The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany; Year B (1/28/2018)

Lessons:Deuteronomy 18:15-20 Psalm 111 1st Corinthians 8:1-13 St. Mark 1:21-28

Prayer of the Day: Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion, that all creation will see you and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching-with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

St. Mark 1:21-28 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


There are many examples of power in our lives, some of which we experience as life-giving and some of which we experience as destructive. I once had the opportunity to be within a few hundred yards of a space shuttle at Kennedy Space Center, on the launch pad and prepared for orbit. It was a fearsome sight: a massive, steaming monster about to do battle with gravity. A friend shared with me the power of addiction; the ways in which it had destroyed her life, and the battles she has to wage in order to keep it at arm’s length. I am old enough to recall the image of resistance as a young student deliberately kept himself in front of an approaching tank in Tiananmen Square. Years ago a colleague took me for a flight in a small airplane, circling Mt. St. Helens not long after it was devastated by a volcanic eruption; towering trees scattered like so many toothpicks on the mountainside.

Examples of power, some life giving and some destructive. In the Greek language, δύναμις (dynamis) — related to our English word dynamite — refers to physical strength, fortified walls surrounding a city, a large military contingent… This week’s text makes use of a related word to ascribe power to Jesus. It is is ἐξουσίαν (exousian), referring to superpowers that can control the destiny and activities of humans. Lordship, ruling power, wicked force… it is here translated as “authority.” Jesus rebukes an unclean spirit, commands it to leave a man, and the people are amazed. There is authority in this rabbi from Jerusalem. Authority unlike anything they have ever witnessed in a teacher before.

As we see, the authority of Jesus has the capacity to change lives. The unclean spirit is cast out. The man is freed, once again to become himself. The crowd is amazed and can’t stop talking about Jesus. His fame begins to spread all over Galilee.

I have recently been aware of the painful difficulties so many members and friends of Saint Peter are experiencing. The unexpected death of a loved one. The loss of employment, and the challenge of finding work. The physical injury which leads to diminished possibilities. The health concern that threatens life itself. The brokenness in relationships, tearing at the fabric of family life. The change in society that leaves one unsettled and unsure.

The darkness of this world can become overwhelming. But as our Catechism students recently observed, the darker the world grows, the brighter even a small flame can become. In the midst of the darkness of our lives, the presence of Christ comes as a powerful light. Not promising to abolish darkness and pain from our experience, but offering to accompany us through and beyond these difficult realities.

So we entrust our lives, our pains, and our loved ones to the power and authority of Christ. The one who claims us in baptism, who renews us in absolution, who feeds us through the meal, who equips us for faithfulness; this one becomes our strength and hope, and provides us with the courage to continue the journey. We receive this gift with the confidence of the Apostle Paul, who reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What amazed the people of Capernaum about Jesus?
  2. What do we learn from the response of the unclean spirit to Jesus?
  3. How does the authority of Jesus change the life of the possessed man?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What darkness, brokenness, difficulty or pain exists in my life?
  2. How is my faith a resource in dealing with these painful realities?
  3. In what ways does my relationship with Christ give me hope and courage?