Saturday, January 27, 2018

4 Epiphany Yr B Jan 28 2018


Remember last week I described the gospel of Mark like a roller coaster ride, and we just keep going. No time to process any of this. This healing and casting our unclean spirits is the first thing Jesus does in this gospel. The first thing Jesus does is free this man from the hold of his unclean spirit and restore him to himself, his loved ones, and his community. The very first thing.

And Mark doesn't mince words. We want Jesus to teach with words, the other gospels are full of words. They try to explain the parables, the healings, the miracles. But not Mark. Mark shows us who Jesus is through healings, through presence, through action. In Mark, Jesus teaches by what he does.

We know that Mark's gospel begins with “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It then goes on to show us what this Son of God looks like. The Son of God is baptized in the Jordan, and a voice came from heaven and says, “You are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” The Son of God is cast out into the wilderness and battles Satan. The Son of God calls Simon and Andrew, James and John, who left everything to follow him. The Son of God was in the habit of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was also in the habit of breaking many of the rules of the Sabbath. The Son of God taught with authority. All of this is what the Son of God looks like, but Jesus’ authority is before us today.

Robert Browning, the English poet, once said, “If the most powerful people in the world came into this room, the King, the President, we would stand up. But if Jesus came in, we would kneel down, and that’s the difference.” We could add to Robert Browning’s list of powerful people, the kind of people today that are lifted up as powerful sports stars, movie, television or music stars. Maybe even today’s billionaires would make this list, people like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. Well, today’s gospel is about is what the Son of God looks like, and the Son of God has authority, and that authority looks nothing like those who think they have authority today. And in our collective lives very recently, we have spoken much about kneeling and standing and what that all means.

The authority that Jesus, the Son of God is, is authority that brings us to our knees.

In this gospel story, Jesus’ authority creates something that no one had ever experienced before Jesus. Jesus’ authority creates healing. Today I think we experience authority as power, power to buy and consume and have. Power to tell others what to do, what to believe. The scribes, who were the educated and literate people, had never before experienced the kind of authority that is shown to us in this lesson; we only encounter this kind of authority when we encounter Jesus.
What kind of authority is this? What does this authority look like? Authority is who Jesus is, it is not something that Jesus possesses, or something that Jesus owns, not even what Jesus says. True authority, authentic authority, is not derived from power but from trust and respect and relationship. True authority does not control, it authors. Authority comes from the same word as author. It is a word that indicates something or someone that creates, something or someone that causes an increase, something or someone that causes growth.

This authority is quite different from power. Power, in the Mediterranean world, as well as in our own world, is understood as a limited quantity. If one person has more power, then the other has less. In the Mediterranean world, honor was also a limited quantity. The honoring of one resulted in the shaming of another. Power and honor are linked in the Mediterranean world of Jesus’ time, as they are linked in our culture as well.

What the scribes noticed immediately in this story is that Jesus speaks with an as-yet-unheard-of level of authority. Suddenly the years of compounded knowledge, confined logic and entrenched tradition offered by the scribes begins to pale in comparison to the message that Jesus brings, Love wins. When Jesus was around, something was created, something was increased, growth was happening, the story was being rewritten. Scribes were “because it has always been that way” theologians, that is to say the kind of theology that is built on its past and nothing new really comes about. But things were definitely not the same any more.

It is in this new reality that people began to see that this must be God’s work, because it is only God who can author this new story. There is only one God, one Lord, and neither you nor I are it, or anyone who has earthly power. What this passage says to us is that this new thing that Jesus does, as God in our midst, is to signal that Jesus has come to oppose all the forces that keep the children of God, and that is all of us, from the abundant life God desires for all of us. And that message matters because it is still the case: God wants the most for us from this life and stands in opposition to anything that robs us of the joy and community and purpose for which we were created.

And what is the purpose for which we are created? To love God with all our heart and mind and soul, and to love our neighbor. This is the abundant life that God promises. The release of this unclean spirit by Jesus’ authority shows us that. And as the first thing Jesus does in Mark’s telling of this story, it shows us that God’s love for us, through Jesus’ authority, releases us from the bondage of power, and creates in us love for neighbor, love for the unlovable, love for the least of these.


I believe that as followers of Jesus, it is part of our work, our ministry, to step into the places God calls us and be the bearer of healing, be the bearer of God’s good news of love, be the bearer of the light of Jesus. Because, as you all well know, love wins.

No comments:

1 Lent Yr B Feb 18 2018

1 Lent Yr B Feb 18 Audio Lent is framed by Baptism. On Ash Wednesday, we retraced the cross that marked us as Christ’s o...