We’re in the first days of Jesus’ ministry here in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, and even though Jesus has no formal authority in the Jewish religious structure, he has plenty of real authority. He teaches and heals with power, and people follow him.
In our world we need both the formal authority that comes with all kinds of roles, from parents to presidents, at all levels of church and society, but we also need real authority, the effective and fruitful exercise of our own God-given gifts and talents for the service of others, an authority that is affirmed and verified by the people who experience it.
When we have too much reliance on formal authority, we drift into authoritarianism. Sadly, many countries in the world seem to be heading that way again.
Jesus’ real authority, on the other hand, is an inspiration. It’s humble, it’s relational, it’s creative, it’s healing, it’s service-oriented, it’s empowering, it’s inviting and it’s multi-faceted.
The entire Gospel of Mark is a call to discipleship in following Jesus. And so, how can we live out our authority in Christ? Baptism gave us a real authority to act as priest, prophet and king in Christ’s name. Confirmation sealed us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist unites us in the authority of the Body of Christ.
And so, what is our formal authority? Parent? Employer? Pastor? How can we infuse our real authority, those gifts and talents, in service of our formal authority, and not simply rely on formal authority. “Because I said so, I’m the pastor.” “I’m your parent, you’re not.” “I’m in charge here.”
When our formal authority and our real authority are in harmony, we create the conditions for good things to happen for us, for those we serve, and to further the glory of God.
It’s worth the time this week to reflect, starting with our formal authority, and to take more time reflecting on our real authority. How, in the Spirit of Christ, can we be used by God to harmonize and synergize the two?