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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "With Authority" Edition

The lectionary readings for the coming Sunday can be found here .

Bech's Mustard, a favorite northern Michigan regional condiment, markets itself as "Mustard With Authority!"

You've got to love that. And you know what the Bech's people mean: This is mustard that makes you sit up and take notice; that has a sting to it; that you'll remember, and appreciate (even as your eyes and tongue are smarting).

Sunday's lessons are about that kind of authority in the faith community -- authority that startles and astonishes us, both because it's neither whingeing and equivocating nor arbitrary and bossy. It's an authority that reflects that of the One who has delegated it.

Our Deuteronomy reading promises the people of God a prophet who speaks and acts with this kind of divinely appointed authority (interestingly, because a direct encounter with the holiness of the Divine Presence is considered too hard for us humans to handle). Our lesson from the Gospel of Mark shows this type of authority in action, exercised in service to healing and wholeness. And our Epistle lesson provides a caution to those tempted to exercise "Do this/don't do that" authority in adiaphoric matters of Christian life where, to borrow a phrase from Kelly Fryer, we're called to lead with our love foot.

Some good stuff here. How will you be preaching, praying and otherwise engaging this theme in worship this Sunday?


  1. We have a session retreat on Saturday for which I haven't firmed up plans or even ideas (though death will be a big theme, hopefully resurrection following, but maybe not). But last night, I got some thoughts on the sermon. I think I'm going to begin by asking for people to tell me what they remember about their most memorable teacher. I'm then going to talk about how in Mark Jesus doesn't say very much (not compared to the other gospels). Jesus just does. So we look at what Jesus does. (I'm hoping the take away from the teacher intro is what was important about the teachers is what they did) Jesus frees the man from the demon. (I might make a comparison to Luke with Jesus in the synagogue teaching and quoting Isaiah on setting the oppressed free and unleashing the bonds of oppression). And then I'll talk about how each of us in some ways has a demon (or two) that keeps us from freedom. And then I'll suggest that the same is true about the church and ask them to think about what it is that keeps the congregation from being free. At least that's what I'm thinking today.

  2. I read these readings through the lens of the ones for the last two weeks. After being invited to "Follow me," I read this as being told that *we* speak with authority. So the question to me was, how do we use this authority? I reflected on this here.

    Glad to be back working with the readings again!

  3. We have a retreat this Saturday, too - this congregation likes to do an annual planning event. This time, though, I'm going to have them create a timeline for our church and talk through the stories that have shaped us. I'm hoping we can talk more honestly about who we really are versus who we like to think we are. I'm a little nervous about it...

    Sermon-wise, I'm going with Mark but that's as far as I've gotten in my planning. Praying for inspiration on how to deal with these demons and Jesus' embodied authority.

  4. Hi I am about a week or so late with this. I found my "Lutheran Church Basement Women" book-- the publishers are Redbird Productions Box 363 Hasting, MN 5503 (by the by it is still very funny, even or especially if you are Lutheran.) This is for the person who wanted to know how to get it. A Lutheran Pastor in California

  5. Just to add to that sidebar...I think it's available via the Old Lutheran website.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.;-)

  6. Too late to order the Mustard and use it as sample on leftover communion bread.
    It woud be a good sermon illustration...but then again we dont have bread. This church uses oyster crackers. Blech!

  7. Clueless, just clueless. I've selected the Mark passage, but it just generic to me. I think I'm going to have this trouble with Mark all year. The authority piece is intriguing, but I think I just said something about that not two weeks ago. I'm looking forward to all of your insights.

  8. I am using a demonstration to drive home the type of authority my congregation gives me as their minister. I will ask them, during the sermon, to stand up, raise their arms up over their heads, and hold them there. Then I will go on with the sermon for a little bit. The test it to see how long they stand there with their arms up. Then say something like, "We grant many people authority over our lives. Who has authority over yours? Authority is really power and it needs to be used carefully, if authority is not questioned you may stand there with your arms over your heads just because someone told you to do it."

