Monday, January 29, 2024

Get-Right Day


Mark 1:21-28

Epiphany 4 / Year B

Many of you will recall when the house behind us on Saratoga St. was used as a halfway home for some folks who, for various reasons, could not live on their own.  A few of the residents became regular clients of our food pantry and you may remember Reggie who attended Sunday services and lots of coffee, which, due to digestive issues, he was not supposed to have.

And then there was Mr. Johnson who was not permitted to leave the house, but ‘escaped’ from time to time.  One Sunday morning between services there was a wild pounding on the Parish Hall doors.  It was Mr. Johnson and he was ranting that the lady who ran the house was trying to kill him.  Well, some of you managed to get him settled down while I went across the street and fetched the supervisor.  She came over, corralled Mr. Johnson, and gave him a firm talking to as she escorted him out of our building.

Guess what happened the very next Sunday, again between services.  You got it.  There was a beating at the door and it was… Mr. Johnson complaining loudly once again the supervisor was trying to kill him.  This time I did not welcome him into the building, but started walking him through the parking lot and back to his home.  “She’s gonna kill me,” he protested.  “Oh,” I said light-heartedly, in an attempt to calm him down, “now you know she is not going to do that.”  But over and over and rather boisterously he professed an unwavering belief his life was in danger.  Finally, and fed up, I said with some force (loud enough, at least, for a person in the bank parking lot to hear), “Listen, she is not going to kill you, but if you come back over here again and pound on our door, I just might!”  I glanced over at the person at the bank and, from the expression on his face, could tell this is not something he expected to hear come out of the mouth of a person wearing a clergy collar!

This morning we read from Mark’s gospel about Jesus’ first public appearance after his baptism.  It is the Sabbath and he and his new followers go to the local Synagogue.  Just as we do here, he wanted to be a setting where he could worship, pray, read from Holy Scripture, and gather as a community in a peaceful setting.  Mark tells us on that day Jesus was asked to be what we would call the preacher.  The text does not tell us a single thing about the content of what he said, only that those present are amazed by the authority he exhibits while teaching. 

And then comes what we might call the Mr. Johnson moment.  Demons have possessed a man at the Synagogue and they cry out to Jesus: “What do you have to do with us?”  A more literal translation is “Why can’t you just let things be?” “Have you come to destroy us?”  “I know who you are.”

Why can’t Jesus let things be?  Because he is not going to allow anything to impede human flourishing.  He is going to teach God’s word so that we who listen might understand, and in understanding be empowered to think and do those things that are right.  He is going to banish anything and everything which might hold us back, drag us down, lock us up, or tie us in knots.  This is Kingdom work and, as we heard Jesus proclaim in last week’s reading, the Kingdom of God has come near.  This means every other kingdom, every other realm, every other dominion, every other power is being supplanted; now, in part, one day in full.

Suppose we were to spend some time pondering this reading and think about what it says to us and to our church.  Suppose it was the only Scripture we had to draw upon to gain a sense of identity and purpose.  Suppose from it we had to craft a mission statement.  What would it be?  I contemplated this for a while this past week and here is what I have come up with:

Come as you are,

leave as God intends for you to be.

And God intends for this particular person to be free from of all that possesses him.  With just a few words, spoken with authority, it happens: “Be silent, and come out of him.”  And with this the Mr. Johnson moment is over once and for all.  All present, who I suspect have seen the demons speak out many times before, are amazed, stunned I would say.

Word about this and other things Jesus does spreads throughout the region.  As Jesus journeys from town-to-town, locals expect it to be showtime… “Do here what you did in Capernaum.”  But for Jesus it is not showtime, it is get-right time.  He has come to help folks get right with God, with their community, with their family, and with themselves. 

You are here this morning and perhaps you sense the presence of Jesus in this place.  Perhaps you hear his message and respond in the silence of your heart, “Why can’t you just let things be?”  Jesus answers, “Because today is your get-right day!”

Come as you are,

leave as God intends for you to be.