Every now and then, there are times when you show up someplace after some period of time and discover that your interim absence had been noted. You know, in places where you didn’t think you were that much a part of things. Such was my visit to St. Ben’s last night. Owing to circumstances upon which I have not yet commented here (but will eventually), I’ve not made it out to St. Ben’s on Sunday evening since Christmas, so there’s been a 3½-month interval since my last appearance. It was good to reconnect with folks and to discover that perhaps we’ve become more a part of the community there than we’d realized. I also had a good conversation with someone I’d not met before. Turns out yesterday was “Good Shepherd Sunday” — there are all kinds of things in the church calendar and in the Anglican tradition that I’m still finding out for the first time, but I was reminded again how rich the liturgy is and how much I’d missed it.
The homily was naturally focused on John 10, where even Jesus mixes his metaphors. (I don’t feel so bad now!) I was struck with a statement about the identity of “the thief”, and it made sense not only logically but also in light of an observation I made some time ago in John 3. In John 10, the thief is anyone who claims authority they don’t have — they look at the sheep for their own ends. These are those who would call to the sheep as if they owned them… yet they do not.
I’ve said before that authority is given through relationship by those over whom it is held, not mandated from above by position. This observation from John 10 is right in line with this sentiment. Coincidentally enough, I’ve been reading occasionally with my oldest daughter through a history encyclopedia that covers the entire history of the world from prehistory through the end of the 20th Century. It’s illustrated and geared so a tween can grasp it, and we normally read a two-page section in a sitting. Doesn’t take long, but that’s the length of each period. Tonight we did the enlightenment, covering some of the major influences, influencers, and ideas. Notably, one of John Locke‘s contributions is noted there, that “legitimate state authority must be derived from the consent of the governed” (social contract). I was not aware, but just discovered in chasing down a link for this post that he wrote A Letter Concerning Toleration — And Biblical Authority, so now I’m going to have to go and give that a read.