Worship Service, September 27, 2020 “Authority Through Humility”

Worship Service, September 27, 2020 "Authority Through Humility"

Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik

Sunday morning via YouTube

 

The message for September 27, 2020 by Pastor Erik,

Authority Through Humility” 

can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service on Sunday.

 

 

Authority through Humility
Matthew 21:23-32
Who gave you this authority? That is the question the chief priests and the elders put to Jesus. By whose authority are you doing these things? That is what the religious leaders are wondering and to get a sense of why they might be upset and why they want to challenge Jesus on his actions we need to take a step back to see what the things are that Jesus had been doing.

We see some of what Jesus had been doing earlier in Matthew chapter 21. It began with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He entered the city riding on a donkey. The crowds gathered to cheer him and sing his praises—to proclaim Hosanna, God saves, which would equate Jesus with the long awaited Messiah—the one who would restore Israel to its former glory.

The chief priests were probably thinking, “Who does this Jesus think he is? What gives him the right to march into our city and cause such an uproar? Do the people really think he is the messiah? What gives him the right to stir up the people? To get their hopes up? To de-stabilize the situation and get the Roman occupiers feeling nervous, which only causes them to crack down harder?”
Then, not long after Jesus has come into Jerusalem, he goes into the Temple, the very heart of the people’s religion—the very heart of the chief priests and elders authority—and overturns the tables of the money changers and those who sold doves for sacrifices and he drove out all who were buying and selling in the temple. As he is doing so he quotes the Scriptures where it says, “My house shall be a house of prayer.” I can just hear the chief priests and elders saying to themselves, “My house?!? Who does this Jesus think he is? This is our house. We are the ones who run the temple and speak for God.”

So you can understand why they would confront Jesus. You can understand why they would question his authority. This Jesus was disturbing the peace. This Jesus was threatening the stability of the city. Jesus was threatening centuries of tradition. What gave him that right? You can understand why the chief priests and elders would question his authority.

Prof. Stanley Saunders points out that Matthew focuses on this question of authority throughout his Gospel. The Book of Matthew aims to demonstrate not only that the authority of Jesus is more powerful than the world’s powers, but that his authority is of a different kind. It is a power that produces healing and reconciliation rather than alienation and violence. (www.workingpreacher.org)

We see this contrast early in the ministry of Jesus in Matthew chapter 9. We hear how some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God.

In this story we hear how Jesus claims he has the authority to forgive sins and he backs up that claim by healing a man who is paralyzed. If Jesus wanted to show he had the authority of God behind him, he could have done it by impressing the people with heavenly fireworks. He could have struck fear in their hearts by calling down legions of angels with fiery swords. Instead, he demonstrates that God’s power comes not through fear or violence, but through forgiveness and healing. Throughout his ministry, Jesus walked among the most vulnerable and needy. He reached out to those who were considered untouchable. He sat and ate with those considered unclean and outcast. He earned people’s trust and authority by walking with them where they were at. He demonstrated his God-given authority through humility.

Mohandas Gandhi was someone who came to have authority through humility. Although he was a Hindu, Gandhi was also influenced by Christ’s teachings and example. His beliefs led him to take a very different path than people might have expected, given his religious and worldly position. Gandhi was born into the merchant caste in India. While not the highest level in the caste system, it did put him in the upper part of society which gave him the resources to travel abroad and become a lawyer in England

After getting his degree, Mohandas Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 as a legal representative of Indian traders in Durban. While he was there, he faced the prevalent discrimination against people of colour which would contribute to changing the course of his life, as he felt called to take up the fight against racial oppression. After seven years of non-violent protests and action, Gandhi helped to change the laws that would give Indians living in South Africa more voting rights and freedom to travel as well as taking away some of the harsh taxes they were forced to pay.

Gandhi then traveled back to his native India and began to put into practice the things he had learned in South Africa. During this time, people began referring to Gandhi as Mahatma or the Great Soul. Gandhi’s status and authority with the people of his country began to rise. Particularly among those who were oppressed on the lower end of the socioeconomic system. Over the next several decades Gandhi continued to lead movements to help the Indian people and to fight British rule. Finally, in August 1947, India gained its independence. Mahatma Gandhi was the most prominent leader of the Indian Independence movement and he is unofficially referred to as ‘Father of the Nation’ in India and Time magazine listed him as a candidate for person of the century.

Despite the status and authority that Gandhi achieved through his work, he remained a humble person, without taking on all the trappings of power. One of the ways that he demonstrated his humility was by taking his turn cleaning the toilets. It was a practice he had started in his community in South Africa and one he continued at his ashram that he established in India. An ashram is like a spiritual school or retreat center in India. The cleaning of toilets, which were more like latrines and buckets in many parts of India, was considered to be the dirtiest of jobs, only done by the untouchable caste. Yet it was voluntarily taken up by Gandhi himself, until it became a natural part of the whole process of sanitation for the community.

Perhaps one of the most important dimensions of this process was the social one. A task that was abhorred by the higher caste Hindus was turned into a daily ritual by Gandhi in his Ashram. One of Gandhi’s methods of introducing his Ashram life to newcomers was to allot the task of cleaning the toilets. It was both a test of their willingness to change their lifestyle and an act of initiation into a new way of living.

I wonder what it would be like to use this same method of initiating people in the life of Christianity. What if new members to Holy Trinity were asked to take their turn cleaning with the rest of us? What if other people in authority in our society showed this kind of humility? Can you imagine today’s Fortune 500 CEOs cleaning toilets used by their companies’ rank-and-file employees? How might you think these people in leadership positions would change their views of their employees and their relationships with them if they did this? How would it make their employees feel? What if politicians took their turns cleaning the restrooms of the White House or Halls of Congress? How might that affect their views of their workers? I think people in power, who might see such jobs as beneath them, think such actions would weaken their authority, but might such action actually build more trust with the people and grant them a different kind of authority?

When the chief priests and elders ask Jesus about who gave him his authority, part of his reply is tell them a parable. He says, “A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.

Then Jesus asks the religious leaders, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus knew they would say the brother who actually went and did the work, because most people would agree that actions speak louder than words.

Jesus uses this exchange to expose the behavior of the religious leaders. The religious leaders used their authority to say the right words and put on a good front, but they were not actually living out a humble love for their neighbor. Jesus’ authority, in contrast, is affirmed by the integrity of his words and actions, as well as by its outcomes: gathering and restoration, healing and cleansing, release from demonic powers, restored sight, table fellowship with sinners, and preservation of the most vulnerable.

The final example of Jesus’ authority is after he dies on the cross and is raised from the dead. The resurrection is the ultimate validation that the authority of Jesus is truly from God. As he tells his followers when he appears to them in Matthew chapter 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus then transfers this authority onto his followers as he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

We have been given the gift of authority by Jesus. The question now is how will we use it? Will we use it to advance our own status and power, or will we use it to serve our neighbors?

-Pastor Erik Goehner
 

You may view any previous worship services by visiting the

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Thousand Oaks YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXH9eTSk8ev8t7sg4lm_rw

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