Posts Tagged ‘Mark 1:21-28’

Shut Up and Get Out 1-28-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 1:21-28, I explore Jesus’ first miracle in Mark’s gospel, the healing of a man with an unclean spirit. We find that God will act when there is something that is hindering the good life he desires for his children.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Every once in a while something happens that makes me think back to the teachers that really had an impact on me. Most recently it was news of the death of my middle school English teacher just a few weeks ago.

In times like this I tend to stop and think about those different teachers…the really good ones…who incidentally also tend to be the ones that made you work the hardest. She was the one in middle school…but once that was done and I moved into High School, it was the Social Studies teacher that fit the bill. Mr Worley. He had been around forever. He started at my school at the beginning of my Dad’s senior year, back in 66-67, and he stayed year after year until his eventual retirement about 5 years after I graduated. He always said he was sticking around for a third generation of Dalen’s but didn’t quite make it.

Now, Mr. Worley was a small guy…most of us towered over him even as piddly little freshmen…but MAN he was intimidating…So much so that in conversation about the guy we dropped the Mr. and just called him Worley. I think he was so intimidating because he expected a lot from us…and, more importantly in the classroom…Worley took ZERO crap. If you were messing around, or you got mouthy, he’d kick you out…he didn’t care…and the amazing thing was that he didn’t even have to say anything…he’d just look you in the eyes and do this. (Point sideways at the door) That point…said everything it needed to…that point said “You’re done…shut up and get out.”  (pause)

Now its probably safe to assume that no kid from Graettinger High School has EVER compared Worley to Jesus…but I’m going to do it today…because I think we see a very similar situation in today’s gospel lesson.

Today we have the distinction of hearing about the very first divine action here in Mark’s gospel. Now we’re still in the season of Epiphany…a time when we hear stories about the ways that Jesus is revealed to the world…and here in Mark’s gospel…most of these stories are pretty brief. I mean, we’re still in chapter 1 here…and we’ve already heard that this is the beginning of the Good news of Jesus Christ. We’ve had the baptism of Jesus…we hear a throwaway comment about the 40 days of temptation…Jesus has called the 4 disciples along the seashore, uttering his first words in Mark, to follow me. And now…here in verse 21, ministry begins.

Jesus and the disciples go walking into the synagogue in Capernaum. And Jesus starts teaching…instantly…immediately Jesus takes over and apparently whatever his teaching style is…its something utterly new…and everyone is astonished at his teaching. I do wonder just what it looked like…but we don’t have to wonder about his message…because we’ve already heard it from Jesus here in Mark 1. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Rejoice and believe the good news.”

Now the funny thing about this short passage, is that the teaching of Jesus really seems to be focal point. We hear that the people are astounded from the get go…and then a few verses later as Jesus is wrapping up here in the synagogue and is getting ready to head out again, we hear again that the people are amazed at this new teaching…one with authority. (pause)

But something else happened in the midst of all this didn’t it? Not only is he teaching…we see the first miracle that Jesus performs here in Mark…healing a man with an unclean spirit.

Admittedly we don’t know a whole lot here. We don’t know who the guy is…we don’t know exactly what the problem is…we have no history whatsoever…all we know is that he has an unclean spirit. (pause) Now that unclean spirit has been the center of a lot of debate over the years…and I can attest to that personally as I went round and round with several colleagues in our mutual preparation for today to try and put our finger on just what this unclean spirit is. Is it a demon…maybe, but we don’t know.  Is it Mark’s understanding of mental illness in Jesus’ time…we hear that he shakes and cries out uncontrollably, so maybe that puts us in mind of epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome. Honestly we just don’t quite know what to make of this unclean spirit…but maybe in the end we don’t need to know…maybe all we need to realize is that whatever it is…it hinders the life of this man. (pause)

And there’s another point that I think we need to recognize…and that’s to remember WHERE this is all taking place…they’re in the synagogue…they are in the center of the Jewish community…ESPECIALLY by the time that Mark’s gospel was recorded, and the temple had already been destroyed, the synagogue was LITERALLY the central aspect of Jewish life in every community…particularly in terms of their life of faith. The synagogue was their church…and this is where the man with the unclean spirit is found by Jesus…right here in the midst of his teaching…it would be like if someone suddenly jumped up screaming and shaking in the middle of Sunday School or even right here in the midst of worship.

