Our January 24 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. All scheduled worship services until further notice will be online only with minimal in-person participation to reduce COVID-19 risks.
The January 31 Sunday worship service will be held without in-person attendance because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in our state. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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Deuteronomy 18:15-20 | Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 | Mark 1:21-28
Authority, virtually all of the lessons today deal with authority, in one way or another.
In Deuteronomy, we have the prophecy of the coming prophet, the Messiah, the “one who will be like Moses” in authority, namely he will have God’s authority. This is the prophet/Messiah that Philip told Nathanael he had found a couple of weeks ago, “Jesus of Nazareth.” False prophets don’t have God’s authority to speak, and the people are not to heed them. False prophets will die, and lead to death those who follow them. Literally, they are the way to death.
The true prophet will speak with the authority of God. The people are to listen to him. If they do not, then God will hold them accountable, because the people will have then rejected God’s authority. We know that that prophet who will be like Moses is Christ, God’s Son himself, who comes with a new Word from God, which is to be heeded, in fact, Christ, is that Word made flesh. Christ’s words are to be heard, and we are to conform our lives to them. They are the words of life.
In Corinthians, Paul is also speaking about authority, but in a different way. The text concerns the eating of meat offered, that is sacrificed, to idols. Many of the ancient temples, after they had sacrificed the animals, and the priests had taken the meat that they wanted, then sold the leftover meat. Some of them even basically set up restaurants, kind of like a BBQ place. I’m not joking, that is for all intents and purposes what they did. Well, some of the members of the congregation in Corinth were going to these pagan temples/meat places, and publicly eating this meat. It was causing trouble within the congregation. The newer members were getting confused seeing elders of the Church dining at pagan temples, and on meat from animals offered to the idols. It was causing them to stumble. Paul reply is telling. He basically says, “Yes, you do have the authority to eat this meat. You know that the idols are meaningless. But the problem is the faith of the newer, weaker members of your own congregation. Your actions are confusing them! Such acts have become a stumbling block (sin) for them, a cause of sin. So, for the sake of those members, who are weaker in the faith, we are not to exercise this authority, but do only those things which build up the Church. Knowledge must give way to Love. Love’s authority is greater (that, by the way becomes the basis for all of Paul’s ethics).
All things are now lawful in Christ, but not all things are beneficial.” If necessary, to build up the weaker members, Paul says, he will never eat meat if need be, for “when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” Translation: Yes, we know its okay, but they don’t, so for their sake, we are to set an example!
That brings us to Jesus’ authority: He taught with authority, unlike the scribes. The scribes were not teachers, “rabbis.” Rabbis in this time period were few and far between. The scribes’ main job was to copy the Scriptures. They were very good at that. They did it letter by letter. Then they double checked their work, letter by letter. Because they spent so much time copying the Scriptures, it was assumed that they were masters of the Scriptures’ subject matters. They weren’t really. You can see that by the way that they taught. When a scribe taught, he would say something like this, “I think this is what it means, but don’t hold me to it.” Or “Rabbi Gameliel says…and Rabbi Hillel says this…,” quoting a rabbi, but not their own authority. They had volumes of works on what the Scripture might or might not mean, confusing to many students. That includes me sometimes. Some of their writings are still confusing, confusing because they didn’t quite know what they were doing. It’s like the scene in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” where Indy and his father jump in a plane. His father says, “I didn’t know that you could fly a plane.” And Indy replied, “Fly. Yes. Land. No.” Not quite a master of the subject, and so, dangerous.
During this year of the coronavirus and quarantining, I’ve been doing some things that I haven’t done before. I’ve delved into YouTube. I’ve been studying Physics and Calculus again, as well as cooking and home repair videos. Now the thing about YouTube, which you should learn pretty quickly is the question of authority. There are some very good videos there. There are also some pretty bad ones. The questions are: Who put them up? Do they actually know what they are doing? A couple of friends of mine were talking on the subject about a week ago, well texting. One friend and I watch the same guy teach Calculus, who works in Australia. While we were discussing that, the other friend looked up Calculus on YouTube and texted that he had found two with the same title: All of Calculus. One was over nine hours long. The other was ten minutes long. Which one do you think was the better authority? You have to be able to discern authority.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus, in contrast to the scribes, has authority to teach the Law, the whole Law of God (and Gospel as well). As God’s Son, it is His Law. Indeed, we sometimes call Christ the Author of the Law. He has the authority to say, “This is what God is saying to us.” This astounded, and sometimes overwhelmed, those who heard him.
That brings us to the man with the unclean spirit. The unclean spirit recognized that authority, and wanted nothing to do with it. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” The answer is an overwhelming YES. Or the Greek can also be translated a couple of other ways, “What do you have in common with us?” Answer: NOTHING. Or, “Don’t interfere with us.” Answer: That is why he came, to interfere, and to destroy evil. He has the authority. Or finally, my favorite, what the unclean spirits can be translated as saying is, “Mind your own business.” That is exactly what Jesus is doing. It is his business to destroy the unclean, to cast it out; he has the authority to do so. It is his business.
Our authority comes from Christ. We are his messengers. We are his ambassadors. We represent Christ wherever we are. We have received the authority given to the Church, to bind and to loose, the Power of the Keys: The authority to teach and preach, to forgive and absolve, to baptize and commune in Christ’s name. We receive that authority, His authority, as we are baptized into his name, given his promises, joined to his death and resurrection. We have become, through baptism, children of God, co-heirs with Christ. We have been given authority to proclaim his Good News to all people, to share the grace of God, even with the godless and the unclean. He has the authority to do so. That is why he was sent, and what we too are called to do, to follow his example, for we are sent with his authority.