Thursday, 13 March 2014

Lent day 6

Authority is something that Australians love to challenge, or at least say that we do. We are larrikins, happy go lucky, and mistrusting of authority. I suppose everyone does that when it is a policeman giving us a fine, etc.

In Matthew 21:23-32, the whole issue of authority comes up. After cleaning up the temple, disrupting its business, he is asked on what authority he does what he does. He answer is a question that turns things on its head, and links his ministry to that of John the Baptist. Where did HIS authority come from? The people all got who John was, but the temple authorities saw their authority at stake, and so couldn't answer.

Those who feel they have something to protect lose even that, whereas those who know they have nothing stand to gain much. In Jesus parable about the two sons, he suggests that his authority is to offer forgiveness, reconciliation and community to tax collectors and prostitutes.

Apart from the dubious position one might ascribe due to the role of prostitute (a non-PC term I know, sex worker is preferred today, but from a biblical perspective, buying and selling sex as a commodity is not what it is meant to be about), both prostitutes and tax collectors dealt with the Romans, an oppressive military authority.

So Jesus' authority in the Kingdom of God cuts through protective authority of temple rulers, as Jesus is the new temple. It also cuts through the authority of Rome, stealing back Israelites from its oppression and way of being (think of the change in Zacchaeus, or Matthew). All of this to form a new community of peace, love, forgiveness and justice.

Today, we need to continue to recognise that the Kingdom of God in Christ runs against counter to the world (in biblical terms society without God) and yet those within it are to love those in the world and seek to them to be reconciled with God in Christ. The message that forms a new people from all walks of life means we can't force them to fit into preconceived molds, but only what they are to be in Christ. Mission is radically incarnational, becoming Christ to those we want to reach where they are at. It also means exercising Christ-like authority, which is servanthood, not authoritarian.

This means challenging the world order, calling all coercive and self-serving authority to account - whether it is political, economic, social or ecclesiastical. None of this means violent disruption, or even easy schism. We subvert things that need subverting from within at times, and act separately when we need to. I don't think that abandoning denominations is always our first port of call, or especially Christ-like, but sometimes necessary.

In building a community of 'tax collectors and prostitutes' we recognise that we are all on the same level, and that church is a 'hospital for sinners' and not a college of the righteous. The later view has been tried many times and failed.

No comments:

Post a Comment