As people of faith, we must recognize this fact…that unclean spirits, whatever they are, come right in with us, just like it came into the synagogue with the man that day. He was not immune as a faithful Jewish man…and we are not immune as faithful followers of Christ.

So let’s back up and think some more about this whole unclean spirit thing. We don’t know what it was…and maybe just maybe we don’t need to know. Maybe we just to acknowledge what we can about it…that it is some force that is hindering the life of the man. We could probably call it whatever we wanted to…a demon…an illness…a force…a power of darkness, take your pick…because the label doesn’t matter. What does matter is the effect that it has on the life of the man…the life of the individual…the life of this child of God.

Most of you have probably heard me say TOV before…it means good and it’s the Hebrew word for what God calls every single step of creation clear back in Genesis 1. Every action that God takes in bringing chaos towards order…of bringing our reality towards something new…God calls it TOV…and then when God makes humanity he calls us REALLY TOV.

But not only that…we hear clear back in the beginning that God has a good existence in mind for his children…a good path…a good journey…a good life, however we want to say it…but we also hear that there are those things that hinder this good existence that God desires for us…and we can call this many things.  Brokenness…sin…pain, suffering…death.  Disease, addiction…isolation. Countless different things.

I can’t name just what it is that has come in through these doors with you today…but I have no doubt that it is there, even here in the midst of God’s house…the powers of darkness…the unclean spirit if you want to use that term…its here with you…its here with all of us…there is something fighting tooth and nail to hinder that TOV life that God desires for you. YOU know it. You see it…even if no else does…but you are not alone in it…because God sees it too. (pause)
Now let’s jump back into the text for a moment. We find this man, overcome by something…and whatever it is, it sees Jesus and it recognizes his authority…the authority to do something about it…even to the point of destroying it…this spirit, whatever it is sees Jesus and recognizes the power of God…and it starts screaming.

But Jesus isn’t having it…BE SILENT and come out of him. Be quiet…we can even say be muzzled…or maybe we can picture my old teacher Worley pointing with a gesture that says Your done, shut up and get out. (pause) Now the spirit doesn’t go easy does it? It shakes the man and screams as it goes…but it goes.

Whatever the forces of darkness are that you sense within your life…whatever it is that’s there behind the scenes hindering your good life that God has intended…its not gonna go down easy…and we know that don’t we…when we’re honest with ourselves.

But as we consider this story from today the good news is this. Whatever it is that is hindering you…the power of God active in the world through Christ, WILL overcome it…because it recognizes the authority that is greater than it is…and God will give you this gift of freedom somehow someway…because God loves you…and God loves you because you are his child. (pause)

There’s a phrase that get’s thrown around sometimes…describing a parent who’s standing up for their kid…you’ve heard it. I went all Momma Bear…My Pappa bear came out…because you would do anything for your child to protect them. And I believe that Jesus is doing just that today….giving us a reminder that when it comes to the things that hinder your TOV…God’s bear comes out.

This is what we see in Jesus’ divine action today. He looks this unclean spirit right in the face, whatever it is…and he says “That’s my kid, you’re done…shut up and get out.”

And somehow, someway God will do the same for you. We don’t know exactly how it’ll happen…and often times it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense…and we know that those forces aren’t gonna go down easy…sometimes we’ve even got to go through death before that power can be put down.  But EVERY SINGLE TIME…God gets the last word…and that’s a word that is for you. Amen.

