2018-01-28/Epiphany 4-B Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Mark 1: 21-28
A farmer had a pond on his land suitable for swimming. One evening he walked down to the pond. As he got closer, he heard laughter and saw a bunch of young women skinny dipping. When the women saw him they all went to the deep end of the pond. One of them shouted, “We’re not coming out until you leave!” The man replied, “I didn’t come down here to make you get out, I only came to feed the alligator.” Being a disciple is like that: once you’re in the water it can be exhilarating but the surprises will get your attention.
For the disciples it not only meant dropping their nets to follow Jesus but going to Capernaum and being open to whatever happened there. Synagogues were places where rabbis spent time reading the Word of God and debating it’s meaning for life. If one was learned one could quote scripture or appeal to the great teachers on the fine points of the law. But Jesus needed no authorities. We don’t know what he said, but we have a sense of what it was from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard you shall not kill, but anyone who is angry with his brother or sister shall be liable to judgment. And I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It must have seemed like the very voice of God. The Gospel says “they were astounded at his teaching, he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.”
The second surprise in the synagogue was the presence of a man with an unclean spirit. Martin Luther said the church is made of saints and sinners. “Wherever God’s people gather, satan erects a tent right next door.” I would say, not just next door, but in the pews, the pulpit, the kitchen, around the council table, wherever the fellowship of believers gather. I have been in the Church long enough and so have many of you to know that congregations are places of great comfort but also where people bring their wounds and troubled spirits. Churches can be places where conflict and confusion erupt, where we must pray for peace and healing. Sometimes we’re not sure we want to be healed. Like this honest prayer, “Good Lord deliver me from all those sins and bad habits of which I am not really certain I want to be delivered.”
When we encounter conflict and confusion in church or any other place our inclination is to do one of three things: We may fight, engage in conflict; we may take flight and distance ourselves or we may ostracize and blame those we believe are troublemakers. Notice Jesus does not run away, He speaks a Word of rebuke to the unclean spirit. Where there is chaos and confusion, Jesus brings peace and healing to the man.
Being a disciple is exhilarating and it can be challenging. We need to be realistic about the challenges of evil and our own bondage to sin. Being a disciple means not just enjoying the good times but loving others in this Body of Christ to confess our sins and to hear God’s Word so the grace of God can be let in. T.S. Eliot said, “Our only health is the disease.”
Sometimes we all need help and healing to be more faithful disciples. As we listen to the strong Word of the Lord,
+ Let us listen for God’s law to reveal our bondage and sin and rejoice even more in the Good News of Jesus’ love which embraces and forgives us.
+ Let us cast out fear, pride and blame that we may stay connected to others when we experience conflict or confusion to seek Jesus’ healing and God’s peace.
+ Let us resist the idea that we don’t have time for God or Church and realize we all need to hear the Word of the Lord, receive Communion and walk with Jesus so that we can be healed.
Jesus is the author of life who delights in our wholeness, our health and salvation. He does not claim our allegiance with an iron hand but He is able to cast out our demons and heal us with His Word of life. His authority does not rest in the love of power but the power of love, for He is Our Way, Our Truth and Our Life. Amen.