4th Sunday after Epiphany
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1st Corinthians 8:1-13
This morning’s lesson finds Jesus along with four of his disciples in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. Jewish law dictated that anywhere there were ten families (actually, ten men) there was to be a synagogue. The temple in Jerusalem was a place for sacrifice and worship but the synagogues were primarily places for worship and instruction within the community. The synagogue service consisted of hymns, offerings, the reading of scripture and hearing someone speak to the meaning of those readings. (you may notice a similarity to our own form of worship still today)
While large towns and cities might have had a trained rabbi, this was not always the case, especially in smaller communities, and so it was not uncommon for the administrator of the synagogue to ask or appoint someone different to speak to the worshippers on any given Sabbath. This practice is what gave Jesus the opportunity to travel about speaking in the various synagogues in the early part of his ministry. However, with time, the doors of the synagogues would no longer open to Jesus because his language and message threatened the power of the religious leaders and that would not be tolerated for long.
Mark describes an event that took place early on in Jesus’ ministry. While Jesus was addressing the gathered worshippers a man, who was possessed with an evil spirit, began to cry out. The man cried out, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are.” Mark tells us that Jesus rebuked the man and said to the spirit, “Be silent and come out of him.” The unclean spirit obeyed Jesus’ command and Mark says the people who witnessed this were amazed as they recognized the authority that Jesus seemed to possess.
So, we look this morning at the various kinds of authority that some people may have. Various people acquire their authority in different ways. Some gain their authority due to their political position into an elected office. Doctors and professional people may gain their authority because of their education and expertise. Police and military personal are given authority over those for whom they are responsible. Yet having been given authority does not guarantee that person will use his or her authority effectively or for the greater good.
Jesus’ authority was never an official authority. He was not a trained rabbi and he held no position in the synagogue. Jesus’ authority came from who he was. When he spoke, he needed no authority beyond who he was. But when people heard him speak, they seemed to instinctively know this was one to whom they should listened. There was something special about this man, Jesus; and that something came from his love for the people and his intimate relationship with God. These should be the qualities found in anyone who would attempt to exert their authority over others.
We have seen in past weeks that God has a plan for each of us and he calls each of us to follow his plan for our lives. God calls us his children and he has placed his trust in us because he loves us. While there are many things in this life that we may question; and while the Episcopal Church has always encouraged its people to think for themselves recognizing that people should be free to questions things; God’s authority is not one of those things. When God speaks, we need to listen, we need to stand in awe, and we should be astonished.
The man with the unclean spirit said, “I know who you are.” He recognized that Jesus spoke with a divine authority and that’s the one who we come together to worship each week. God wants the best for each of us because God is good….all the time. Amen.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the holy sacrament of your body and blood. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were here with me and I unite myself with you fully. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen
A Prayer for the Church and Benediction:
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.