Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jesus in Capernaum - A Question of Authority

Last week, I blogged about a comment made on NPR. A woman said she trusted George Bush because he was a Christian. It made me crazy and I blogged. (See "Do you trust the President? Why") Thanks to Pounding Softly's comments on that post, I found myself rewriting my sermon this morning.

I was going to go a safer quieter route, but why? What's the fun of being the supply preacher if you can't just say what you think?

So here's the end of today's sermon...

In our world today there are so many people who claim to be speaking for God. Their proclamations are in the news and on the bookshelves. Magazines and television reports are filled with people saying this is what God wants. The most notable recent example being Pat Robertson and his claim that the people of Dover, Pennsylvania should not be surprised if God sent a natural disaster for the stand taken by their Board of Education.

The trouble is, we are left with the difficult task of discerning who is really speaking the authoritative word of God. And our discernment cannot just be based on whether or not we agree with the person making the proclamation. Pat Robertson and I have very different political views, but that doesn't mean that he is always wrong and I am always right.

We need to listen carefully and watch closely. The phrase “What would Jesus do?” has become greatly overused. But it is not a bad idea to measure the things we hear against that phrase. Jesus’ ministry was about love and forgiveness. He could be painfully direct in challenging people. But it was because he was constantly working for justice for all of God’s children- not just a chosen few.

So if the words that we are hearing do not call us to live out that same kind of loving justice- it might be good to be more than a bit skeptical about the person who’s preaching to us.

We need to measure the news against the truth that the Lord has promised to be with us always. No matter what. There is no place where his love cannot surround us with care and comfort. Would the God we know really punish Ariel Sharon for his stance on the Gaza strip? Is that what Jesus would do?

We need to challenge those who claim to speak on behalf of God with the truth that Jesus’ activities demonstrated a concern for the whole world. Ours is a Lord who teaches that anyone in need is my neighbor- not just the people in close proximity.

At times we may think that we want an authoritative Lord who would lay out all the rules for every situation. "Wouldn't it be great if Jesus had just talked to the disciples about this?" It would be much easier for us to know what to do. But what we have is a God who in all his power has made our welfare his chief concern. And he chooses to use his authority to work out our forgiveness and salvation. Because he loves us he calls us to be a part of his kingdom. Because he loves us, he invited the whole world to be embraced with his grace.
And we honor his power and we respond to his authority when we act with that same kind of care and that same kind of love.

I don’t know what Jesus said that day at the synagogue, but I have to believe it was a message of love. A powerful message of love. And I gladly bow to his authority.


P. Softly said...

I've been reading and writing to so many blogs lately that I had to double check what this was all about.

Yes, I've seen what happened in our church when the flags got moved. I heard the comments when this was discussed at a quartely meeting. Like one only had the right to speak if his father and uncle and brother had died in a war.

I can hardly imagine how hard it would be for a modern pulpit preacher to be a prophet like of old.

I've heard some good sermons on Grace. I've heard it said that you can't understand grace unless you first hear the Law. But I've heard sermons in which challenges and law were vague and over generalized. Some of us the pews need specifics. There's the rub, if the preacher thinks that God's word is contrary to the consumerism of our culture, for exmple.

I've visited a number of blogs of Lutherans of another stripe. I've found that when I expressed myself, I was not treated with "hospitality." I'm a pretty diplomatic person (in writing), so that was an unsettling experience. But I'm sure that is mild compared to what a preacher who says something that is unpopular or perceived as being too liberal experiences.

Perhaps it isn't possible to be the pastor of comfort and extending God's grace to people in the midst of the daily problems and ALSO the preacher who challenges. Does the Bible give any example of this?

RevHRod said...

Only one that really comes to mind is Jesus. And he was really good at it. ;-)

Really, I'm not trying to be flip. A lot of people don't give him credit for the incredibly strong political statements that he made. Or for the challenging things that he said to people about their personal choices.

So, as a preaching role model- he's great. But he also was willing to make tremendous sacrifices all the way to the cross.

Thanks for your response.

RevHRod said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Songbird said...

I don't know if you've found your way to my blog, but I wrote several entries about authority this week. None of them, however, came close to being as to the point as what my 10-year-old daughter said during the Time with the Children Sunday morning.

I posed the question, "Who are some people you really listen to?" Some kids said parents, grandparents, other relatives. My daughter said, "Someone who listens to you."

I firmly believe Jesus listens to us, lovingly.

Thanks for sharing your sermon end. I didn't choose to go in the political direction, but I like what you did.

Luscious Juicy Tomato said...

Last week my 9 year old and I were talking about Jesus over pizza, and he asked how come Jesus "had to" die. And I said something like, a lot of powerful people were thrieatened by him and afraid of some things he was saying and they wanted him to shut up (I know -- not the most delicate management of language, but I made my point). And Liam said, "If they wanted him to shut up why didn't they just say, 'Please don't talk to me anymore'?" I love the straight talk -- and listening -- of my boy. It makes living with him really easy and really joyful

RevHRod said...

Dear LJ-

The boy is right, but the other piece is that in order for us to have a full relationship with God, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He chose to lay down his life for you and me and my precious nephew, so that we would not have to pay the price for our own sinfulness.

Jesus could have chosen to keep quiet, but what good would that have done?

Keep having those "pizza and theology" conversations. They're important!

Lorna said...

great stuff :) and from the heart !