I was originally writing a sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Jan 29 2012), but I was told that the canon to the bishop would be present at my parish to preach instead. Thus, these are some jumbled thoughts mixed together with some things I've been struggling with
The readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany can be found here.
"A new teaching... with authority!"
With authority! It wasn't just a new teaching that took his listeners by surprise; that new teaching was accompanied by authority. In other words, Jesus wasn't just babbling on about love and God and the Son of Man and forgiveness. He was backing up his words with authority.
How could his listeners tell he had authority?
How can we tell that he had authority?
Right now it's not so clear who we can trust for anything. With all the different drugs out there that get recalled for being unsafe, who can I trust to take care of me when I'm sick? Who can I trust to tell me what's going on in the world around me? Who can I trust with the fate of my future and my soul?
Who do you trust?
Who do I trust?
Sometimes I don't really know. There are people who tell me wonderful things about myself, and sometimes those are the people who hurt me the most. Then there are people who tell me wonderful things about myself but they don't make me hurt. There are guys who've told me that I'm wonderful and attractive and everything, but then they cast me away or make me feel completely unlovable. Then there are friends who tell me that I'm wonderful and attractive, but then why am I still single?
Who can I trust to tell me the truth?
In my discernment process (which, for me at least, has been going on for a few years, even if I haven't been actively moving forward toward ordained ministry) I've doubted on multiple occasions my call. I've refused it. I can't do it- I'm not smart enough / kind enough / strong enough for it. I'm just deluding myself with it. But then I have moments where I see it, and then I have moments when others see it in me.
Who do I trust?
Not only do we need to hear the Truth, but we also need to hear the Authority behind it. We can't just hear words and have their Truth ring in our hearts, but we also need to know, to trust, that there is a power behind that Truth.
But then who do we trust? Who can I trust with my deepest self, my dreams, my goals? Who can I trust with my very future, my soul, and my well-being? Who will tell me the truth but do it with the authority of God, the authority that is the Love that creates, redeems and sanctifies us?
Add in the fact that God says there will be both real and false prophets. There will be truth-tellers, and there will be those who proclaim something as truth which is not fully true.
Back to my examples. There have been guys who have told me I'm wonderful, attractive, etc. Some of them have hurt me deeply and others who have not. Some who may have been lying. Some who were not. The content of their message may have been mostly the same, but not all of them had the authority because they may have said it for their own gain or for some other reason. Sometimes even the right message will lack the authority behind it to make it the Truth.
That's why we can trust Paul. For all his flaws, we see in his letter the love he has for the people he's writing about. There are no gods but God, and idols are just statues without power. To eat meat sacrificed to them was no sin because the idols were nothing real, but to hurt another believer who couldn't see that or truly believe it was a sin. His motivation wasn't to be dogmatically correct at all costs nor was it to placate believers who couldn't just give up the old ways. Where do we see that now? Some who insist that they are the only ones who are right, and others who demand every concession be made to them.
Look to the Truth. Look for the prophets with Authority. See it in their eyes, in their moments off-guard, see it in their hearts and lips. What guides them?
And look to yourself. By whose authority do you act? Are you a true prophet to yourself, or are you a false one?
Who do you trust? Who can you trust? Most importantly, who will you trust with your heart and soul, who will you trust to tell the truth?