Sermon – 01-31-21 – Epiphany 4 – Cycle B
Scripture: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; Mark 1:21-28; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Sermon Title: “The Power of Jesus in Our Lives”
Power or Coincidence. Power or Authority. Power of Jesus. Power of Satan. Think of a time when a problem almost happened that could have changed our lives. Was it luck? Was it our guardian angel? Or was it Jesus that saved us? Think of a time when something terrible did happen to ourselves or to someone close to us. Was there a glimmer of light, a glimmer of hope in that disaster that let us know that Jesus was giving us that hope and light?
Authority needs to be given to someone by an outside source. Power can be grabbed by ourselves if we sense how to claim it. In our Hebrew Old Testament lesson, God is saying to the people, through Moses, that he will authorize a prophet to continue the charge that God has given to Moses. God will put words in the mouth of the next prophet just as God does for Moses. God uses the words “raise up” instead of authorize. Same meaning. Anyone who does not obey the authorized words will be held accountable by God.
On the other hand, if a false prophet claims to have authority from God, people are not to follow that prophet or they will be punished by God. The people shall definitely not follow a prophet gathering people for another god. These prophets have claimed authority but God did not grant the authority. These prophets are natured to accumulate power without authority. If we watch long enough, these false prophets fade from the scene because they are not real; they do not have authority. They are soon forgotten or are overcome.
How are we to know the truth about the prophets who appear in our lives? God wants for us to watch, to be alert, maybe even to test these prophets. Do their words have a strange twist to them? Does their slant on having good relationships with other people seem less than genuine?
Have we been caught in the trap of creating our own power without authority?
In our workplace, in our family relationship, have we found openings where power was low or did not exist like no one was really in charge. We might be natured to see what should be done and how it should be done. This may be good unless the arrangement benefits only ourselves. That is power gone awry.
If we see a need and have a vision to move into a vacuum without a person in charge and we do it well, we may be called into a position of authority because we are skilled and knowledgeable. This could be called earthly authority – an orderly arrangement, a solid arrangement. Perhaps, God is also part of this arrangement!
Jump with me through the centuries to the story in Mark 1:21-28. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. The setting is the town of Capernaum. The townspeople are amazed at the inward authority that comes from Jesus and how it extends into the room. While the people are in awe of this authority, a man enters the room and starts yelling. It is really the evil spirit within his body that is yelling and yelling at Jesus no less. The spirit is saying, “Jesus from Nazareth, what do you want with us? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are! You are God’s Holy
One.” So even the evil spirit recognizes Jesus. But bold speech will not save the evil spirit in its dwelling place. Jesus says with his authority, “Be silent and come out of the man!” The unclean spirit convulses the man. Then it gives a large shout and leaves.
This is not the only occasion when Jesus calls evil spirits from people, saving their lives. Is it still happening today? Can people of God be so filled with Holy Authority that they can call evil spirits from us? Are you wondering how common it is to have an evil spirit within us?
I like to think that we have bits of evil and not a whole evil spirit within us. When we are tempted to do or say something which is not kind, we are being coaxed by an evil thought. We are told that sometimes our innerself is too much vacant space. We have not fully invited God into our lives and the space is empty and in tramps Satan with his accomplices. We can let them slide out the door again gradually or we can ask for a once-and-done removal.
The wonderful news is that Jesus is always stronger than Satan. We just need to let the POWER OF JESUS in the door. Our lives will be unbelievably better. Our attitude becomes cheerful despite our circumstances. Looking at Psalm 111, verse 6 offers, “He has shown his mighty power to his people . . .” Verse 3 is even better, “Everything the Lord does is glorious and majestic, and his power to bring justice will never end.”
It is a work in progress – this justice thing. We need to examine ourselves and examine our society to know where evil is hiding. Then we shall claim the Lord’s power and shed light into the corners, calling out the badness, the unfairness, the injustice.” Are we living better lives because we are better inside? How can we claim to be on the Lord’s side when we don’t seem to care about hunger, homelessness, illness, and all of those evil strikes against people?
Let us not confuse illness with evil. As we know, “Bad things happen to good people.” Claiming Christ in our lives does not necessarily bring immunity to illness. Evil does not need to be present for illness to destroy a life. We simply do not know God’s thinking and acting. Where is wisdom in suffering? Where is healing when we long for it? We do not know!
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” While we don’t understand God’s ways we can love our way through situations. We can love our way into compatibility with people with whom we disagree, whom we do not understand, whom we fear. We don’t need to understand the other person, we don’t need to understand ourselves. We can just let the mystery of love happen.
If we think we have God’s actions in our minds like a finished jigsaw puzzle, we are in for a big surprise. We have false pride if we think we understand God. When we listen to the world, we need to screen what we hear. Why should we waste time on false gods? Let us follow the real God! When illness and other hard times come, let us open our arms for God’s compassion and love to fill them. Let us sprinkle this compassion and love wherever possible. May we be models for people of any age to emulate. May we be like trained dogs who can sniff the bad so that we know where and what it is. The power of Jesus will move in!