Freedom From What Captures You 2-1-15

This morning’s sermon comes from Mark 1:21-28. Jesus encounters a demon possessed man and gives us an example of his authority.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Have you ever had one of those times when there was something really important that you needed to work on…something pressing that really needed your attention…but no matter how hard you tried to get to it, no matter how good your intentions are…you just can’t seem to sit down and take care of it? Because no matter how hard you try…other stuff keeps getting in the way…keeping you occupied…catching your attention…That ever happened to any of you? (pause)
It happened to me in a big bad way this week. Many of you know that I spent the majority of the week up in St Paul MN at a conference…and because of that…a lot of my normal weekly work either got done ahead of time…or it sort of got shunted to the background.
One thing that fell into the shunted category was getting my sermon written…as you have maybe heard, Friday is my normal writing day, but that just wasn’t going to be an option this time around as I was in the conference until lunch time, and then had the rather lengthy drive back down here to Underwood taking up the rest of the day…but I knew that I would have the opportunity to get to it a day late, as my family was heading off to visit some family over the weekend…and I would be by myself.
And so, my plan when I rolled out of bed yesterday morning was to hit the sermon…and then pick away at a few other things before settling in to a long day of Netflix binging…but that is not…what ended up happening.
All day long…other stuff kept catching me. A quick trip into the office got lengthy with various discussions with Tonya…and my mind was all over the map thinking about different projects that are pending for different things. And then my phone kept ringing…over and over again I kept getting interrupted…then the pending weather caught my attention for a while…and finally, just as I thought it was time to start writing…I ended up discovering the last piece of tax information for the year…and so I spent all afternoon taking care of our taxes…all the while…I kept walking past my work computer…just sitting there waiting for me to sit down and start writing…just waiting patiently for me to untangle myself from everything else that kept catching me. (pause)
Now perhaps you’re wondering just what my day of constant interruption has to do with the story of Jesus in the Capernaum synagogue…a fair question…and the connection lies within the notion of being caught…because we see an example of that today.
Here we are…still very early in Jesus’ ministry here in Mark’s gospel…the baptism has happened…the wilderness temptation is over…the disciples are following along behind…and now…for the first time…we actually see Jesus in action…as he takes up the post of teacher in the synagogue on this particular Sabbath day. We don’t know what he’s talking about in the midst of the people that day…but we do hear that his teaching must be effective as Mark shares the astonishment of the people…and the fact that they recognize his teaching as having authority…but I find myself wondering just what this authority looks like…because we don’t seem to hear it in the details that Mark shares. (pause)
Yet in the midst of this scene…chaos ensues…as a man possessed by a particularly loud and violent demon erupts within the calm. (pause) Imagine that for a moment…imagine that as we sit here in worship today suddenly someone jumps up out of their pew…or perhaps comes bursting into the back of the sanctuary…screaming and shaking. (pause) Now with the Superbowl happening in a few short hours we might first think that its just some crazed fan getting geared up a little early…but something tells me that the reality of the situation would quickly set in…and we would all recognize just how dire this situation is.
Because this man was possessed…not just that he had a weird moment…but rather…this demon has completely captured this man…the demon has taken control of his body…of his speech…whatever is going on here…this man…is a captive. (pause)
Now I need to stop for a moment and talk about demons…because I think this is a subject that’s probably just a bit spooky for all of us…something that makes us just a little bit uncomfortable when we start to think about it…either that or we simply try to dismiss the notion of demons…just leaving them back there in the ancient days…because its just something that we never notice in this day and age. (pause)
Or do we? (Pause) I’ll admit it…I don’t know a ton about demons…but I do think they’re out there…I do…but I also think that demons are something that go far beyond our comprehension. Who’s to say that demons haven’t just gotten sneaky…hiding behind a wall of mental illness diagnosis…or physical ailments…We hear that this particular demon liked to shout out and that it shook the man violently…when we hear this…perhaps the idea of turret’s syndrome and epilepsy come to mind.
Sometimes I think it’s a little dangerous when we try to explain away the odd…or perhaps the somewhat scary things that happen in the scriptures…and by trying to do just that…we ourselves are getting caught up in the need for explanation.
