Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
PRAYER: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
SERMON: After our service this morning we will transition into the Annual Meeting. I am going to weave my Annual Report into my message based on the readings for today.
One of the commentators that I listened to this week said that central to the reading from Mark this morning is a boundary dispute. There is an attempt to claim territory which should belong to the Lord by forces opposed to the Lord. This causes the potential for dissent and division. It is an opportunity for some folks to take sides, to create animosity and strife.
Now, we could spend some time, talking about all that is involved in this part of the life of the synagogue in Capernaum. We could also take some time talking about the man himself. I have to say that there is a great opportunity to get side tracked by trying to decide how to interpret what Mark describes as "a man with an unclean spirit" but we are not going to get into that this morning.
I will say this "manifestation" of evil should have had no place in the synagogue. Here is a person, manipulated, in some way, by the powers of evil, coming to question the authority Jesus. This person has somehow made his way into the heart of the place where Jesus is teaching. He is present in this place dedicated to the "One True God"
He speaks up in front of all those present and says: "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."
Jesus wastes no time in dealing with the power behind this manifestation. He speaks with authority and the "unclean spirit" comes out! The issue is resolved and harmony is restored by Jesus.
In our Epistle reading, Paul, speaks to the Corinthians, about similar issues. He speaks to them about the stumbling blocks that have grown up between the believers in the Corinthian church. He encourages them to use the knowledge they have of Christ to discern and be wise in their behavior. He also warns them not to create stumbling blocks for others in their community by their behavior.
I said at the beginning of Epiphany how blessed I am to serve here at Christ Church. I want to say that again. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to serve here at Christ Church.
I have quoted from Psalm 16 before and I would like to do it again this morning. Psalm 16 verse 6 says "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage."
That is how I feel about Christ Church. I am honored to serve here and to be associated with this place. I know that there are many others who feel that way as well. The Lord has blessed this place with a very real sense of his presence and power among us. Because of that presence and power there is a great sense of warmth and community among us.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the world around us. There are many disputes across our communities and it seems like our opportunities for conversation and relationship are being fractured.
I said last week we have so much to share with the world around us. I would like to say again that I believe we have something the world needs.
It seems to me that the world needs the kind of wisdom that comes from knowing Christ. We are living in a time when there is a lot doubt, a lot of questions and people are feeling uncertain. Do we have the courage to speak to others about the peace that we know from knowing Christ?
I also said in my message last week that historically, it has been at times like this that the church's message of hope, joy, love and peace, have been seen as the answer that others are looking for. But, it means that those of us who have the certainty of the things of God in our own lives need to be ready to be ready to share them.
As we look forward to this coming year at Christ Church I hope that we can find a way to communicate what we have to others. When we hold our outreach opportunities, like the Lake Front Park Market Day and the Christ Church Anniversary Festival, or the Blessing Bikes and the Blessing of the Animals or the Prayer times that we do around the City, I hope that we can see this as an opportunity to talk about the life of Christ Church. That those conversations might lead us to have the opportunity to share what a difference our faith has made in our lives.
Matthew Warner, in his book "Why They Follow" says: "Christianity offers infinite joy and the only way to overcome death. It is a smart religion, with tremendous intellectual and spiritual richness and depth. It offers helpful and genius insights into every aspect of life, both personal and societal. It is literally the greatest treasure fathomable."
If that is true for us, as well, then we will have plenty to talk about.
Jesus in the Gospel of Mark this morning speaks with authority and has an impact on the people around him.
Mark records it this way: "They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee."
I hope that this year, as we leave behind the debilitating effects of the Pandemic, and we are once again free to meet and enjoy each other's company. That as we build relationships and friendships, with one another, that we will have plenty to talk about. We will learn how to talk about what the Lord is doing in our lives. How he is meeting our needs and strengthening our faith. Then that we will learn how to share what we talk about, with the other people we interact with every day here in Huron.
May the Lord bless us and keep us and make his face to shine upon us and give us peace. Amen
Bishops & Father Mike