Sermon Feb. 1, 2015 Mark 1: 21-28 “Freedom from Jesus” by June Fothergill
A couple weeks ago I shared with you a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which the little six year old Calvin declares,” Happiness is not enough for me, I demand euphoria!” What a vision he had for himself! But then Bill Watterson adds another cartoon, Calvin is smiling and says,
“ Here I am happy and content.” His smile fades, “but not euphoric” the worry lines grow, “So now I’m no longer content. I’m unhappy, my day is ruined.” He walks away, “I need to stop thinking while I’m ahead.”
That’s the trouble with dreams, visions and expectations. They can make us discontented, uncomfortable. If my dream is for all the children in the world to have housing, food and a good education- I am sad to hear that many children in Oregon are food insecure. If I have dreams for my kids, I worry when they don’t come home as planned. I may want my church to grow but then it can be scary when things change because of lots on new people. Dreams and visions are exciting and energizing and they can be scary too.
Jesus has just come into his home territory of Galilee with an amazing message- the Kingdom of God is drawing near! He asks some fishermen to follow him and they do. Then they go to the main synagogue or Jewish church and Jesus begins to teach the people there.
Imagine being in that crowd of worshippers that day! This humble man, virtually unknown until now, is sharing about God’s word in a way that is filled with insight and confidence. Jesus teaches with an authority that amazes all there. The scribes are surprised and concerned, They are the ones who normally teach the people. They can read and have been trained to interpret the biblical text but this man is different, his words seem to come from a light shining inside. Everyone wonders- What is this? What’s happening here?
Then a man stands up and disrupts the whole meeting by yelling out, agitated and fearful- “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” The man starts to approach Jesus, the people draw back and the younger men of the synagogue begin to rise to throw out this disruptive fellow.
Then Jesus looks at the man says in rebuke- “Be silent. And come out of him!”
The man convulses and cries out as some strange presence comes out of him. Then the crowd in the synagogue really starts to buzz- “Wow did you see that! What is this? A new teaching- with authority! This Jesus commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
After that everyone had a story to tell about this Jesus- especially the man who was now free from a spirit that had filled him with fear and loathing. Someone new and powerful was in their mist- an authority that set people free!
Clearly this is a story about the amazing authority of Jesus! He was a phenomenon in his time walking on the earth. Mark wants us to know that this Jesus of Nazareth not only proclaims the Kingdom of God but brings it to earth. He has the authority of God to touch and change people’s lives. His teaching came straight from the Creator. He is the Holy one of God, the Son of the Most High. If you want to follow someone in your life, if you want to be close to God, if you want to learn how to live in God’s kingdom and way- This is the one!
What does this story tell us about having Jesus as the authority of our lives?
Mark starts by telling us that Jesus taught the folks in the traditional place people came to be taught about God- the synagogue. Yet, his teaching was of a different quality than anything they had heard before. In contrast to the scribes and scholars of the day- he taught with a sense of authority and authenticity that people recognized. Today, all we have of the content of Jesus teachings is what has been handed down through the ages and oral tradition and collected for us in the New Testament. Yet, because Jesus is still with us in the power of the Holy Spirit- we are still inspired by those teachings. When we read the Bible with openness to the Holy Spirit we continue to receive Jesus teachings for what it means to live this kingdom of God he brings. Also, when we listen deeply in prayer and companionship for Jesus spirit at work, we can receive a fresh word for our lives. Jesus continues to want to teach us through scripture and prayer. Spending time with these resources of faith and being open to learning from them, keeps Jesus as the center and authority of our lives.
I had a friend, Rita who lived in a nursing home. She had a disability and few resources so she spent her days sharing a room. All she had was the contents of a small dresser next to her bed. Yet, one of those meager possessions was a Bible which she enjoyed reading every day. She lived life in a nursing home but her spirit was one of gratitude and praise for how Jesus was teaching her every day. Whenever I saw her, she passed that thanksgiving on to me.
Jesus authority isn’t only about learning and receiving his teachings. In this story Jesus exercised his authority over the unclean/evil spirit afflicting a man who came to worship. I find it interesting that on the surface, this man is the first one to give a verbal witness to Jesus and who he was. It was likely loud and disruptive but still it was a witness. Yet, Jesus sees that this is an unclean spirit. This is not the true nature of this man but a force that has enslaved him in fear and loathing. The witness thus is one of fear – have you come to destroy us? The man yells. Jesus says in no uncertain terms- NO this is not what I am about! I am not here to destroy, to have people cower or yell in fear! Leave! Let out of this man! He not only has power over such spirits but he rejects their witness of fear. His work of bringing the realm of God includes freeing people from the powers that trap people in fear and shame and alienate them from God. Jesus has the authority and desire to overcome the evil powers of this world.
I remember on time visiting Atlanta Georgia for a clergy women’s consultation. One of the things I did was to visit a halfway house for women coming out of lives of addiction and homelessness. The last day of the consultation several of those women joined us in a march of peace and justice. I will never forget one woman walking beside me singing with all her heart, “I’m stepping out on the promises, I’m stepping out on the promises of God!”
So, when like little Calvin we get discouraged or afraid or trapped. When we wonder about how to deal with all the changes in our lives. Jesus says to each of us,” With my authority in your life- you can find freedom from whatever fears and demons plague you. I want to release you from all that keeps you from right relationship with God and others. Whether you need to yell it out or say it silently- come to me! Come to my table and be healed and released. Come to me and learn how to live in the kingdom of God. Come to me and be forgiven and encouraged. Come to me and find joy! And peace and freedom to live with compassion and love. I am your Risen Lord! Come to me. “