Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Fourth Sunday After Epiphany: Let us Speak of Authority

Archived Service 

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….


Opening Prayer

Open our hearts and spirits this day to hear the great good news

 of your power and presence with all your people. Fill our hearts 

with rejoicing as the words are proclaimed in song and story. 

Enliven us and remind us that you are with us, through the pillar 

of fire, through the magnificent words of the prophets, through 

the ministry and love of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

let us begin today’s worship


Call to Worship (Psalm 111)

L: By this I have known the presence of the Lord:

P: in the rising of the sun,

             in the smile of another’s face,

L: in the touch of a hand

             or the sound of a laugh,

P: in the scent of a flower

  holding the promise of spring.

L: By this I have known the power of the Lord:

P: in the healing of hurts,

  in the forgiveness of sin,

L: in the giving of gifts beyond all expectation,

P: in the shower of love

  that comes from God’s Son.

L: Let us give thanks to the Lord with all of our heart!

P: Let us worship our God, whose presence and power endures forever!

God, Speak to Me, That I May Speak #531

(starts at 1:15 mark)

Mark 1:21-28

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. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He[a] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The word of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God!


Sermon: Let’s talk about Authority

Whose authority? What Power? These are some of the questions that arise in todays gospel. These days when we read these stories of Jesus healing people of disease or exorcising demons, how do we understand these?  I mean what is our comprehension? Is it just a story?  Is it proof of Jesus as Gods son? Is it a demonstration of compassion that we are to follow? The Gospel can point to any one of these interpretations. But on a whole the Gospel writers tend to treat Jesus’ miracles as acts to raise questions about who he is and whose power he employs.

Walter Brugeeman believes this to be the case; 

“the first miracle in the Gospel of Mark, provides an excellent illustration of this understanding of miracle. The man who is afflicted with the unclean spirit is, to say the least, not the focus of the story. Indeed, he comes "onstage" only as the carrier of the unclean spirit. Nothing is said about the man himself, his back­ ground, his faith or lack thereof. Jesus' conversation is with the spirit, and Jesus' action is on the spirit. After the exorcism, the man is not even mentioned. While Gospel miracles often treat the healed person more as a prop than as a character, this story carries that custom to an extreme degree.

Not only does the man who is afflicted and then healed receive little attention, but the exorcism itself is treated with haste. Jesus is teaching, he casts out the unclean spirit that presents itself, and the final report returns to the issue of Jesus' authoritative teaching. For Mark, then, what makes this event important stems from the teaching of Jesus and the issue of authority rather than from the exorcism alone.

When the story opens, Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum, where his teaching amazes people because he teaches "as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (1:22). The contrast be­ tween Jesus and the scribes is noteworthy, since the scribes were regarded as important and knowledgeable teachers in the Jewish community. When Mark says that Jesus' teaching has "authority," then, he may mean something other than its credibility or reliability. Exactly what "authority" means here remains to be seen. The unclean spirit bursts into the synagogue and confronts Jesus with a challenge ("Have you come to destroy us?" or another translation that is equally possible, "You have come to destroy us!") and with a title ("the Holy One of God"). As elsewhere in Mark, unclean spirits and others who are outside the religious power structure recognize who Jesus is, while those who might be expected to know Jesus do not. Despite this display of knowledge on the spirit's part, it obeys Jesus' rebuke. (See Acts 19:11-20; unclean spirits did not acquiesce to the demands of every would-be exorcist!) Most miracle stories, including exorcisms, conclude with a demonstration of the effectiveness of the cure and the response of those who have observed it. Here the demonstration drops out altogether and the response that comes from bystanders is a curious  one: "What is this? A new teaching-with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." Jesus' power over the unclean spirits reinforces the earlier judgment that his teaching is authoritative.