  9. Jim you ROCK - the whole office wants to know why I'm laughing so hard but I won't tell them because I totally want to steal your idea for my sermon! May I?

  10. I'm struggling with how I will go on Sunday. Whose authority do we follow? I remember our ordination vow, take thy authority

  11. I love Jim's idea. For the visual folk in the congregation, it would truly bring home the point of whom we give authority to in our communities of faith.

    On the other hand, part of my "prior to worship" prayer always gives thanks to God for the authority granted to me by my denomination to speak God's word and preside at the sacraments. So, on the one hand, I can use the illustration lightly, but I do take authority seriously.

    I guess that's the whole point, huh?

  12. I'm going with the psalm for the lectionary day. Can't remember off the top of my head, but will be talking about why and how we praise God.

  13. I, too, am focusing on the psalm and we're going to be thnking about and singing and speaking praise....getting in some alleluias before we pack them away for Lent.

  14. I'm compelled by the idea of meeting Jesus face to face, and of trying to translate that palpable experience to our celebration of Communion this Sunday.
    Which all feels too big to confine in an order of service.
    Which I need to write.
    With authority.

  15. OH boy. I am squirming...not having used my authority promptly enough or firmly enough in a recent meeting. The discussion got into unacceptable territory. I'm wrestling with whether it can be retrieved "after the fact." Drat anyhow.

    And I'm thinking of pursuing the theme of "Jesus, speaking" at least for a while, this year...having underlined how he's silent through Christmas and the first part of Epiphany. Last week I suggested we heard the "inaugural address", and drew some parallels.

  16. i like the unclean spirit's question "what have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?"... that's where i'm focusing because it's a good, solid, insightful question...

    you know what has Jesus to do with us in the midst of a deepening recession? in the midst of deaths and births? in the midst of punching the clock and sitting in the cubicle all day? mmmm...

  17. so this may be really random, but did anyone see ted haggard on oprah? i was really interested in what he said about demons and the self...that he believed in demons and the casting out of demons, but he had come to realize that his homosexual (insert appropriate word here)...longings, tendencies, etc... were not demons but were part of who he is, who his person is.

    as someone who pastors to a largely gay congregation, i found this whole thing interesting. to hear one who used to condemn now recognizing his own (yeah this is a stretch) belovedness.

    i don't know if i'll use it or not and how it relates to JC casting out demons, but it's where my mind is.

  18. The line in Mark, "have you come to destroy us?" has grabbed my attention. I'm hearing the voice of one accustomed to those in power and with authority as betraying the trust of those over whom they have authority. Definitely an interesting item in these times as we wrestle with how to handle those who abuse power (I'm thinking more globally here), and how what we do (locally), rather than what we say testifies not only to our intentions but to where WE find authority. It has to do with living authentically, and learning how to do that by following what Jesus does.

  19. I flipped last week's readings with this week, because we are ordaining and installing elders and deacons this week, and the call of the first disciples seemed to fit better this week.

    Last week, I preached this authority text in the context of the presidential inauguration, talking about the peaceful and orderly transfer of power from one administration to the next, and the symbols of that power, versus the power and authority of Jesus and the symbols of his power (casting out unclean spirits, etc.)

    Hope that helps!

  20. Jim, I foresee a whole slew of assembled congregations with their arms raised up this Sunday!

    I'm intrigued by the demonic forces seeking JESUS out - he didn't go looking for them. While Mark does go on to talk about how Jesus healed many in Capernaum, it's not as though he came to town to do magic tricks: he came to teach, and his authority over the demonic only underscores the truth of his teaching.

    There's a Rowan Atkinson sketch about "the Amazing Jesus" I might use to illustrate what Jesus was not. You can find it on YouTube.

    Oh, and those of you who like such things might find some value in the Sermon Brainwave podcast - you can find it at

    Good luck, everyone!

  21. Please...steal away...all of you.

    Keeping Preaching.

  22. one more thing...I would love to hear how your congregation react.


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