Weekly Blog – “Who’s in Charge?”
Luke 7: 1-10
A battleship was on exercise at sea in bad weather. The captain was on the bridge. It was foggy. Just after dark the lookout spotted a light on the starboard side. The captain asked if it was steady or moving. The lookout replied the light was steady meaning they were on direct collision course with that ship! The captain ordered the lookout to signal to the other ship:
“Change course 20 degrees. We are on collision course.”
The signal came back ‘”Advisable for you to change course.”
The captain signaled ‘”I am a captain. Change course 20 degrees.”
“I am a seaman second class. You had better change course 20 degrees” came the reply.
The captain was furious. He sent back ‘”I am a battleship. Change course!”
Back came the signal, “I am a lighthouse.”
When you begin to read this familiar fable, you realize how quickly you identify with the ship’s captain who seems to have the right to exercise his authority in the story. The captain is in charge of a mighty battleship, and off in the distance there appears to be a smaller craft approaching on a collision course. Seemingly within the authority granted him by the rules of the sea, the captain orders the smaller craft to change course. Facing what seems to be insubordination by a rank inferior, the captain blusters his order one more time. Then the surprise ending jolts us into a different understanding of authority in this situation.
This story has always resonated with me because while each of us may have and use authority, it is always limited to particular situations and contexts. No ship’s captain is ever going to be successful in ordering a lighthouse to move out of his way. No matter how much authority we have, there is always a greater one waiting to assert itself over our own.
The Centurion in the reading for today was a powerful man. He commanded 100 men in his division, and understood his role as part of a larger chain of command. Yet for all his authority, all his power, he was helpless when it came time to face the illness of a beloved friend. In that moment, he turned to Jesus, in faith that the Gospel was the only authority which mattered.
Some might say that the greatest authority the Gospel has is that it gives all of us the freedom to do the next loving thing, no matter what has happened before. That was the Centurion’s faith – that Jesus was the source of all authority, the source of our authority as children of God – the authority to love, to serve, to heal, and to bring life.
Devotions for Week of May 29, 2015
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.