Text: Amos 7:7-15; Mark 6:7-13
Theme: Our Authority is from God in Jesus Christ
Title: Im no expert, but I do know who Jesus Christ is.
Ive been thinking a lot about authority and expertise lately. It seems like authority is a big question in our societywho has it, how can I get it, how do I get other people to recognize that I have it.
That last part seems more important than the others most of the time.
It is more important that somebody thinks I know what Im talking about than it is that I actually know what Im talking about. In fact, thats one thing you learn in college to talk in such a way that you seem to know what youre saying when in fact you have no idea either about what youre supposed to be talking about or about what you are actually saying. But heres the catchlots of people go to college these days and were getting better at figuring out when somebody doesnt really have a clue.
So we invented graduate schoola place where you can go and learn how to talk about something, or nothing, in a language completely other than English so that you can fool people into believing youre an expert.
The more unintelligible you are, the more you must know the more authority you must have.
Im not just picking on the academic community because we do the same thing in our everyday lives.
A comedian I once saw talked about how he got by at his family gatherings with his dad and uncles who were sports fanatics. He said he would pick one good players name from a pro team, like the Titans, and when conversation would die down he would look around and just say that Vince Young and shake his head and let the conversation get rolling again, all the while everyone assumed that he knew what he was talking about, whether it was good or bad. We do things like that
We live like were in one of those commercials you know the ones Thank you for delivering my baby Dr Oh, Im not a Dr but I did stay at a Holiday Inn express last night.
People want short cuts to authority
Ways that we can do something, or get the benefits of doing something without the work that goes with it.
But even though I think we all want to look like were experts, we tend to want other, real experts to tell us what to do and/or assure us that what were already doing is alright. I think thats why news casts so often come equipped with talking heads these days experts to share their wisdom with the rest of us.
And none of us wants out Doctor or dentist to be in the practice of pretending to know what theyre talking about.
The scriptures have their own take on authority and where it comes from, and few stories could exemplify that better than our Old Testament and Gospel lessons today.
By the time of our Old Testament lesson the Kingdom of Israel had been divided, with the Northern Kingdom being known as Israel or Samaria and the Southern Kingdom known as Judah. Historically we know that the Northern Kingdom was the more powerful of the two kingdoms, and the more involved in the politics of the region. Because of this, it tended to trust in its military strength and be more open to outside influences.
This sets up the tension we see in the Old Testament prophetic writings where we see people sent out from Judah, the southern kingdom, to warn their brothers and sisters in the north.
This was the case with the prophet Amos who is sent to Samaria to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to proclaim the coming judgement of the Lord. God tells Amos to prophesy saying:
“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
In other words, God is measuring Israel, testing them with the plumb line and seeing how far theyve strayed. Amos has prayed for Israel twice and the Lord has relented, but he will not relent a third time, and so Amos is told to prophesy their destruction.
Its not a surprise that those in authority in the Northern Kingdom dont like what they hear Amos saying, and so the priest Amaziah, someone with the appropriate credentials, an expert with authority, talks to the king about it and then goes to Amos and tells him to leave the country.
And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
Its interesting to me that the priest, when telling Amos never to prophesy again in Israel, uses the words he does when describing the shrine at Bethel. never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the kings sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.
What Amaziah said may technically have been true Bethel was recognized by the king, and it was a temple of the kingdomthey didnt have separation of church and state after all but isnt it interesting that it is those things that are important to Amaziah, and evidently to Jeroboam as well.
that it is a sanctuary of the Kings never once is God mentioned. You could say that Amaziah and Jeraboam were testifying against themselves, justifying Gods judgement.
As if to accentuate the fact that they had given up on God and instead focused on human authority and power, Amos tells the priest, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
The contrast couldnt be starker the authority Amaziah invokes is the authority of the king and his earthly kingdom, he points in the direction he believes authority flows from and never mentions God.
Amos on the other hand freely admits that he has no credentials
he doesnt have the background, he didnt go to prophets school and learn how to prophesy,
his daddy wasnt a prophet,
he wasnt from a priestly family. He has no authority at least not from that perspective.
But thats not importantBecause God is the source of Amos authority
God gave Amos a task and as long as he was faithful, and proclaimed the message that God gave him
Then he had the authority and not just the authority of an expert
He was speaking with the authority of Almighty God
The only authority he might have outside of sheep and sycamore trees.
But its Gods authority that matters.
And thats the image were presented with in a different way in our Gospel lesson today, where Christ sends out the twelve with a very specific charge, and specific requirements:
Mark tells us that Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits..
That he told them what they were to wear and to take with them
And that if they went somewhere and the people wouldnt hear their message, they were to shake off the dust on their feet as a testimony against them.
Elsewhere in scripture were told that when the twelve, and later a larger group of 70 or 72, are sent out, that they heal and cast out demons in Jesus name.
Because, it was Jesus authority they were exercising
It was Christs authority over demons and the natural world that hed demonstrated to dramatically in the calming of the storm and the casting out of demons
It was his authority they were ministering under it was by his authority that they healed the sick and cast out demons.
I really dont think they would have been effective if they went out, ran into a demoniac, a person who was possessed by a demon and said In the name of Peter, I command you to leave
The demon would have just laughed at them
If I ever run into a demon, Im certainly not going to rebuke it in the name of Jody it wouldnt work
If I did it in the name of Bill, it might get a little more scared but it still wouldnt work
Its only through the authority of Jesus Christ that those things happen
Its the name of Jesus that has the power, because all the power belongs to God and Jesus Christ.
And this doesnt just apply in cases of possession or healing
It applies when anyone claims to prophesy
we have to test prophesies against the word of God written and see if what is said adds up
The same thing goes for teaching and this is something that many in the Church need to hear today: When Christians, ordained or lay people, speak about things addressed in scripture, they only have the authority of Christ behind them if what they say is in accordance with the revelation given in the Holy Bible.
There are too many people especially clergy, who play upon their status in the world, as representatives, as people with a certain status, to foist their opinions on others
to get a pulpit to shout their opinions from
To try to railroad people into believing something that is against the word of God
Simply because they have a degree
Or wear a collar, or a certain kind of suit
Because theybecause weare seen as experts
And to the people out there, who arent in Church this morning, who havent heard about Jesus ChristYou are their expert, because you are one of the few Christians they may know or talk to this applies to all of us.
The problem is, without Jesus Christ with me, I have no authority,
Without the bible, I have nothing to say
I dont have any authority of my own,
Not to stand up here and preach, not to teach, not really even to pray on my own, except I do it through the name of Jesus Christ.
Amos might have been able to talk about sycamores, or sheep
Peter and the other disciples might have been able to talk about fishing or taking up taxes
I might be able to talk about football or history or something, on my own authority
But when anyone is talking about the things of God, they can only speak from the authority of Jesus Christ as tested by the word of God in Holy Scripture.
As Christians we need to remember that our authority, if we have any at all, comes from Jesus Christ, and nowhere else
If we remember that, if we do the things we do for Jesus Christs sake and through his name
Then well see miracles even greater than the disciples saw
So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.