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Deuteronomy 18:15-20 NRS V    A New Prophet Like Moses

15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet[a] like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.[b] 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet[c] like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet,[d] who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet[e] shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

1 Corinthians 8  NRSV  Food Offered to Idols

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.”[a] We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.[b] 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family,[c] and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling,[d] I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them[e] to fall.

Mark 1:21-28 NRSV            The Man with an Unclean Spirit

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He[a] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Authorized Version & the Authority Figure
31 January 2021
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter


A little girl attending an annual conference session with her mother watched s her father and other ministerial candidates knelt before the bishop in an ordination service.  The bishop laid his hands on the head of each minister as he gave the commission to preach.  “What does that mean?” asked the little girl.  “It is just a ritual” said the mother, “to impress upon them that their call to preach comes directly from God”

“Oh”, said the little girl, “I thought he might be feeling their heads to see if they had any brains before he sent them out to preach.”

After all the tests and interviews (where they could certainly discover that one had sufficient brains to construct a sermon) the day of ordination finally comes.  The year I was ordained the Bishop addressed the ordinands on the Biblical text “Take Thou Authority”.  This morning I would like to consider the concept of Authority as referred to in our text.

In the times of Jesus the Scribes of the Hebrew nation studied the scriptures and They had Authority in interpreting ”how life ought to be lived” from dietary codes to divorce, circumcision to taxes.

That is to say they were recognized as having authority.  People gave them authority on the basis of their study and commitment to the task of interpreting the scriptures that were ultimately authoritative as the “Word of God.”  The concept of who has authority and where human beings get their authority to act is a major Issue in this passage.

In particular we see people amazed by the authority of Jesus…”they were completely astonished at the way he taught, for he taught them like one who had personal authority, and not as the experts in the law did.”  While the Scribes (or experts in the Law) always supported their opinions of what the scripture meant with phrases like “There is a teaching that…”  Jesus said, “I come to make clear the scriptures and fulfill them…”  While the scribes buttressed their statements with quotes from great legal teachers and schools of thought in the past, Jesus spoke as if he needed no authority beyond himself.  Jesus spoke with the finality of the voice of GOD.  The terrific (same root as for the word terrifying) positive certainty of Jesus was the antithesis of the careful quotations of the Scribes.

Authority is not just a matter of positive self-image.   Jesus could have been a deluded egoist.  People saw, in the exorcism of the evil spirit, that it was not just his opinion of himself, or their opinion of His self-assurance, but the recognition of the powers of evil that Jesus is THE AUTHORITY FIGURE OF THE UNIVERSE, Jesus Is Lord!  When he commands we see the triumph of Good over Evil in people’s lives.

The people in the passage recognized Jesus as an Authority Figure extraordinaire.   The demonic spirit recognized Jesus as the ultimate Authority figure.  The question I would like to challenge us with this morning is Who is the Authority Figure in our lives?

Somehow, through the ritual of ordination, the issue of Authority to lead a congregation became –at least temporarily – clear THE BISHOP HAS AUTHORITY, and the Bishop reminded all of us that Jesus, who has ultimate authority had chosen people to whom he had given authority to live and act in the world as His representatives.

If we lived in the 1950s, the Authority of the Pastor might be without dispute.  There were all kinds of authority figures in the centuries and decades before the 1960s.  Political leaders, military leaders, public servants like teachers and policemen were all public authority figures.   Remember parental authority?  And to the church was granted a domain of moral authority.

But those were the “good old days.”  Like most “good old days,” they were not without conflict of authority.  “But mom, I can’t take out the garbage… my 5 teachers each said that I should study for an hour this evening.”  Or “You always taught me to think for myself… I can’t sit in the back of the bus any more…”

Though Authority may be out of vogue or tarnished by irresponsible exercise thereof, whether we like it or not, whether we recognize nothing greater than ourselves  [including sickness, death, government – don’t file your taxes this year- public servants –try speeding on a regular basis without conforming to getting a driver’s license] or we recognize some authority by which we order our lives, as human beings – there is authority in our lives, even if it is only the dictates of our bodily functions,  Authority may be in the form of parents, bosses[spousal or otherwise], the printed word, the TV or other media, the government, the registrar at school…

The only Logical Authority is the Unmoved, mover – the Alpha and Omega, the Creator – the Author of Life

Traditionally, more immediate Authority Figures have had authority – supposedly, “under God” [1] Ruler’s “divine right”  [2] Parental under the 10 commandments [3] In Paul men have authority over their spouses.  All authority figures in the past were supposed to be benevolent authority figures.  The problem is, place authority and human nature side by side and one of the negative end results is abuse and ego-mania.

The whole concept of authority is critical to moral and ethical thought.  By what Authority shall we judge is a moral question.  Do we recognize the 10 commandments?  How do we deal with conflicting goods or evaluate lesser evils?  How do we vest power in individuals and structures of society?  Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

Within the church there have been several guidelines: The Methodist Church has four forms of authority Scripture [primarily], Experience, Reason and Tradition.  Jesus came to be part of the experience of humanity.  Jesus came to give us a reason – not only for the season of Christmas, but for how we shall live our lives – the church had built a tradition justified by its conformity to the authority of Jesus or those to whom he directly passed authority!  Universal ultimates.          Thou shall not kill.  Thou shall not be incestuous.

By what authority did Jesus speak and cast out demons?  Asked the people.  His Own – He is Lord!  Take thou authority – in the case of exorcism – In the name of Jesus.  Whom ever you bless will be blessed and whomever you curse will be cursed.

He goes about healing in your name….

Jesus was never the kind of authority figure that said: “Do as I say, not as I do”.  Rather he said: “Go and do likewise.”  And to God in the Garden of Gethsemane he said what the faithful are always called to say:  “Not my will but Thine be done.”

The world is waiting for an answer to Who is the authority Figure for society?  [Is it the person with the biggest guns?]

Adrift without a value consensus we do not know how to make moral decisions.

Afraid to proclaim the obvious:  Thou shalt have no other Gods but me.

Knowing Jesus is Lord does not make the answers easy without the willingness to give up our privilege and superiority, for God does not have favorites:  God Loves.

Who is the authority figure in our lives?

The figure to whom we give authority.  Who wilt thou choose this day?  The Lord of liberation, life and love or the Prince of Darkness, death, abuse, hatred, despair?

Take thou Authority ** Chose what is good and lovely and just

For yourself** For Others

And go forth whole to heal in HIS name.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734