Again, based on a contemporary understanding of healing as an act of compassion, we might anticipate that Jesus' exorcism would prompt bystanders to rejoicing and celebration. Jesus brings gifts that we imagine ourselves receiving with outstretched arms, but nothing in this story indicates that he was so received. Instead, the story concludes with "At once his fame began to spread," but the word translated as "fame" can also be rendered "report." It signifies

only that word went out regarding this event, but not how it was received.

The story culminates, then, in a kind of question. The earlier question, "What is this?" calls up another, more profound question: "Who is this?" If the "who" question is not asked here explicitly, it surely lies just below the surface. Who is this man? What is the source of his power? What do these events mean? If the reader of Mark's Gospel knows who Jesus is because of 1:11, and if the unclean spirit knows because it recognizes superior power, and if the disciples at least know the authority of the Master who has called them, those standing by do not know what is at hand. The answer is not obvious, and in fact the question will continue through most of Mark.

What makes the question raised by Jesus' exorcism the more intriguing is that so many contemporary Christians believe that miraculous events, if ever witnessed firsthand, would produce unerring and unwavering faith. The Gospel writers know otherwise. They know that miracles demonstrate power, but power can come from a variety of sources, both good and evil. The Gospel writers also know that understanding who Jesus is and what his mission entails involves far more that simply witnessing a miracle. As with every aspect of Jesus' ministry, the miracles and the teaching raise as many questions as they provide answers.”

It is interesting that one of the questions should be whose power  and by what authority does Jesus come by this power? Why is it that only those form outside the faith and or those of the spirit world know who he is and can see it? Perhaps it is because those who are in power, those who wield authority wield it falsely? Even today we look to our religious and political leaders for refuge and help but when it comes down to it many of us have had to fend for ourselves and in doing so choose to fend for others. Our concepts, even today of where power and authority lay can be misconstrued.

What if we look at this story as a condemnation of authority. The story may be trying to tell us not to put our faith in humans but look past the human and seek God. Or in this case it maybe do not listen to words and get out and do.  Faith needs to be active. Not sitting in high places quoting law and scripture.

“Jesus’ teaching ministry starts in Capernaum, on the Sabbath day, in the synagogue. Jesus’ exorcism represents a demonstration of authority, and Mark distinguishes that authority from the scribes’. (By the way, Mark refers here to acquired honor, the honor that is gained actively through social interaction).

The main activity of scribes was teaching. It consisted of an exposition of the Law or the Prophets with relevant implications for the present. Jesus is showing more authority than them. As Mark describes it, he is not presenting a new teaching but is giving an interpretation that proved to be more relevant.”

Basically todays story has an interesting movement. Jesus walks into the synagogue and teaches.  That teaching and authority is acknowledged “in amazement” by those who are listening. Suddenly there appears a man possessed and he cries out recognizing who Christ is. Jesus tells him to be quiet and heals the man. People acknowledge Jesus’ authority “with Amazement” again. Jesus leaves the synagogue.

The part in the middle, the exorcism, seems to be the, pay attention here, part.

“Two mentions of Jesus’ authority seem to frame the exorcism (verses 22, 27). That is the reason why Ched Myers affirms that the demons speak on behalf of the scribes.  “Have you come to destroy us?” is spoken by the demons, but in Mark’s narrative, it represents the scribes’ opinion. The narrator seems to be leading the reader to ponder what a demon-possessed person is doing in the synagogue, especially in the light of a later accusation of the scribes’ that Jesus performs miracles by the power of the prince of demons (3:22). In Mark’s view, the scribes’ teaching is “demonic” because it does not liberate, but oppresses and enslaves people. A liberating act was needed and Jesus did it!

The Jewish Annotated New Testament suggests at this point that the expression Holy One of God—applied to Elisha in 2 Kings 4:9, and opposite to unclean spirit—means that Jesus, like Elisha, “would restore the correct boundary between the demonic realm of death and the world of life created by God.”  It is not to be taken as a messianic title, as suggested by the capitalization of “Holy One” (which is not marked as such in the Greek text), but wrongly assumed by the translators. The expression refers to Jesus as belonging to God, being pure and separated from impurity, and thus contrasting sharply with the unclean spirits. The reason why they recognize this attribute, while no other human being in the narrative has done it yet, is because demons are spiritual beings.