And getting caught is exactly what was going on here…regardless of the explanation…this demon had interrupted the regular life of this man…it stopped him from living his life in the fullness intended by his maker…in short…this man was completely caught. (pause)
How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation…how often do we find our lives interrupted by something…something that seems to hold our attention…that stands in the way of us living out our days with joy and peace…because we are completely focused on whatever it is that captures us? (pause)
There’s a lot of stuff out there that can capture us isn’t there…for some…we’re captured by fear…fear of the unknown…or fear of a diagnosis…or of a lost job…others are captured by pride…completely blinded by the constant need to be right…to be in charge…others may be captured by doubt…or by envy…or by anger or lust…we live in a world of constant interruptions…and I’m not just talking about the general busyness of life…but when we stop and take a moment to really think about it…don’t we see that we are all completely entangled in something…I think we all are…I think everyone of us has something that captures us so completely that it dominates us…whether for a moment…or for a lifetime…there is always something coming after us…something that’s working with every ounce of its being to catch us…to tie us up…to hinder the life that is intended for us… (pause)
But…within our passage today…we are given a glimpse of the authority that has come into the world…the authority that has the power to do something about all this stuff that seeks to capture us…and that authority rests within Jesus…and we see that those forces of darkness…those entities hanging around out there…sometimes visible and sometimes sneaking around in the background…those forces seeking to tangle us up…they recognize this authority…they can spot it coming from a mile away…and you know what…that authority of God made flesh…that authority of the divine maker of the universe resides within this man named Jesus…and those forces of darkness are terrified of it.
WHAT HAVE YOU TO DO WITH US JESUS OF NAZARETH…HAVE YOU COME TO DESTROY US? (pause) You know what I think? I think this particular demon…who had set up a nice little comfortable nest by dominating the physical life of this man…looked upon Jesus…and that demon…that force of darkness…it saw its own destruction. (pause)
I think…all too often…these forces of darkness…whatever we want to call them…will try everything in their power to keep us away from the light of Christ…that’s why so many things that ties us up seek to keep us in isolation…to keep in the darkness…to keep in the secret…and so we feel shame at these things that hinder us…because that sense of shame is just another weapon of isolation that the darkness uses…
But praise God that with Jesus…LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS…and as we’ve heard time and time again…when light shows up darkness….LOSES. (pause)
We have a God that desires us to live the life that He intended for all of humanity in the beginning…a life of freedom from all that which hinders us…from everything that seeks to ensnare us…and since we simply cannot free ourselves from the things that catch us…God himself did something about it…God himself took that divine authority…that divine power…that amazing ability that he has to create by simply speaking the words…and in today’s story he speaks these words of power to that demon…to that darkness that is trying desperately to continue holding onto this man…and Jesus simply tells it “BE SILENCED!!”
No longer will God stand by allowing the forces of darkness to capture us…that’s the beauty of the gospel…that’s the joy that we find in the kingdom of God that has come into our reality along with Christ…We have a God that will do anything in order to free us from all that hinders our true life…our fulfilling life…our life in true relationship with God himself.
We have a God that desires freedom from all of this stuff…freedom from whatever it is that holds us back…that keeps us immobilized…whatever it is that has us paralyzed…God frees us from it…not by creating some divine checklist, or demanding some blood sacrifice…but rather by showing us through the life of Jesus Christ that the love of God for all the world has no boundaries…that there is nothing that he will not do in order to free you from all that hinders you…from all that captures you…from all that seeks to hold you back. (pause)
I don’t know what it might be in your life…I don’t know what it is that’s got a hold of you…and I certainly can’t free you from it…because I’m just a man like you…flawed and broken…captured by my own darkness…but what I can say is this…as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ…and by…HIS…AUTHORITY…I declare to each of you that you are free from the darkness that holds you…it no longer has control over you…because God himself has said so. (pause)
And we need only look to one another to find that light of Christ shining…this is why we seek the fellowship of one another…so that together we may share in this light…not under our own power…but by the power of God given to his church through the Holy Spirit…and that together…we are freed from all that captures us. Amen.