Posted on Sun, Jan 29, 2012
January 29, 2012
Fourth Sunday in Epiphany
Gospel text: Mark 1:21–28 “Words of Power”
The Man with an Unclean Spirit
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and 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.’ 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They 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.’ 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Since my birthday and Christmas are relatively close together I have been blessed with some very interesting gifts this month. Some of my favorites are my slippers with the famous quote by Luther on them, “Here I Stand!” Another is my Lutheran baggage tag, which clearly states, “All Lutherans have Baggage!”
I think the baggage tag should say, “All people have Baggage!” Isn’t more of the truth? Everyone, no matter how ‘healthy’ they may appear or act, has some kind of baggage. Some baggage may not be so bad as another, but after 20 years working as a pastor, I am positive all people have baggage… lots of baggage… including pastors and mental health professionals… and it will definitely not all fit in the carry on luggage compartment!
Some people openly talk about the baggage we don’t mind sharing with someone else. This is the easy stuff that almost all of us share; therefore there is no risk in talking about what may be plaguing us all.
Other bits of baggage seems to be disguised and just under the surface, you know that it is there, but it is not causing enough discomfort in your mind or life, or so you think, to worry about our do anything about it.
Then there is the stuff that “really weighs you down,” you know it is there but you purposefully don’t do anything about it because:
Other bags may have been buried so deep into your “hold” that you don’t even know they are there, but there it festers. Some of these bags may have been put there without any of your consent, but are still there… These are the really unfair things, abuse, accidents, broken relationships or betrayals.
The deeper we dig, the more we may find. The more we dig and open up, the more we realize that we don't have the strength to rid ourselves of this baggage and seemingly festering material. The more we examine ourselves the more we realize that there is no “saving ourselves.”
The more we think about it, the more we understand we need someone to talk to, a community that will support us, an outlet to express grief and pain, someone other than ourselves we can trust and will take time to understand our struggles and pain. Your church is this place, your savior has the power, a friend or support group becomes essential in your life.
I think each of these bags have a face on them. The faces come at us and face us from time to time. These faces can look right through our eyes, into our heart and do their damage if we do not respond and allow them to do their mischief.
To not respond to some of these potentially evil faces is to be in ‘denial.’ What did Pastor Doug used to say all the time? “Denial is not a river in Egypt!”
Our heart, our soul, knows what is buried deep within us; and our heart and soul longs to be made free from those fears, doubts, troubles, unforgettable events, and self-created and self-inflicted maladies. That is one reason I feel that deep in our hearts we know instinctively human beings need to gather to worship and acknowledge our frailty but rejoice in the goodness of our God and Creator. Our hearts are drawn to this place because this is the only place we can enter with all of our baggage and know that the Words of the Gospel that we hear and the Gospel message we sing, are much more powerful than any baggage we may feel forced to carry each and every day. This is a place we know that Jesus is looking right into our heart and saying, “I know your burdens, I know the face of the one troubling you! Let it be mine! Let me take it from you! Let it be gone!”
In our text, Jesus is near home in Capernaum among the people he feels comfortable with, and they are in a holy place, a synagogue. This place is holy because this is a place people read the scriptures AND HEAR the stories that proclaim the faithfulness of God! They heard the stories of Noah, Joseph, David and Goliath, Jeremiah telling the people to repent, The faithfulness of Ruth and so many more over and over. Hearing these stories over and over is what makes a place holy, not because of what humans have done, good or bad, but because what is heard because of something God has done!
They are worshiping and reading scripture when a man with much baggage enters the room. Jesus is preaching in a way it is referred to as having “Authority.”
After hearing him preach and teach with authority, nobody was asking for miracles, but they wanted to hear more of this teaching backed by God’s Authority.
When the man with an unclean spirit entered, 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.” There is more than one piece of baggage here, but this piece knows who Jesus is, and it knows what Jesus can do. It knows that Jesus is the Holy One of God, the Messiah sent to save Israel, and he has the power to destroy this evil spirit.
There is power in the mere presence of Jesus, and the evil one recognizes this power, and is afraid. The baggage, the troubles, fears and unclean spirit recognizes God for Who God is, the God of Forgiveness, Healing, Restoration, Mercy and Justice.
Nobody in the room knew what was going on accept evil spirits! Therefore with a simple word Jesus rebukes it and says, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’
What does the immediate convulsing tell us about that baggage and the spirits that are within this man? How many of us have been part of or witnessed an intervention? Do people enjoy having the truth told to them and forced to go face to face with the baggage and evil they are so afraid of? Would anyone go willingly to face those faces that trouble us to be and do things that are not what we want to do or be?
The man immediately goes into convulsions because he didn’t have the time to go into denial. Jesus in his anger ordered the spirits out, the man had no choice; think of how many people who just go into denial about their present self-damaging state of mind and are essentially just inviting the evil spirit, the baggage to make a home right in our own body, mind and soul!
To remain in denial is to simply allow the baggage to move in and set up residence within you and also to allow it to flourish.
This is not the Will of God. Jesus REBUKED the evil spirit. No negotiating! No coming to terms with the evil spirit… why? Because the evil spirits were controlling one of God’s beloved Chosen ones!
It is not God’s Will for us to live imprisoned to any fear, doubt, sin or any unclean/evil spirit! Jesus was sent in order to free us to be the people we were created to be!
Through the obedience to the promise of love and the Cross of Christ, we have been freed to be people living in Joy, Hope, Mercy and Love. To boldly preach the Gospel with words full of Truth and Grace!
The Bible said the man was possessed by an ‘unclean spirit,’ today we see people possessed by just as many demons like these. We still choose to offer these demons to live in our lives and therefore we carry around the weight of all this baggage everyday. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
The Gospel your heart has been waiting all week to hear, and the body and blood of Jesus is here FOR YOU, and it is yours forever. Amen.
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