Sunday, January 22, 2006

Power and authority

The readings for Sunday29th January 2006: Epiphany 4 - Deuteronomy 18:15-20; PSALM 111; 1 COR 8:1-13; MARK 1:21-28

I was once asked to say grace at a barbecue and my host said
"Well don't mention Jesus as our newly found Jewish friends might take exception"
I was a little shocked. But it is not hard for us to say prayers in the Jewish traditions

as at least Christians and Jews worship the same God
Spiritual issues
But of the curious issues of the Corinthian church
none was more curious than the controversy over whether or not
Christians should eat food that had been offered to a pagan god.
An equivalent for us would be
whether we should share in a meal
in which a pagan grace had been invoked.

It is far more confronting
than simply being asked to "not mention Jesus"

Would you feel comfortable eating lunch if grace went like this:
....We thank you gods of the sea for this fish and these prawns,
we thank you gods of the earth for bread and drink,
we thank you great god of thunder and lightening for water that nourishes us.....
Some of you like me, would feel a little uncomfortable
but then we might think...well all this sort of stuff is rubbish anyway
as there are no gods but our God.
so it doesn't matter a hoot

Paul says, do what you will
but be conscious in your community
that some people are more sensitive than others.,
and what you find easy to cope with
others take offence at.

Today's readings give us some reflections about authority and power
In the person of Moses we see a key figure
who God chose to exercise power and authority amongst his people.
What this means for us is that
God's involvement with us, his people,
is not accidental
it is deliberate.
God has made and makes provision for us his people.
Moses job, and Moses struggle,
is to bring God's people into a sense of community.
It is a struggle and sometimes seems to evaporate, and to be remarkably precarious.

The idea of the "chosen person" is an important one,
but it has both positive and negative dimensions.
Positive in that we can look and see that God has provided for us
leaders and teachers.
God has provided for our welfare and growth.
Negative in that we can think that God's provision is for others
to do it on our behalf.
Both of these problems beset Moses,
Moses, in authority, was given a hard time
by this frontier people as if they were Australians!
Both of these problems beset us!
But what they both acknowledge is that Christianity
understands that God is engaged not just in some general way with the world
but in the day to day living of life.
and is drawing us into community with him and with each other.

What Mark's early picture of Jesus reminds us of
is that the exercise of authority and power
will cause things to happen.
In this encounter with a demon
we see that Jesus uses his authority.
Although we often exegete this passage to death
to try and understand what exorcism means today
this passage is about showing us
God's life as lived in Jesus
is a life of authority and power.
It is authority and power in a s
piritual world.

This might cause us to reflect
that drawing people into community
is not so much a political or social phenomenon
as a spiritual one.
When we talk about building community in our churches
in our country, in our families
in our work places
Do we begin to ask ourselves
what are the spiritual issues here?
building Community is a spiritual issue.
Exercising authority is a spiritual task.

Not many of us will be terribly worried by the issue of whether or not
the barbecue we are about to eat has been offered to an idol.
All of us however will have some equivalent
in the places where we are called to be and build community.

Where we are asked to surrender
the authority that belongs to God and God alone
to something that is not God.

Our authority is derived from Christ
through baptism
and that baptism calls us
into community
as we act and practise our faith
we can and should ask
:does what I do bring people closer to Jesus or drive them away
:does the way I live my life draw people together or drive them apart

We are people who live with power and authority
it shows us that God deals directly with us
and has made provision for our particular needs and growth.
Power and authority is exercised
to bring us into community with God and with each other,
we are sometimes lax and careless about this
and want to say...let's leave that to another
but we all know I suspect
that this is an authority
which we share and which we need to practise.
May God enable us to grow in love together.

No comments: