Monday, September 22, 2008

Matthew 21:23-32

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Matthew 21:23-32

By what authority are you living?

This is not a comparative question. It is looking for a declaration. A comparable question is, "Who do you say I am?" Again, not a question looking for a comparison or a counting of the ways.

When this question is parsed, it isn't long before fears and confusions set in. Then it isn't long before we deny the very authority we had.

To further exemplify this authority question comes a test questions that appears to be either/or – a question about will-doing that is different from well-doing.

When we are within a healthy creative authority we aren't so quick to answer an either/or. We, rather, ask a question or two in return before responding [contrast "respond" with "answer".]

In the case of this question about will-doing, we want to know more about the nature of the "father". The presenting question about "will" isn't self-evident. Is obedience the key to "will" in this case? Is John the Baptist equitable with the "father"? Is there another anticipated encounter between "father and sons"?

We have the authority needed to lay down our lives and to pick them up. We have the authority to change for the better. We have all the authority we need. Our question is whether we are bold enough to enact it – to be a prophet connected with other prophets to move the status quo ahead. In responding to our question we find our health (salvation and blessing) working toward wider health, larger salvation, and stronger blessing.

= = =

John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, in their book In Search of Paul: How Jesus's Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom, comment on "Spirit":

"In itself, Spirit or spirit is clear enough as the invisible glue that holds any group together around some past memory, present purpose, or future project. It is what turns a collectivity of people into a community of commitment either permanently or temporarily. It manifests itself in what that community thanks, says, and does; plans, decides, and accepts; believes, hopes, and loves. Everything thereafter depends on the content of that Spirit. And if you speak of a Holy Spirit, everything depends on the nature of that holiness. Finally, if you invoke the Spirit of God, everything depends on the character of that God.

"You can insist, with Paul, that God's Spirit is a charis, a grace, a free gift like, for example, air or gravity. From those analogies, God's Spirit is that which you can neither create by your own action nor deserve by your own virtue. But it is also permanently available for anyone and demands only that you accept it freely and cooperate with it fully. But, even so, you still have to face this question: What is the character of that God whose Spirit has overtaken you as a free gift?"

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