Welcome Christ Church and anyone else tuning in to this online Service of the Word for Sunday the 31st of January. Let’s take a moment to be open to God who reaches out to us in word and in silence. Silence
O Lord, open our lips
And our mouths shall proclaim your praise.
Give us the joy of your saving help,
And sustain us with your life-giving Spirit.
Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of your holy word: may it be a lantern to our feet, a light upon our paths, and a strength to our lives. Take us and use us to love and serve all people in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
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 silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions 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.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.
A candle lit on a pitch dark night, in a forest or field, can be seen by the human eye from miles away. Our subconscious minds and our eyes pick up on the most minute details of body language, filtering through tiny twitches, eye movements, and tone of voice to conclude how someone is feeling, what they’re really saying – even who they are. Human beings are extremely perceptive when it comes to seeing the outside and the inside with our piercing gaze, looking for light, beauty, love, truth – in other words, looking for something Divine to give ourselves to and experience joy in.
The same was true for the people in Synagogue that morning, who saw a man get up to speak. He used the same scriptures, taught the same lessons as many others had done before him, but this person was different. He had authority, power. You could see it in him. But no sooner did the audience have the chance to look than the shouting started from the demoniac in the corner. Writhing, screaming the place down, he too saw – or rather, whatever was inside him saw Jesus and went into uproar.
What was it in Jesus that captivated the heart of worshippers and disturbed the demons that morning, what authority did they see in him? The man possessed is the one who tells us, tells Jesus: “I know who you are, the Holy One of God”. What they saw in Jesus was not merely another moral or upright human being, a good example. Being Holy is far more than that. It’s such a difficult word to translate because it describes the very way that God is – completely other than anything we can put words to; above and beyond all we can think or say, but that we nonetheless look for all the time. The way Jesus is described, ‘Holy One of God’, is a way of saying he has that unique God quality – that inner light, beauty, love and truth that we’re always on the look out for, that we were made for. And this divine spark they saw in Jesus, this God nature, angered the demons, but it captivated the hearts of worshippers in the synagogue that morning. That was the authority he had, the authority of being uniquely God, yet visible – accessible – to our eyes which can perceive a candle burning on a dark night and the inner person beyond the outer shell. Jesus was like no other teacher or example, he was far more, he was the Holy one of God and they could see it in him and we, if we take time to look, will see it in him too.
It’s difficult to be captivated by anything other than the four walls of our houses or the fearful headlines right now. Like the demoniac we might feel enslaved by negative thoughts and emotions that we can seem to break free from. But the good news is that God makes himself visible to the inner eyes of our hearts, when we contemplate the love, beauty and truth of Jesus, and see him not only as one good man among many, but uniquely God in our midst. Don’t practice positive thinking only, it’s not ever enough. But think on Jesus, the holy one of God, who – although you don’t always know it – is the one you’re constantly on the look out for, the one you were made to know and to worship.
Christ the Son of God gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.