There is a lot happening regrading the word "authority." In the Webster's 1828 Dictionary, authority is defined as "Legal power or a right to command or to act. As the power of a prince over subjects and of parents over children. Power, rule, sway." The Greek word is exousia, and the Greek definition is similar, except that it defines this legal power as operating in a jurisdiction. Both words are good for my thoughts today.
Matthew 28, the great commission, is one of Jesus' last appearances before His ascension. His meeting with His disciples in Galilee is all about what we would call change, a passing of the torch and imparting of power/authority. It is an important meeting and it is foundational for us to understand who and what we are as disciples.
Seeing this word amidst protests, a totally divisive new media, a rise of blind partisanship, people taking sides on seemingly every issue, totally illogical statements in social media and many asking the question, "Who and what do I follow?" makes the idea of authority both relevant and important. Who do you follow? Upon what ideology do you base your decisions? If Jesus came to town today and He entered your home, your workplace or your church, how would He classify you?
In Matthew 28 Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." It is a short but telling statement. Jesus is saying that he has exousia over pretty much everything we think we have control over. John Riley often quotes Psalm 24:1 which (paraphrased) says God owns it all ... the earth, the people, all the stuff. Jesus says He is the one who has authority over what Psalm 24 calls "the fullness thereof." Jesus' authority is universal.
It is interesting that even Jesus gets His authority from somewhere, apparently God expressed in the trinity. Authority is both given and accepted. It comes from somewhere. In a world where my neighbors are having post-COVID parties, protests talk about freedom as if it is the power to do whatever I feel like doing (i.e., I am my own authority), I wonder if we operate under any authority. As we plan for beginning of services (modified of course) we operate under authority. The Bishop has an opinion. The Governor has an opinion. Our leadership has an opinion. The public has an opinion. I have an opinion. But to whom do we report to? Who is our authority? Remember ... authority comes from somewhere, even if it is self.
A final point ... authority goes somewhere. It would be wonderful if our choices and decisions only impacted us. I hear a lot of people talk about how they should be able to do whatever they choose ... after all, it only impacts them. I remember a few years ago a woman (Kaci Hickox) was clearly exposed to ebola, a highly contagious and deadly virus. She refused to be quarantined. The civil liberties people said she shouldn't be quarantined against her will. Medical experts said that ebola, with a 90%+ mortality outcome, was so dangerous, the woman should be forced to self-isolate for a specified period. Who was correct? These issues are the very ones we will be wrestling with at a Zoom meeting with our church leadership tomorrow. These are the issues that 2 Zoom meetings (one Monday and one Tuesday) will address as hundreds of pastors discuss returning to worship. Pray for us! These meetings and the decisions that follow are not easy, simple or popular. Our authoritative decisions will go out into our community and out into our congregation. They will impact me, you, our older folks, our children, our workers, our ministries and life at Abbeville UMC. So I will end with a prayer today ... "Lord ... you have imparted your authority to us, passed on through the Father, the Holy Spirit and You. It is a huge and grave responsibility. You would not have given it if you didn't think we could handle it. So, we ask you. Keep that promise you made at the end of Matthew 28. Be with us now and even to the ends of the earth. Help us make our little part of the world better because we are here. Help us become the Genesis 12:12 "blessing" that we, as Your Church, should be to all the earth. Grant us both the authority and the wisdom that comes from knowing you, from becoming selfless, and from being your princes and princesses, with Your imparted authority to make disciples and teach people about You. We need your leading and guidance. We need Your Spirit. We need you! Thank you, Jesus, for everything You are and all You do. In Jesus' name, AMEN." Randy