Thursday, 26 June 2014

THE QUESTION OF AUTHORITY> preaching this morning, and subsequent general thoughts.

I presided at the Eucharist and preached this morning (Thursday 26th June 2014)  at the mid-week Eucharist at St. Boniface Church, Sarasota, FL

The given Gospel for today (in the Episcopal Church we have passages which are "pre-set" for us") [this is good or else we might be tempted to preach from our favourite passages and thereby ignore the more difficult bits!] ended with these words from Matthew

"when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes."

As I preached I mused a bit about the question of authority in the Church.

I said that when I was a member of the Diocesan Staff (in Western Massachusetts) whenever a Rector or lay leader called the Diocesan Office and asked "What do the Canons (Church laws)  say about.......(thus and such) " we knew that there was a parish in conflict.

I recounted that when I was the Rector at St. James's, Cambridge, MA. I had a meeting with three parishioners who were angered about a decision I had made. One of the three asked "by what authority did you make this decision?"   I replied from my Rectorial  High Horse and reminded my inquisitor that Church law gave me great authority in this matter.

WRONG!  As a good and honest friend told me the next day I should have said "I have only such authority as you are willing to give me".

In other words genuine authority in the Christian community is never securely based on Church law.

Instead it is based in relationships.

Indeed.  The authority which Jesus had (and of which Matthew writes) is not based on his credentials as a teacher. 

Instead Jesus' authority is based on the integrity of his life and actions, which are congruent with  his relationships with the disciples.

That's the model for Pastors.  Their authority is rooted in personal integrity, coupled with prayerful relationships.

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The above is my stumble-bum recreation of an ad-libbed sermon at a midweek Eucharist.  I'll give myself 4 out of 10 -  mostly on the grounds that my sermon was ad-libbed, when in truth it should have been thought through with care and discipline

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As I drove home I had these thoughts:

"In my recent flights  Sarasota FL/Charlotte N.C./ Lynchburg VA and back  I never had one thought about the authority of the pilots.

My one and only concern was that they would be competent.

Dare I say that the best leadership,  whether in the Church or in the world,   (business/politics/government  etc. etc ) is that which which is rooted and grounded in competence supported by integrity?

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