’s not about us, this whole leadership thing. When we forget this important fact is often the time when we get into trouble. We must never assume that the authority to serve as leaders in Christ’s church is of our own power. That will surely lead to what my Mammaw referred to as “getting’ too big for your britches.”
Yes, these lessons are a good reminder that we serve at will, God’s will, that is. No amount of preparation, life experience, or seminary training can outdo or outperform the power of the Divine One.
Remember dear Christian friend, that your authority is not really your own. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18), and we walk in his footsteps. I don’t know about you, but those are some mighty big ssandals to fill, and the likelihood of falling flat on one’s face it high. The only way I know to do it is to keep my eyes on the Lord, pray for the Spirit to guide me, and walk carefully in love. Blessings and peace to you — one step at a time with God.
Photos by GlasgowAmateur used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!