Sermon 1.29.12

January 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Texts: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Mark 1:21-28

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

It’s no accident that of the four Gospels,

it’s the Gospel of Mark that has been adapted into a comic book.

They call them ‘graphic novels’ now.

But the Gospel of Mark, especially in this first chapter,

really does sound like an action-packed comic book about a superhero.

‘They came to Capernaum,

and when the Sabbath came,

he entered the synagogue and taught…

Just then there was a man who had an unclean spirit…

and he said, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

Jesus, a superhero,

teaching so that the crowd is hanging on his every word,

making evil spirits go away with a command.

All that’s missing is, “ker-pow! ZAP!”

No wonder that in the musical Godspell

Jesus is wearing not a long white robe, but a Superman t-shirt.

 

But behind the fast-paced story,

the Gospel is making a very important point about Jesus.

We might be impressed by Jesus’ power over evil spirits,

or we might even be fascinated by what the evil spirit actually might be,

but we need to ask,

What’s the point?

What does it mean for us that Jesus is shown here teaching with authority

and casting out an evil spirit?

 

The people were amazed by Jesus’ words and deeds,

done with such authority and power.

But maybe two or three in the synagogue that day,

the ones who had paid the most attention

to the reading of Scripture over many Sabbaths,

remembered the Word of God to Moses in Deuteronomy:

‘I myself will raise up a prophet like you from among their own people;

I will put the words of my mouth in the prophet,

who shall speak to them everything I command.’

This authoritative interpreter of God’s Word,

this one who with a command casts out an unclean spirit,

could he be the man to finally fulfill the prophecy of Moses?

After all, hadn’t the demon said of Jesus, ‘You are the holy one of God?

 

Last week we heard Jesus’ message:

‘The kingdom of God has come near.’

Here we see the message put into practice.

Jesus comes to the people,

and it’s not just a religious expert teaching them what the Word might mean

but it’s God’s Word himself teaching what God’s Word does mean.

Jesus comes to a man who is dominated by an unclean spirit,

And he himself dominates that unclean spirit,

he has ‘dominion,’ or ‘lordship’ over that unclean spirit.

Where Jesus goes, this sort of thing always happens.

Where Jesus goes, there God is king.

 

Now we don’t have Jesus walking around the villages in the valleys

holding teaching sessions and casting out evil spirits.

What do we have?

We have the Church, proclaiming God’s kingdom come near in Jesus Christ.

Maybe we’re not as exciting as ‘Ker-pow! ZAP!’

but Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

the great German theologian who was executed by the Nazis

for his part in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler,

said this:

‘…in its imperfect and modest appearance,

(the Church) is the body of Christ on earth,

for it has his Word.’[i]

If Jesus is the living Word of God,

the people among whom Jesus is preached as Son of God,

the written Word of God is heard,

and the Sacraments are administered,

here Jesus reigns as king.

 

It’s not yet a perfect kingdom,

for we can yet choose not to trust in his Word.

We can ignore the authority of his presence by the Holy Spirit among us.

We can choose to look at our own imperfections, smallness, frailties, and weakness,

or perhaps the weaknesses of our neighbors,

and not at the Holy One who is in our midst to teach and save all of us.

And all of us, no matter how faithful, fall and have to be picked up again.

But in the Church we have the promise of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.

When a pastor of the Church stands before you, he or she says,

‘As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority,

I proclaim to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins…”

We believe it because it comes from Jesus.

 

 

 

In the Church we have this word from Paul’s letter to the Romans,

‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,

nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’[ii]

By this word we are assured that no evil that befalls us can harm us.

By this word we are assured that death itself cannot harm us.

For the powers of death and evil themselves are broken

by Jesus, who is armed with the authority of his Father.

 

It may not seem exciting,

but maybe that’s because we don’t see our need

or the power of the Word.

But when we know ourselves to be oppressed by sin, death, and evil,

we cling to the Word spoken among us in Jesus’ name,

we hear it with gladness and joy,

and there’s an excitement,

as if there’s a powerful One among us who is one of us

and yet is greater than us.

And that’s because there is.

By the power of the Word,

we believe he reigns among us with authority.


[i] Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English, vol. 1. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998, p. 209.

[ii] Romans 8:38-39 (NRSV)

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