“Authority is follow-ability.” That is the phrase that has been rumbling around in my brain this week. I came across it in a commentary on today’s Gospel by Craig Koester. Jesus says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As a college student, Koester had asked his professor what is meant by “authority” here, and his professor had said, “Authority is follow-ability.” This is Jesus’ authority, given to him by heaven and by earth. He commands and has followers.
But the phrase “Authority is follow-ability” has been rumbling in my brain because of the casual nature of following these days. I wonder if our casual understanding of following has changed the way we think about the great commission, or about Jesus?
I have 41 people following me on Twitter, most of whom I do not know at all. That’s not very many. Ashton Kutcher famously had over a million at one time, people following his every move, every post, enamored of his every 144 character utterance. If “Authority is Follow-ability”, then Ashton Kutcher must have a lot of authority! He certainly has celebrity, I’ll give him that.
But, is that what propelled the great commission? Jesus’ celebrity status? Is that propelled those eleven disciples get out there and get busy? That doesn’t seem to be the case. Jesus mostly shunned celebrity, going out of his way to minimize the crowds, the adulation, the mass gatherings where they wanted to make him king.
But maybe “Authority is follow-ability”, is more about the connections that make a difference. I have 438 friends on Facebook, people who share connections with me and who regularly tell me about their lives as I tell them about mine. I have a little more “follow-ability” here it seems.
People still come and go with some regularity. Followers are lost, but mostly they are silent. I may pop up on their screen from time to time when I post something but I only know of their presence when they respond to my posting, comment upon it.
I wonder if this is the kind of “follower-ability” that we have developed with Jesus? We sure like to hear from him, know what he is up to, love to hear about him moving in the lives of people, and in events. We have at times it seems a “lurker mentality” when it comes to following Jesus. We grant that he has authority in the lives of others, love to see that, but are not always sure we want that kind of authority too close in our daily lives.
We want to casually know that God is there.
We aren’t too sure we want to have God messing directly with our well ordered lives while they are going along smoothly.
And so, we are reassured in a Facebook kind of way to hear that Jesus is still around and doing good things. Is that the kind of follower we’ve become? The kind of Authority we grant to the Son of God? Only an occasional comment in the stream of so many comments made every day?
I am not so sure of this “Authority is Follow-ability” thing. The more I look at it, the less excited I become about this as being the way to think of the Authority that Jesus has, the authority that drives the great commission. Is there another option?
Yes, and it is the kind of authority that is a part of all the things we remember and celebrate today. Father’s Day, Holy Trinity, and the Great Commission.
Are you ready for it? “Authority is grounded in Relationship.”
This is a day when we celebrate not just casual connections, but relationships of consequence.
In Holy Trinity Sunday we try to get our mind around how God can be one and also three. What is the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit? Three in one, one and three, distinct and yet not able to be separate. It is precisely the relationship between the three persons and their interplay that gives a unique authority to God.
In Father’s day, we celebrate the connections of consequence. Some of us celebrate loving and cherished memories and relationship that we either still revel in or miss greatly.
Others, may struggle with this day. Their experience of father was not all that the Hallmark Cards make them out to be; abusive, absentee, distant, or cold.
Even so however, whether you celebrate with tears of joy, or disappointment, you still have to acknowledge that this was a connection of consequence. You are who you are this day because of the relationship or lack thereof that you had with that one you call “father.”
So also I believe in this Gospel lesson, what we see is the final working out of relationship of consequence that those eleven disciples had with Jesus.
It is a curious detail of the Gospel that we almost overlook.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
They worshipped him… but some doubted.
They came as he had told them to come, and he appears as he promised. Not everyone is convinced, but they all show up.
You don’t do that, show up regardless, if you are only a casual follower.
You don’t do that if you’re only interested in the celebrity aspect.
No, you would only show up even if you weren’t sure out of a sense of relationship.
This is the authority God has given. The authority that comes from relationship.
This is the authority that Jesus now gives to us, as he calls us to go and make disciples.
No one is going to follow Jesus out of a sense of continued gimmicks or casual contact.
No, this is the authority given to Jesus, and given to us. We are to go forth and develop relationships of consequence.
You can do that if you are firm in your belief.
You can do that even if you are still doubting, questioning this Jesus who will not let you go and who promises to be with you despite your intentions, inclinations, and actions.
You can develop relationships of consequence in your family, in your home, in your workplace, and in your school.
You can develop relationships of consequence that then allow you to begin to share what has been given to you, a relationship with Jesus started in Baptism, even if you don’t fully understand it. A relationship that simply “is” because God has said so!
Authority is not in the end follow-ability.
Authority is grounded in relationship. It is holding one hand at a time. It is starting one good conversation of care and concern. It is taking one moment in the midst of a hectic and busy day to be uncannily present for someone else, even a complete stranger.
Do you know what authority you command when you lock eyes with someone who is lonely and searching?
Can you imagine what kind of authority you command when you reach out and touch the one who is untouchable?
This was the power of Jesus, and what he confers to us this day.
“Go, make disciples..” he says.
Go, and make the relationships of consequence in your life and in your corner of the world, that will transform this world forever into a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
Authority is not follow-ability.
Authority for Jesus, is grounded in relationship, and empowered by love, and that is what he confers in the command to make disciples.