I’m not sure how you feel about it – and maybe it’s just my age showing – but I get really annoyed when I hear our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, referred to as ScoMo.
To me it seems like a lack of respect for the office he carries.
Even when he is being interviewed and they refer to him as Scott – it really irks me as a sign of disrespect.
The correct way off addressing our current Prime Minister is The Honourable Scott Morrison MP or Prime Minister Morrison or even Mr Morrison.
This lack of respect for authority probably began back a generation or two when school teachers started telling students to call them by their first name.
Today we see a real lack of respect for authority, whether it be police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers or Pastors.
I get shocked when I watch a TV show, Highway Patrol, that follows real life police action in Melbourne and the abuse they cop from people as they uphold the law.
We’ve even seen a growing incidence of paramedics being bashed and abused while trying to save the life of a person.
Teachers and even parents are fearful of exercising the authority they have for fear that they may be sued or prosecuted.
I also wonder whether this lack of respect is a significant contributor to the decline in the church in society today.
But I also wonder whether it’s a lack of understanding of what authority is that has seen a rejection of authority in society.
Let’s first understand what authority is NOT.
Authority is not a right to abuse people.
The disciples were being given authority by Jesus and he explains to them:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A person who is given authority is given authority to help and serve others.
Sadly we don’t always see that, including in the church.
We see people abuse their authority to put people down.
Like other authorities we have seen the church use its authority to suppress people.
We have seen a misinterpretation of the word “submit” when there is a call to submit to authority.
And as a result, instead of trying to understand authority and submission people have rejected it and in a sense “outlawed” it.
Let’s have a look at 2 examples that we have in our bible readings today of authority.
First we have Isaiah:
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Here we can see that in the presence of authority there can be a response of fear, like when you see a police car on the road and you immediately look how fast you’re going.
God’s response to fear is to remove it:
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
Likewise in our Gospel reading when Peter discovers that he is in the presence of the promised Messiah of God: He says:
Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
Jesus responds to Peter’s fear: “Do not be afraid”
A submission to authority allows that authority to protect you and in the case of God it allows God to use you in service to him and others.
For both Peter and Isaiah once their fear of God was removed then ALL fear of everything was removed.
For Isaiah: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
For Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
I think we have a lot of work to do as church to re-educate the world around us of what our authority means.
That it’s an authority that wants to serve society for the betterment of society.
When Martin Luther explains the 10 Commandments he begins each explanation with “we are to fear, love and trust God so that …”
This is a fear that loves and trusts God in whatever he calls us to do.
It is a fear that actually removes all other fear from us as we live our daily lives.
We live in a world where there is much to fear at times but as Jesus says – Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus is not telling us to be afraid of God but to not be afraid of those who don’t have any true authority over us.
When we go out into the world knowing that God is the authority under which we live and that his authority is to protect and serve us then we can live a life that is of great benefit to the world we live in.
But it begins with a respect for God – who God is – what God does – and how God acts in the world.
God does not want to supress us but he wants us to accept and understand his authority.
And we best understand and accept his authority by showing that same servanthood and love to others to regain the respect of the world around us.
But it begins here and our respect of God.
If we can’t respect God how can we respect one another created in God’s image.
In God’s holy house we respect one another in the body of Christ.
If we can’t respect one another here – our brothers and sisters in Christ – how can we respect others.
From here we respect our families.
If we can’t respect the ones we love and who are closest to us, how can we love and respect others?
God gifts us with our church and families so we can exercise love and respect in a close and safe environment.
We live out in our church and families what God lives out with us.
We learn from God and how he treats us to how we are to live our lives her in church and in our families and then take that out into the world and treat others in the same way.
As God has forgiven us we forgive others.
As God loves us we love others.
As God serves us we serve others.
That’s true God given authority.
As St Paul says in our2nd reading:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins.
We hand on to the world as of first importance what we received from God.
We have received from God unconditional love that forgives rather than condemns.
We have received from God unconditional love that serves us rather than judges us.
But what we also received from God is the assurance that we don’t have to fear trusting him.
Peter and the other fisherman dropped their nets and followed Jesus.
They dropped all their worldly trust and trusted in Jesus.
They sacrificed their earthly livelihood, their earthly families, their earthly securities to follow wherever Jesus was going to send them.
Jesus also gives you the challenge to trust him when he calls you.
Maybe that call takes you out of your comfort zone to serve him in an area you’ve never served him before like Isaiah – here I am Lord, send me.
Maybe he is calling you to let go of your earthly possessions and trust him with your giving.
Maybe God is challenging you to let go of some hurt and forgive and trust what God is doing.
It’s when we let go of those fears that we think are giving us freedom that we are able to find true freedom.
May God give you the courage to let go of whatever is holding you back in fear and to trust God.