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As One Having Authority

  • January 28, 2018
  • 09:30 AM

Sermon for January 28, 2018 (Epiphany 4, Year B)

Offered by Nathan Ferrell at The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary


Texts:             Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; Mark 1:21-28

Title:               As One Having Authority

“[The people] were astounded at his teaching, for [Jesus] taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’” (Mark 1:22).

My friends: what does it mean for us to speak and teach with authority?

We are gathered together at this specific time and place for a specific purpose: today is our annual meeting, the time for us to do the business required of a free religious organization in a free society.

By law, we have to do this business today. But for what purpose? What is our overarching goal? What are we all about? Why does any of this actually matter?

If you do not know it, allow me to direct you back to our mission statement, to our first primary purpose, as printed on the front of today’s bulletin.

It’s says: “At Saint Mary’s, we are building authentic, vibrant, Christ-centered community.” But how do we make this happen? What exactly IS authentic, vibrant, Christ-centered community?

I want to suggest to you that this kind of community is directly related to the idea of authority as practiced by Jesus in today’s Gospel.

Do you remember where this takes place within the Gospel of Mark? It’s the first chapter. Jesus of Nazareth has returned from his time in the Jordan River valley, being baptized by John and being tempted by the evil one. He has returned to the Galilee and walked into the synagogue on the shore of the lake like a brand new person.

To be clear, he was not a new person. He was who he always had been. But now his moment had come. Now it was time for Jesus to step out from the background, to move to the front, to stand up and teach.

And he spoke, he taught, he healed, he acted with authority.

But what does that mean? What IS authority and what does that have to do with the authentic, vibrant, Christ-centered community that we are seeking to build here?

You know how we typically use the word “authority” these days. It refers to delegated power, or the right to do something.

Police officers have legal authority to stop people if they suspect illegal activities. And, conversely, children cannot purchase tickets to Disney World on their own because they lack the authority to spend their parents’ money!

That’s how we normally think of authority these days, right? But if you dig back to its roots, the word has a different kind of meaning.

Think about the root word of author. This is where the word authority comes from – both in the English and in the original Greek. To be an author is to create something original, to produce something which comes from your own self and from nowhere else.

It is even clearer in the original Greek word which is exousia (exousia). Literally, it means coming from being or substance. To come from the essence of who a person is.

THAT is authority! Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum and speaks with authority. He speaks and he acts in a way that comes directly out of who he is – his very essence.

And what did he speak about? About GOD! About his experience of God who he called Abba, Father. He spoke about his relationship with Abba and what he knew was true about this amazing God.

Do you see it? Jesus spoke with authority because he spoke out of his own experience, out of his own heart. Not like the scribes who spoke about the experience of others and what might perhaps be true!

No, Jesus spoke in first person, not in third person. To speak as an author, as one with authority, is to say, “I know THIS is true, and I will stake my life on it! I will risk my life for it!”

My friends: we have been called together – right now – by the living God to do something truly remarkable here at Saint Mary’s. To create authentic, vibrant, Christ-centered community.

If we can do that, then we will have fulfilled our purpose here on planet earth. I mean it! I truly believe that a church family that is healthy and whole and doing what it’s supposed to do is the most powerful and effective force for good. There is nothing better!

But HOW will we do this? By walking in the way of Jesus. By speaking and acting with authority, in its original meaning.

Like the Lord Jesus, we need to speak and act out of our own experience, out of the essence of who we are. This is what it means to be authentic.

We have to be real with each other. No games, no pretenses, no facades.

And it means, perhaps more than anything else, that each one of us must be clear about our own experience of God.

We have to pursue God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. We need to put the teachings of Jesus into action in our daily lives. And then we must be honest and real in sharing our experience with one another.

Do you know how many of the people gathered here today have had profound spiritual experiences which cannot be explained away? Most of you have! I know because I have heard a lot of these stories – which are often shared in private because you don’t want people around you to think you are a little funky!

It’s high time for us to get over that and begin to be honest and real with each other. God is at work in our lives and we need to be bold and talk about it. As those having authority!

Because we are far from perfect, but we have been claimed by Christ – to be his people, to walk in his ways, to share life in his name.

So are you ready to get to work building authentic, vibrant, Christ-centered community? Let’s do it. Amen!

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