Broken Authority

By the Venerable Max Woolaver

Lent is a time for tracking thoughts to their origin. This ‘tracking’ can take us across surprising ground. Sometimes the hunt begins with an interruption.

As I sat enshrouded in layers of indecision, slowly surrendering to the creeping dullness, the silent, stealthy vulture of sleep circling ever closer, … a text buzzed in … and I was saved: “Have you heard Kaitlin Rose sing Dylan’s ‘Dark Eyes’? “NO! I have not” — a YouTube investigation! Just what the doctor ordered! Suddenly — I was energized!

No sooner had I checked in with Kaitlin Rose — another YouTube offering popped up — don’t they always? Dylan himself singing ‘Dark Eyes’, live in Australia … I must check that out. What’s this? Dylan can’t start the song? He can’t find the melody … he can’t find the words… he tries … the crowd hollers … he tries again … and then the unimaginable … he gives up!

And wait… what’s that? Patti Smith singing Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’? At the Nobel Prize gathering in Sweden? I must check that out!!

Look at that crowd!! Royalty, formality, full orchestra, it’s a Big Deal … she sings … its great … and then … she misses a line … and then another … she looks up … like a wounded child … she says: “I’m sorry … I’m so nervous …”

She begins again … sings more powerfully … and then … a halting line repeated twice … she stumbles with the lyric … she says again … “I’m sorry …” a vast silence fills the hall … she stands broken … humble to the point of vanishing …

She breathes … the music begins tenderly … like a breeze … she enters again … the audience bathes her in support … the artist enters the Song … the Song enters the artist … the words and rhythm and tune and pictures and power transform her: “Oh, what did you hear, my blue-eyed son? And what did you hear, my darling young one? I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin’, I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world, Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a blazin’, Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’, Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’, Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter, Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley … and it’s a hard rain that’s gonna fall …”

These last words were punctuated with a fist as she stood rock solid, becoming her courage …

Time and time again people in every walk of life meet moments that call them beyond themselves … times of brokenness … hesitation … fear … and time and time again we are stunned by their courage, humility and vision … their authority is rooted in their willingness to be broken, to risk ridicule … in service of a song, of a love, of a people, of a planet … in service of the Christ …

When people heard Jesus, saw Jesus, witnessed his power, his willingness to heal, to forgive, to lash the powers that be — they were astonished. 

“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

The authority of Jesus lay in his willingness to be broken … to be broken out of his love for his people, the world … and for you. He prayed: “Abba, take this cup from my lips … but not my will, your will be done …” And on the cross, he prayed, in his final words … not for himself … but for you: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” 

The authority of Jesus did not rest in power … but in brokenness … in the moment of truth … “Not my will, but your will be done.”

As you track your own thoughts to their origin this Lent, where do they lead you? Who do you find within yourself at the origin of your introspection?

Is there fear there? Who did Jesus find on the other side of his fear? How was Patti Smith able to pull herself together in that pressure packed moment?

Lent is a call to track your own thoughts to their origin … and then by the grace of God to push past that origin to discover the life which birthed the ecstatic cry of Paul: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!”

And God bless interruptions.