Wednesday, December 14, 2011

True Authority?

John 13: 2b-17

And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 7Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." 8Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." 9Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 10Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

And now a quote from Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipline:

Jesus never taught that everyone had equal authority. In fact, he had a great deal to say about genuine spiritual authority and taught that many did not possess it. But the authority of which Jesus spoke is not the authority of a pecking order. We must clearly understand the radical nature of Jesus teaching on this matter. He was not just reversing the "pecking order" as many suppose. He was abolishing it. The authority of which he spoke was not an authority to manipulate and control. It was an authority of function, not of status.
Jesus declares, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you [italics added]." He totally and completely rejected the pecking order systems of his day. How then was it to be among them? "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant...even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve." (Matt. 20:25-28). Therefore the spiritual authority of Jesus is an authority not found in a position or a title, but in a towel.  pp. 127-128
Hmmm.

8 comments:

Kathy said...

Well, I'm not going to throw in the towel on this one. I think you were closer on the Authority thing with "It's Just a Rock."

Kevin Haug said...

Kathy,

I think you meant to say, "I'm going to pick up my towel..."

Kevin Haug said...

;-)

Kathy said...

No! I always mean what I say!

I never pick up a towel! I just call my maid or cleaning lady.

Kathy said...

I just had a few minutes to read this again, and I noticed the "word" "Hmmm" at the end.

I had missed that the first time I read it. What does that mean? (The famous Lutheran question)

Does it mean that you are doubting the author, Richard Foster?

If you are, Bravo! His defintition of Authority -- if he is talking about the Church -- is a classic -- a classic half-truth.

Authority = Service. This is just sooo 20th Century Progressive Liberalism.

Do you know what the Pope calls himself? -- "The servant of the servants of Christ."

Kevin Haug said...

Kathy,

It would behoove you to read Foster first before taking things too far. Take a moment to read the quotation one more time and see if you see the word service.

K

Kathy said...

Now we were talking about a "towel" -- obviously that is a symbol for service! I was just kidding around about a maid and cleaning lady.

The point, however, is no laughing matter. Is the authority structure of the Lutheran Church based on service? How could it be?

Don't get me wrong. I am not just trying to criticize everything Lutheran. Foster makes a very good point, of course.

If the Lutheran Church is to survive, it needs to have an authority structure that works.

I am reminded of a quote from the well-known Lutheran pastor, Rev. Franklin Fry: "The only Absolute is Absolution."

This sounds very attractive. It is not reality.

Kevin Haug said...

Foster never uses the word service. He uses the word servant. Just like Jesus does. Think about it for a while. I'll expand on it later.

K