4th Sunday after Epiphany – Amazed

January 31, 2021

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Mark 1:21-28

Two words stand out from our gospel reading this week from Mark. “Astounded” and “Amazed”. We are still in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. Mark does not waste time in telling Jesus story. In this chapter we have met John the Baptist, Jesus has been baptized and faced temptation in the wilderness, began his ministry and called his first disciples. Now he begins teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum and people we are told are “Astounded” and “Amazed”. Can we relate to that ? When was the last time you were “astounded’ and “amazed” by Jesus. This is tough. We are living in challenging times for almost a year with this covid19 pandemic. We are weary, anxious, bored. We are worried about what will happen in the future to live fully in the present. We are living with facemasks, social distancing, people dying, mutations and lock downs. Church is on-line, so our access to spiritual community, ritual and sacrament is limited.

So how can we experience Awe? Wonder? Astonishment? Surprise? Where is the voice of authority, power, grace and healing that can help us back to full and vibrant living. We can put ourselves in the story today to help think about things differently. We can be the people in the synagogue, we can be man with the unclean spirit who Jesus heals and we can look at who Jesus was in this story.
The people showed up that day to the synagogue probably like they always do. They were expecting some familiar teaching and then they would go about their business. But we are told they were astounded. Do we approach God, scripture, church and faith in this way? With anticipation and hunger? Or has time and especially the last year made us weary and cynical? We have heard about preachers and those in authority who have abused their power while supposedly “preaching God’s word.” This makes it hard for us to hear it anew. If we have been a Christian and come to church for a long time it is easy to become cynical and jaded. The new becomes old. The fresh becomes familiar. We forget that Jesus came and comes to make all things new. The audience that day in Mark’s story became “amazed” and “astounded” by the work of God because they allowed Jesus to be unfamiliar in their midst. Jesus will always be amazing if we allow him to be. My wife Patty and I have been reading from a Bible App on our phone. It is called Bible in a Year. It is by Alpha program. We read it
together, three readings from the bible with small devotionals. It is helps us to hear again and hear new things about our faith. Jesus is amazing if we allow him
to be.

Jesus encounters as man with an “unclean spirit”. We do not know what that means exactly. We don’t know if it is mental illness or epilepsy. What we know is this man is isolated and lost. He had no community and no dignity. Now we may not be in such an extreme condition as this man, but there are times when we are lost and scared and out of control. This pandemic has made us feel robbed of life. Of loved ones. Of community. Of safety. So we all need to come and recognize who Jesus is in all of this as “The Holy One of God.” This possessed man does. We too need to come and recognize who Jesus is for us and how he can help us out this situation. How he can give us peace, love, and forgiveness to face anything.

The third part of this story we have to look at is Jesus. We are not told what Jesus taught his audience that day. We are told it was astounding and amazing. And then he healed someone. Is Jesus in this story so divine and powerful that there is nothing we can emulate? I think this story teaches us something very interesting. Jesus did not use his authority to self promote or accrue power. He used it only to heal, to free, to serve and to empower those around him. Maybe this is why he was so compelling. His authority was as a Servant King. He had no political power and sought none. He had an integrity and generosity that compelled people to listen to him. Another point is that Jesus stepped into the pain, ugliness, and horror at the heart of this story. He wasn’t squeamish. He didn’t flinch. He was in the fear, in the sickness, in the nightmare ready to engage in anything that people brought to him. He was not a holy man who
had to keep himself separate and clean from the trials of life. He spoke the language not only of the faithful who came but also the unclean spirit’s language.
Remember the question the spirit asked him as he left the man. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” There is only one answer to that question. “Everything. I have everything to do with you.” Wherever pain is, darkness is, torment is, God is. God has everything to do with us, even and maybe especially when we are at our worst. When the shadows overwhelm us, when the we feel lost and afraid, Jesus is there to bring us home.

In this difficult season we are all walking through, I pray that we can recover a capacity for holy amazement. We can still be astounded and amazed that God loves us so much and is there for us always. And I pray that we can be like Jesus in some small way so that we can speak words of loving, healing authority to
a world that longs for an astonishing encounter with the divine. Can we be Astonished and Amazed at who Jesus is for us?

Let us pray.

Homily by The Reverend Rob Luxton

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