I’ve spent this weekend on Zoom. Not like all weekend, but several hours, each day, from Friday through a meeting scheduled in about 15 minutes, on Zoom as a member of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. Lots of words get spoken over the course of some 12 hours of online meetings, and not all of them are worth hearing, let alone repeating. Occasionally, however, you hear something through glitchy internet and bad audio that you want to remember. That happened to me on Saturday morning, during the presentation on the relationship between the Church Pension Fund and The Episcopal Church. Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, 11th Bishop of Ohio, noted that this purpose of our conversation was to clear up lines of authority, not for the purpose of one party holding authority over another, but rather, to clearly articulate responsibility for.
As I read about the response to Jesus teaching in the Synagogue, I can’t help but wonder if the astonishment that the people experienced upon hearing Jesus was because his teaching was based in “authority over” but “responsibility for.” That is, Jesus didn’t teach as a smug, know it all, who told people how to live their lives the right way. Instead, Jesus taught as one who cared deeply about the people who heard him, one who felt a responsibility for helping others to understand God’s love for them, and to help them see that that love was meant to be shared. His authority was based in compassion, not power; in grace, not judgment; in love, not strength. Human beings aren’t real accustomed to that kind of authority. It is no wonder the people who heard Jesus teach were astounded.