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Year B, Ordinary 4 (Epiphany 4), 2018 – Authority Issues

January 24, 2018 / Molly Douthett / Epiphany, Ordinary Time

Hello! We’re glad you are back or joining us for the first time! Roughly eight years ago, the woman in David’s congregation who had been the director of Vacation Bible School for 20 years retired from that role. Uproar ensued. Well, not entirely, but there was a lot of concern about who would fill her shoes; she was energetic, imaginative, devoted, and began working on VBS around Christmas. As the time for VBS neared that year, we finally settled on calling three other people to fill her one position. No one person felt adequate to take the entire position, but three people felt they could manage a part of it. For them, it was a question not only of energy and time, but of authority. Our former director had become the person around whom VBS and children’s ministry in general rotated. None of them felt up to the challenge of assuming that mantle. After that first year of three people doing what one had done, we all shifted into a new groove and found different footing with new leaders. The ministry continued successfully but that first year was rocky. Who will lead? Who will speak for God? How will we recognize the leaders among us? And how will we know God is behind what we do? These questions are never far from the surface. The three passages for this week address these questions directly, and we are wise to study them thoroughly.


This week’s texts are:

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 [01:58]

In this passage from Deuteronomy, Moses is saying his farewell to the people since he is not allowed to enter the land with them. God tells the people through Moses that another prophet will be lifted up from among them to speak for God, since hearing God directly at Horeb was so terrifying. In WORD smart, we think using a mouthpiece for a musical instrument is a good illustration of how this works and as a special effect, put the mouthpiece in and play something! In MATH smart, we have another way to illustrate and demonstrate Moses’ role using conduits and tin-can telephones. David wrote a poem for MUSIC smart if you want more than the crossover from WORD smart. In NATURE smart, we know that a prophet has spoken God’s word when it bears fruit – but that takes time, so illustrate how we see those results using cultures grown in Petri dishes. For a special effect that demonstrates the peoples’ fear when they heard God speak, check out the video we include below.


1 Corinthians 8:1-13 [10:42]

In most of his letters, Paul argues that because the Risen Christ has been given all authority, we live our lives with liberty under his freedom. We no longer get bound up in fulfilling the impossible. Yet, Paul has some words of caution; even though we are free to live indifferently about indifferent things, we must be careful not to chain our brothers and sisters who may interpret our living as lawlessness. We must strive to know one another through love and take care for the weaknesses that may still grip others in the family of faith. To demonstrate how we live out unity among our diversity, check out the special effect we suggest for EYE smart. Paul marks a clear division between knowledge that puffs and love that builds, so use the special effect in BODY smart to show the difference. I read a commentary that stated the meat controversy Paul presents is entirely foreign to our experience, which made me laugh out loud – ever tried to accommodate vegetarians or vegans and meat eaters at Thanksgiving? This could be an energetic illustration for NATURE smart! David found some links to our natural drives that illustrate this tension, as well (links below). Give your congregation some hands-on tools to express their connection in PEOPLE smart, and N.T. Wright’s quote on the worksheet works both as an illustration and as a devotion in SELF smart. 


Mark 1:21-28 [22:36]

Mark frequently uses a “sandwich” technique in his Gospel; we have ideas to illustrate that in EYE and WORD that do not make it into the podcast but can be found on the worksheet below. We start with MATH smart using a simple architectural structure as an illustration. The meat of Mark’s sandwich in this passage is Jesus’ authority – not only to teach in a way that is different from the usual, but to command unclean spirits. Jesus embodies God’s authority, and we have a fun BODY smart illustration for you! More than one commentator noted that it was the unclean spirit who saw Jesus clearly and reacts with hostility to him. We have a link in NATURE smart that may help illustrate this territorial confrontation. Since Jesus’ authority comes from God, he goes where we are loathe to venture. We suggest using the commentary by Ismael Ruiz-Millan below as a PEOPLE smart illustration, as well as episodes from Netflix’s series The Crown and the 1960’s Batman series. We have varied tastes!

  • Smarts – Math [24:07], Body [26:46], Nature [27:52], People [29:27]
  • Mark 1 worksheet
  • Links in Mark
    • MATH smart –
    • NATURE smart –
    • PEOPLE smart –
      • Commentary by Ismael Ruiz-Millan, The Christian Century
      • “Marionettes”, an episode from The Crown where Lord Altrincham suggested some ways to modernize the monarchy. His experience with The Crown is an unexpected encounter with authority. 
      • David thought Batman would assert his authority using Batgas.


Image Credit: Copyright: choreograph / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


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One thought on “Year B, Ordinary 4 (Epiphany 4), 2018 – Authority Issues

  • Just found this hymn from Thomas Troeger and Carol Doran to go with the Mark 1 passage of Jesus casting out the unclean spirit. The tune would be super challenging for congregational singing, but it would be great to play it and have someone sing it. It moves from wildly discordant and throbbing at the beginning to very melodic at the end, matching the story’s move from the screeching spirit to Jesus’ healing! Great Music Smart piece!

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