Weekly Church Service – Epiphany 4: 31 January 2021


Sentence

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.   Matthew 9:35


Collect

God of compassion,

you have shown us in Christ 

that your love is never ending:

enable us both to love you with all our heat

and to love one another as Christ loved us.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy 

Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Readings

  • Deut 18:15-20
  • Psalm 111
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
  • Mark 1:21-28

next week

  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • Psalm 147:1-11
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
  • Mark 1:29-39

A Thought to Ponder

Epiphany 4 Mark 1:21-28

The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes . . . “What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

For the poor Jews of Jesus’ time, the scribes were the voices of authority, the final arbiters of the Law in which God had revealed himself.  Their interpretation of the Law was considered absolute.

“Demons” are encountered several times in Mark’s Gospel.  Anything that the people of Jesus’ time could not understand or explain, such as disease, mental illness or bizarre or criminal behaviour, were considered the physical manifestations of the evil one – “demons” or “unclean spirits.”

Both demons and scribes are silenced in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ casting out the unclean spirit from the man possessed silences the voices of the demons that plague humanity.  In his compassionate outreach to the poor and sick, Jesus “silences” the scribes by redefining the community’s understanding of authority:  whereas the “authority” of the scribes’ words is based solely on their perceived status and learnedness, the authority of Jesus is born of compassion, peace and justice.  The casting out of the demons and his curing of the sick who come to him are but manifestations of the power and grace of his words.

Note that the people of the Bible viewed miracles differently than we do.  While we, in our high technology, scientific approach to the world, dismiss miracles as some kind of disruption or “overriding” of the laws of nature, the contemporaries of Jesus saw miracles as signs of God’s immediate activity in his creation.  While we ask, How could this happen? they asked. Who is responsible? Their answer was always the same: the God of all creation.  Those who witnessed Jesus’ healings, then, saw them as God directly touching their lives.

Jesus’ “authority” inspires rather than enforces, lifts up rather than controls; he sees his call to “lead” as a trust, as a responsibility to serve others by revealing the God who calls us to compassion and mercy for the sake of his kingdom of peace, instead of a God of judgment and vengeance. Authority comes not from power to enforce but from the ability to inspire.  

The “unclean spirit” that Jesus casts out of the poor man in today’s Gospel serves as a symbol of the voice of evil that sometimes speaks within us – the voice of revenge, self- centeredness, self-righteousness, greed, anger.  

We can be “possessed” by “demons” who discourage us and plague us with fear when we consider the unpopular position that we know is right and just; or the “demon” of rationalization that falsely justifies actions – or inactions – we know in our heart of hearts is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.  The compassionate Jesus of the today’s Gospel speaks to those “unclean spirits” as well, offering us the grace and courage to cast them out of our minds and hearts forever.

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Epiphany 4 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Epiphany-4-B

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