“Halt! Who goes there?”
“A Brownie, from the second Warkworth Brownie pack”
“By what right do you come?”
“By the right of my brownie wings.”
When I was 7, that was the heart of my fly-up ceremony from the brownie circle to the girl guide horseshoe. It was possibly the first time I was ever asked that question. But certainly not the last. By what right do you come? By what right do you speak? teach? preach? “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
I find myself both challenged and intrigued by Jesus’ response when asked for his credentials. It is hard to imagine that the response to “show me your license and registration, ma’am” could ever be “first let *me* ask *you* a question”.
But of course, their non-answer reveals that the ones who have swaggered in, confident of their own place in the temple and carefully guarding the boundaries of who may teach there, have some questions marks around their own claims to authority. They are too afraid; afraid of looking foolish, and afraid of angering the crowd.
My own hope and prayer, not just this week but every time I sit down to prepare to live into the authority I have been granted, is that I will not be those guys.
Every week, we open the gospels to find Jesus doing something preposterous and unsettling. I often don’t want to talk about it. I’ll look foolish. I’ll upset the crowds.
But we said “yes” to this calling. And week after week after week (so yes, sometimes I really miss being an associate) we go back to where we are sent. With Good News that will unsettle us, make us look foolish, and upset the crowds.
By what right do we come? By the right of our education and training? the authority of our ordination? By the strength of the 2am rewrite because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let us sleep? By the power of God whose presence in our own lives permits nothing less?
I don’t know what to say about that. Except, courage friends.
We’re going to need it.