The Beloved Community that Jesus taught to his disciples is inclusive and authentic, and not like the systems of our world today which are designed to separate and divide. This Beloved Community shows us that there is a new way to live, a new way to be in relationship with one another, and a new way to understand community.
January 28, 2024
The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1
“A New Teaching”
Mark 1: 21-28
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Mark 1: 21-28
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They 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.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
A New Teaching Mark 1: 21-28
We are continuing our journey through the Gospel of Mark, and after 4 weeks, we are still in the first chapter. In the previous verses, Jesus has been baptized, has spent 40 days in the desert coming to terms with his new identity, and has called his first disciples. The verses we are focusing on this Sunday follow all this as they tell us about Jesus’ first act of public ministry, at least according to the Gospel of Mark. And we as ones who know the stories of Jesus are not surprised that Jesus’ first act of ministry is teaching and healing.
Now, I will be the first to admit that when it comes to these particular verses, it appears that Mark threw together a few lines. However, when we remember that Mark is not known for his descriptions of events, that he likes to be concise because there is an urgency for us to respond to the coming of God’s Beloved Community, we realize that instead of putting together two unlikely events, Mark has instead gotten to the heart of the matter..has gotten to the heart of the Gospel message in 20 words of less. In these few lines, Marks shows us who Jesus really is.
As his readers, Mark wants us to know that back then as well as now, Jesus continues to transform this world through word and deed, that Jesus continues to bring a new word about life and love. As his readers, Mark wants us to know that Jesus continues to usher in the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which liberates the people from oppressive systems which deny their humanity, a kingdom which breaks barriers down, barriers meant to separate and divide. As his readers, Mark is telling us that Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God here and now, and as his followers, as his disciples, we had better be ready to do the same.
Because this is no ordinary man. He is the Son of the Most High God. His very words, words which free people, which offer them hope, his actions, actions which open the way for all of God’s creation to flourish and become new, This man who we claim as our own Lord and Savior is ushering in a new day so that all may be restored and made whole….and if this man is who we say he is, if we have really taken him as our Lord and Savior, then his very words, his very actions are what shape how we live out our faith as his disciples.
Or let me say it this way…
This week has been one of those unusual weeks in ministry, a week where I spent most of my time out of the office rather than in it, a week which reminded me that sometimes ministry outside of our church building is just as important, maybe even more so than the ministry which often happens within these walls. There was no one instance. Rather a bunch of conversations, conversations with colleagues, conversations at track practice while I waited, conversations at basketball practice while I waited, phone calls which came into the office, seeking assistance, a worship service on Sunday night which gave me a glimpse of the God’s Beloved Community.
This week, I was reminded again how Jesus’ words and actions tell a different story. They tell us of a God who doesn’t stay away from the ugliness and brokenness of life. They tell us of a God who shows up right there in the midst of it, drawing us near, offering us hope. Jesus’ words and actions tell us that the welcome is wide and everyone is invited to come. They tell us that Jesus broke bread with sinners and saints alike and that on any given day, we could fall into either category.
I was reminded once more that when we step outside of ourselves, when we allow the love and grace of God to guide our words and our actions, it transforms not only those gathered here but everyone we encounter, it shows that we understand, we embrace, we celebrate the life transforming power of Jesus at work in our world, a power working to restore all of God’s children and to make us whole.
I was reminded once again that at its core, our ministry, our mission is not about how much money we have in the bank nor is it about how many people come on a Sunday morning. At its core, our mission, our ministry is about the life transforming power of God’s love. Our mission, our ministry is grounded in the knowledge that we have experienced something which changed us, which showed us a new way to be, our mission, our ministry is grounded in the knowledge that we cannot, that we do not want to keep this knowledge, this gift to ourselves.
We know our God is loving. We know our God is merciful. We know that our God shows up when we least expect it with arms open wide, ready to embrace us as a Beloved Child of God. And in this time, and in this space, and in this season, this healing, this life changing, this life transforming gift is what this broken and hurting world needs to hear, needs to see, needs to experience the most right now. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we are the very ones who are called to share and show this message, not only for those of us gathered here today but for all of God’s children as well.
As the ones who know this God, who have experienced this God in our lives, we are the very ones who are called to speak words of love with authority, to act in ways of justice and mercy. Now is the time for us to proclaim that our own Lord and Savior is ushering in a new day. We know that God is working through us, working through our actions, through our words to show the destructive forces in this world that hate and hurt will never have the last word. That here and now, within the walls of this church and for the community beyond, as disciples of the Lord Most High, we are at the right place, at the right moment, at the right time to say and to show all that love and hope will reign forevermore.
This week, throughout all the conversations and interactions I had with people from our church, and with people not connected to our church, one thing became abundantly clear, that thing being as people who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior, as ones understand how Jesus’ words of grace, who understand how his actions of justice have shaped and continue to shape the faith we live out here and now as his disciples, it became abundantly clear that when anyone asks us what does being a disciple of Christ mean to you? We simply need to reply….Everything and then show them how. Thanks be to God.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, January 28, 2024 – A New Teaching Mark 1: 21-28.
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