Sunday, September 30, 2018

Power and authority

September 30, 2018
Numbers 11: 4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Mark 9:38-50

How many of you watch the TV show Hawaii Five-O? If you watch the show, you know that Detective McGarrett often takes matters into his own hands, disobeying rules, disregarding orders, in an effort to get the bad guy or gal. On Friday’s episode, I heard this quotation: Everybody knows that Steve McGarrett only takes orders from the Governor and God.

As it happens, the storyline is that a former governor of Hawaii recruited McGarrett to set up a special force to deal with especially nasty criminals. The only way McGarrett would sign on was if he had no rules, no red tape, and full authority to do what needed to be done.

So, it is true that McGarrett obeys only God and the Governor.

… There are sort of two similar stories today, one about Moses and one about Jesus. In the story about Moses, Moses has realized the need to delegate his workload. God instructs Moses to gather 70 elders to help make decisions and make sure all are taken care of. God takes some of the spirit from Moses and gives it to the newly selected elders. The elders prophesy this once, and never again.

Early in the formation of the Israelite people and the folks are already pointing fingers. Who has power? Who should have power? Who should not have power? At first, there were few enough of them that it was fairly easy to obey only God and Moses. Now, there are more people, there are more problems, and more people need to be involved in guiding the people. Moses is still in charge, but he now has some deputies, who have God’s and Moses’ authority to make decisions, solve problems, and be spiritual guides.

There are two men who were not selected, and not gathered with the chosen elders, who also felt God’s spirit and began to prophesy. A young person notices and runs to Moses’ assistant Joshua and tattles on them. “Did you know that these two guys you did not choose were also prophesying? They don’t have permission to do that! Tell them to stop!” (my words) Moses replies, “I wish everyone felt God’s spirit!”  

… In the story about Jesus, the disciples have become somewhat accustomed to being able to heal people. He taught them that his name has power so when they say, “Be healed, in Jesus’ name,” the sick are healed.

But they discover that someone is making unauthorized use of Jesus’ name. Sick folks, people with demons, are being healed by a man who was not following Jesus. Apparently, this man knew of Jesus’ power to heal but didn’t believe in him as the Messiah. Yet, he could gain access to Jesus’ power to bring about healing.

The disciples are angered enough to tattle on this man to Jesus. Like Moses, Jesus is not angry but pleased that someone else could heal people. Whoever helps someone else in my name is blessed. (my words)

… God does not limit divine power to only those in authority. Through our baptisms, we are authorized to do ministry in Jesus’ name whenever and wherever it seems appropriate. We do not need Jesus’ permission to offer a dollar or two to a beggar, or a bag of food to a hungry person, or a ride to the doctor to a sick person. When we feel the Spirit telling us to do something kind, we should do it. The Spirit’s guiding is all the authority we need.

Sometimes, congregations have strict rules about who can start new programs and how to go about it. Unless it involves spending a lot of money, or changing a written policy, it appears to me that if the Spirit moves someone at Ascension to start something new, it happens. Of course, I have only been here a short while, but I am thinking about two things.

First, the support for the Ocali Middle School. I don’t know the specific history, but it seems Cindy discovered the school and its needs and came up with a plan. With just a little money and a number of in-kind donations, the school now has a positive reinforcement program and creative gifts for children.

Second, I am thinking about Bunco. I mentioned playing Bunco at another church as a fundraiser and Gail took off with the idea. Before long, people gathered to learn the game, and plans were made to have a Bunco night once a month. The hope is not just that some funds will be raised for ministry, but that people outside the church will come to meet the people, have a fun time, and eventually become part of the congregation.

… When the Spirit moves us to do something, we don’t need permission to do it, we just do it. While there are plenty of secular laws to obey, like speed limits and taxes, Jesus has only two simple laws: love God and love one another. It is the Spirit who leads us to show love; all we have to do is pay attention to the Spirit’s leading. We can do so much more than we imagine if we draw on the power Jesus’ Spirit has given us.

Please pray with me. Jesus, your name has power and your Spirit enables us to do more than we imagine is possible. Remind us to call on you and lead us to follow you even into places we never dreamed of. Amen