4th Sunday after Epiphany
January 29, 2012
Mark 1:21-29, Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
There’s a story of a man alone in his house on a stormy night. His living room had a huge picture window, looking out over a lake. Because of the electrical disturbance of the storm, birds were disoriented and flocks of them began flying into his window, crash after crash, after crash. He began to yell and wave his arms to warn them away, but they couldn’t hear him, he was inside in the dark. He turned on the light in the room, expecting that the birds would see him standing there waving his arms to warn them, but they seemed to only see their own reflection and kept flying into the window, rank after rank of them. The man was so distressed, seeing them dying at his window, feeling so helpless to stop their panicked flight to their death, that he ran outside to stand in front of the window, waving his arms and yelling at them, “Stop, stop!” Still they kept flying into their death against the window. The man began to weep at his inability to make them hear his warning of the danger and be saved. “I guess to stop them and make them hear me, I’d have to become one of them and speak their language, so that they would that what I said was meant to help them and save them from destruction.”
God’s promise to Moses was to send a prophet from among the people to speak God’s own words, as Moses had. When God spoke to the people directly at Sinai – also called Horeb – there was flashing lightning and fire, and God’s voice was louder than thunder, so loud that it hurt their ears and scared them. So the promise was to send another from among them, a person who would speak with Yahweh’s own authority to bring God’s promises, live God’s teachings, and show them God’s love and mercy.
“Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught as one having authority.” We don’t hear Jesus preach in Mark’s story. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus first preaching is “The Sermon on the Mount:” the Beatitudes, the Lord’s prayer, the lilies of the field. Mark gives us a man with a “spirit of disruption” as one commentator translates it. Jesus’ teaching is his action. Jesus teaching is to root out this spirit which interferes with hearing God’s Word and to banish it. He does not simply impart information, he brings transformation. Jesus first appearance is as God’s Exorcist – rooting out chaos, proclaiming God’s presence, and healing the disruption and resistance which prevent this man from being invited into God’s mercy. This story underlines what Mark will continue to tell us about who sees Jesus and hears God’s word from him. It is always those outside, on the margins, troubled and caught in the storms and complexities of life. They are the ones who need God’s mercy and love. They are the ones who need healing and reassurance that God can save them. That is why people come here. That is certainly why I come here: to meet Jesus, to hear that nothing you have done or could do could stop God from loving and accepting you, to offer praise and thanksgiving for God’s presence in your life and in our world.
The arc of Jesus life will pit him against all the destruction the world has to offer; storms and politicians, church authority and the spirits of chaos that cause illness and peoples’ destruction. Eventually they will capture him and nail him to a cross, where he will suffer all that the transformers and reformers of the world have ever suffered. But his death will not be the end. He will rise again, having defeated the powers of evil, assuring us that nothing can withstand God’s power to heal and save. He is that prophet, that voice God promised to the people all those years ago as God was reassuring Moses that his work was done.
Jesus comes right out of the pages of this morning’s story to teach you. He is God’s voice bringing the message that God hears your sorrow, your failure, your craziness, your inability to hold your life together in this panicked world. He has defeated the powers that keep you bound and isolated, and he brings you the Word that God loves you completely, no matter what. He invites you into God’s household, into the comfort of acceptance and peace among the chaos. This is the invitation we have all answered today.
And…Jesus passes on the work to us. We stand at the beginning of a new year of planning and work together this morning. What is our call? How is God at work among us inviting us to be Jesus in the ministry of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church? We are his body in this world, his voice of healing and love. We are the living legacy of this promise to spread the word, to each other and to those who are flying blind around us. God did come as one of us to teach and warn and save. And he has sent his own Spirit to continue to work in us. I encourage you to remember that when are called to be the church in this place. I encourage you to remember that when you offer a kindness in Jesus’ name, serve someone who needs it, work to prevent injustice and change destructive systems, you are doing that teaching of Jesus that transforms the world and spreads the news of God’s love throughout the surrounding region. In this story of the beginning of Jesus public ministry, Mark our Gospel writer invites us to come along meeting chaos and watching the power of God at work. I pray that we are up to the journey.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.