9.23.2011

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21), Year A

Authority is a slippery thing.

We almost said Authority and Power are slippery things, but that is too much to think about at once.

This week many folks in this country have openly struggled with (or firmly stood on one side or the other) the question of a judicial system having the Authority to kill a man who may or may not have taken the Authority upon himself to kill another man several years ago. And so many questioned the Authority of local Georgia courts, they questioned the Authority of federal courts, and on and on.

We are all under many levels of Authority. Some we choose, some are chosen for us, some are given to us, some are imposed on us.

But it seems we have always had a notion as humans that we can question Authority.

Even those of us who are obviously not as experienced or educated as those in Authority over us....even we feel we have the right to question an Authority. Reason is not necessarily applicable.

When put in a tight spot, we question the Authority of our leaders.

Moses was leading the descendants of Israel away from Egypt and slavery as God had instructed. In fact, at the beginning, most folks seemed to be in favor of not being slaves in Egypt any more. But things got hard...they got thirsty...and they questioned the Authority of Moses to be leading them. All that questioning got Moses worked up to make him question what God would have him do.

Again in Psalm 78 we see the revised and glossed over version of that situation. Years later the Psalmist is remembering what happened as God opened doors and rivers to keep the people of Israel safe and alive. The Psalmist doesn't mention all of the questions that came up, but since we can read the first part of the story we know what happened.

Paul pretty consistently is dealing with questions / issues around Authority. In this passage from his letter to the followers of Jesus in Philippi he encourages his readers to honor the Authority Christ has over them, he reminds them of the Authority he has as their mentor and teacher, and he helps them think about the Authority each of the people might have over his or her own thoughts and actions.

In this week's passage from Matthew we see the the Authority of Jesus being questioned. He counters with a question about the Authority of John the Forerunner. And then, while the chief priests and elders were contemplating that, he tells a parable of two sons who say one thing to their father and then do another (obviously respecting their father's Authority in different ways).

Authority is slippery. When do we honor it? When do we question it? When do we subvert it? When do we build it up?

God of Creation and Covenant
Help me to recognize
Authority that matters
and to Question
the Justice
the Mercy
the Validity
of the authority
that arises from Murkier Places
and overshadows You.
Amen.


© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.

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