Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. The people were amazed by his teaching,
for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts.
Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are.
You are the holy one from God.”
“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out.
Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!”
Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.
After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.
That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. The whole town gathered near the door. He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Simon and those with him tracked him down. When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.”
He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.
The first chapter of the Gospel of Mark packs a lot into it! No shepherds, no manger, no angels…instead we have Jesus - the Son of God – baptized, tempted and then beginning his ministry proclaiming with authority –
“Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom!
Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)
And how does Jesus share this good news? By showing up – showing up where God’s people are gathered - in the synagogue – in their homes – in their villages – and everywhere in between…and while he is there he speaks truth in dark places, he renounces the spiritual forces of wickedness – and proclaims the goodness of his heavenly father.
In our baptism we are adopted into the family of God – and as we claim the name Christian we are given power to fight against evil and oppression wherever it presents itself. How are we using this gift from God?
And in our times together – in our worship, our fellowship, our bible study, our prayer time…we experience God through acts of Justice, through experiencing beauty…and by telling our story… we have a foretaste of the kingdom of God.
But as I shared with the children – people are hurting – even here in our midst, just as in Jesus’ day – there are people right here who are in emotional, spiritual physical pain – and who desperately need the Good News…
What if church was the place where healing happened? Isn’t this part of our call – as the Body of Christ in the world today?
We, the mainline church, have a reputation, you know – of being the place where good people gather… where one must put on a façade, a mask, of righteousness… Peter Rollins, a theologian and philosopher from Ireland writes in his book, The Idolatry of God, about the disconnect between our worship places and other places where people gather – how do people hear the truth about God - in word, music and I’d add in action?…Rollins writes…
My concern is that most of the actually existing church acts as a type of drug den with the leaders being like the nicest, most sincere drug dealers. What we pay for are songs, sermons, and prayers that help us avoid our suffering rather than work through it.
In contrast I am arguing for collectives that are more like the professional mourners who cry for us in a way that confronts us with our own suffering, the stand-up comedians who talk about the pain of being human, or the poets singing about life at the local pub.
In other words, a church where the liturgical structure does not treat God as a product that would make us whole but as the mystery that enables us to live abundantly in the midst of life’s difficulties. A place where we are invited to confront the reality of our humanity, not so that we will despair, but so that we will be free of the despair that already lurks within us, the despair that enslaves us, the despair that we refuse to acknowledge.
Now I am not presenting an argument for the disbanding of our worshipping community…but what if we were more intentional about offering a place for people who are hurting to gather for healing? What if rather than being uncomfortable with suffering we embraced it – so that suffering isn’t what defined us – but that God’s love and loving community along the way was what defined us?
What if we owned our junk, our brokenness – rather than let suffering define us, rather than let pain defeat us, what if we were to say that despite our pain – we are confident that God is in the midst of it…
In this morning’s gospel lesson we see Jesus healing in the sanctuary, in the home and out and about…friends, it may seem like a nice thing that happened a long time ago, but I am here to assure you that healing does happen by the grace of God. But we have forgotten how…or we’re afraid of that kind of power… what if Trinity United Methodist Church were to say – we are ready to be the healing church in Waverly? Not to provide answers, but a safe place to ask hard questions… that, is a bold vision for the Church my friends.
Given the realities of the world in which we live –how are we as the oldest, most established church in the community, reaching beyond our walls to provide healing to our neighbors…providing safe places for community to gather and walk alongside one another?
What can we do to extend the love of God to the least and the lost among us…and among those in our town who are at the end of their rope (or very nearly so?)
What do we who ARE in a good place - have to say to those who are in ‘survival mode’…for trust me, survival mode is not a great place to be… for a season of my life I was living day to day, moment by moment – not quite sure what would happen next as me and my family navigated some huge changes…it was not easy…there is a great deal of shame wrapped up in failure – and a huge amount of energy can be spent walking the tightrope and putting on appearances.
These are some of the questions that this text invites me to wrestle with today… the Good News is that we are not alone….God is with us – God is with us in our gathering, in our worship, in our homes, and in our villages… and we are not alone. Thanks be to God.