|Lent 4, Year B||March 11, 2018||The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||John 3:16|
|Lent 3, Year B||March 4, 2018||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22; Psalm 19|
|Lent 2, Year B||February 25, 2018||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30, Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38|
|Lent 1, Year B||February 18, 2018||The First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, Ps 25:1-9, Mark 1:9-15|
|Ash Wednesday, Year B||February 14, 2018||Ash Wednesday, Year B||Isaiah 58:1-12;Psalm 103 or 103:8-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10;Matthew 6:1-6,16-21|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 11, 2018||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 9:2-9|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 4, 2018||The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39|
|➤Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany||January 28, 2018||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:21-28, Psalm 111|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany||January 21, 2018||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Jonah 3:1-5,10;Psalm 62:6-14;1 Corinthians 7:29-31;Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany||January 14, 2018||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||John 1:43-51|
|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2017||Eve of the Nativity, Year B||Luke 2:1-14(15-20)|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year B||December 10, 2017||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B||Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8, Psalm 85:1-2,8-13|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year B||December 3, 2017||First Sunday of Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
|Christ the King, Year A||November 26, 2017||Christ the King Year A||Matthew 25:31-46|
|Thanksgiving, Year A||November 22, 2017||Thanksgiving, Year A||Psalm 65|
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon Date:January 28, 2018
Scripture: Mark 1:21-28, Psalm 111
Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
"St. Peter’s interior as a painting”
In the readings week before last, Paul tells the Corinthians that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit within us, which we have from God, and that we are not our own. That week I talked about us being a church with legs, ready to go where God wants to take us.
Another way to understand what Paul is saying about being temples of the Holy Spirit is to imagine yourself as a temple, a church, a synagogue, a place set aside for the worship and study of God, a place where God can dwell.
Paul says that we are not our own. And when we are born, this space of our bodies and souls, this space which belongs to God, is empty, waiting to be filled. God gives us human beings the freedom to fill our lives, and of course God is longing for us to make space for the Holy Spirit to dwell.
In today’s gospel, the people are in their holy space, the synagogue, listening to Jesus teaching with authority when a disruptive man with an unclean spirit comes into their midst.
Now keep that scene in mind as we do an imaginative prayer exercise. Closing your eyes for this exercise will help you to concentrate.
Take some deep breaths and clear your mind.
Imagine yourself as a holy space, set apart for God. Dwell on this idea.
I am a holy space, set apart for God.
Pray now about what you allow to be in your space. Be honest in your prayer. This prayer is between you and God.
What do you hear and see in your space?
What things in your space tend to crowd out the Holy Spirit?
What crazy and disruptive demons are in your space, messing with your relationship with God and with others around you?
Now that you have taken an honest inventory of your space and what is in it, and named the disruptive things in your life, pray about what needs to be cast out of your space.
Now, imagine Jesus within you, teaching you, with authority.
Imagine Jesus rebuking the things that are disrupting your life.
Imagine what your life would be like once Jesus casts out these things.
Dwell in this spaciousness.
Now slowly open your eyes.
Mark makes the obvious point that Jesus is the one who teaches us the right ways to live.
Jesus is the one who has the authority to cast out and to uproot the death dealing things that we have allowed to take root and grow in our lives, just as he casts out the demon in the man who comes into the synagogue screaming and scaring everyone half to death.
Jesus is just itching to cast out our demons.
But we forget this simple fact.
Here’s a funny example.
Do any of you read the comics?
This past week, in the comic strip Pearls before Swine, Rat asks Pig what he is doing.
Pig is working on a crossword puzzle.
He tells Rat that the clue is “all-knowing all-powerful presence in the universe: begins with ‘G-O.”
Rat instantly says “Google.”
Pig looks excited and then disappointed as he counts out the blocks.
“Nuts,” he says, “Only has three letters.”
Rat’s solution—“Try abbreviating Google.”
This funny little strip makes the profound point that we tend to look for the answers to the deepest problems and questions in our lives through the incredible resources we have, which is wonderful, but that we often use these resources and turn to them repeatedly, even when we aren’t finding the solution, while forgetting to ask God.
The internet is a great resource, don’t get me wrong.
Therapy is a great resource. Medicine is a great resource. Knowledge is a great resource.
We have so many things to help us deal with and get rid of our demons.
But as Christians, we can all be guilty of forgetting the first and foremost resource, the most valuable resource we could ever hope to have to help us, and that resource is Jesus, the Holy One of God.
We forget to ask Jesus to cast out our demons because we are so caught up in trying to deal, on our own, with the demons in our lives.
Financial insecurity is a demon that can drive people crazy. People call me to ask for financial help when they have bills they can’t pay.
So usually I ask what they owe, figure out much I can provide toward their bill, and take down the information that I need to send the money where it has to go.
But I’ve started handling these calls a little differently in light of today’s scripture.
A man called me for help with his rent. He had an eviction notice and he owed a substantial sum of money to stay in his house. And so we talked briefly about how he had gotten into that situation, and what his plans were to avoid this situation in the future. And then I asked him if we could pray about it, and he said yes.
So over the phone, I prayed for him. I asked God to take away all the things that are keeping this man from receiving the blessings that God wants him to have. I thanked God for you, the St Peter’s congregation, and your generosity, making it possible for me to provide even a little help and hope for this man. And I prayed in the name of Jesus.
At the end of the conversation, the man thanked me for the financial help, and then he said, “And thank you for the prayer.”
All of us have the opportunity, throughout each day of our lives, to remember that Jesus is the one with the authority to rid us of the things that hold us back from loving God and one another as fully as God would have us do.
Resolve this day that you will remember, before you place your hope and trust elsewhere, to turn to Jesus first and give him the ultimate authority in your life.
Then , when you use the other resources that you’ve been given to use in the context of God’s authority, all of them will fall into place more helpfully.
The last verse of that old familiar Christmas carol, “O little town of Bethlehem” goes like this. “O little child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”
Pray for Jesus to be born in you and to abide in you.
Pray for the grace to give Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the authority to cast out your sin and all that haunts you,
so that God, through the Holy Spirit, can do new things in you and through you, transformative things, that will bring God’s kingdom near in your life, here and now.
Let us give thanks to the Lord and the Lord’s authority in each one of our lives, with our whole heart.