Jesus’ command to the demons to be silent has to do with the fact that he does not want them to name him, since in that culture the one doing the naming had more authority than the one being named (see Adam naming the animals in Genesis 2:19-20). The order to come out of him has eschatological connotations; if the time has been fulfilled and the domain of God has come near, that means that God’s enemies are beginning to be defeated, and that Satan’s rule over the world is about to end.” 

Reflecting on the concept that Jesus authority was not only in the teaching but in the act it is revealed. As a condemnation of the current authority as corrupt. Perhaps we still need to follow in Jesus footsteps. We can name demons in the world today and work against them and seek to cast them out. Hear me this is huge metaphor.

What are some of the demons in the world today. Osvaldo Vena says;

“Naming the demons is a way to recognize that they exist. We start with the big one, Unbelief: losing one’s faith in God, in life as a sacred force, and in our fellow human beings. It is the feeling that nothing can be done to solve our problems. Then, springing from this one, come the others in fearful company: homophobia, racism, sexism, classism, religious and ideological intolerance, violence at home and at school, poverty, militarism, terrorism, war, greed, extreme individualism, globalization, out-of-control capitalism, media-infused fear that leads to paranoia, and governmental manipulation of information. To name just a few.

Praying is not a pious resignation to God’s will, or an exercise that puts our minds at ease, but rather, using Ched Myers’ words, that “intensely personal struggle within each disciple, and among us collectively, to resist the despair and distractions that cause us to practice unbelief, to abandon or avoid the way of Jesus.”  In other words, it is the struggle to believe that change can really happen. A better world is possible.” 

This can be challenging because we honestly do often fall into the what difference can I make.  How can I as one person change anything at all? Yet in the church in Community we do make a difference one person at a time.

Just by proclaiming we are ONA and demonstrating it by flying the rainbow flag makes all the difference in a world where there are generations of people who are still told they are not good enough or they are an abomination as an ONA church we “make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.” 

Just through going through the process and proclaiming we are a green creation Justice Church shows we are living out an example to the world and we are not alone .

Congregations collectively discern their high calling to care for creation and seek justice for the oppressed.

Congregations make a commitment so serious and so sacred that it necessitates talking about God’s covenant with us and with all of creation.

Congregations not only become recognized as “green.” They become a part of a larger network of churches and a larger movement to change the world.

Congregations engage in critical thinking about the socioeconomic dimensions of environmental justice such as race, class, and global inequality.

Congregations foster a deeper sense of connection: connection to God, to each other, and to the world in which we live.

Congregations unleash their imagination and creativity as a sense of purpose propels them to make a difference. 

We are looking how we can be a better church that looks at racial justice. We are learning how to stand in “solidarity with the creation narrative in Genesis 1:26-27, which clearly outlines what matters to God—all of humankind and a just world for all. God created humankind in God’s image and likeness, women and men are image bearers, sharing equal status as human beings. God did not create race, racism, superior groups of humans, and hierarchical and hegemonic social structures. God does not sanction human suffering including America’s involvement in—

Inhumane social confinement due to mass incarceration and surveillance of communities of color

Global confiscation of another cultures land and resources

Human trafficking and the enslavement and sexual violence and assault against women and children

Deportation and the separation of families from immigrant communities

Police brutality and militarized tactics and abuses resulting in the murder of people of color

Using global armaments and acts of terrorism on innocent civilians domestically and abroad

Supporting White Christian supremacy over and against non-Christian faith communities

In the Hebrew Scriptures the Psalmist tells us “The earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord,” (Psalm 24:1), and the Gospel of John affirms what matters to God when the writer says, “For God so loved the world…” in John 3:16. Therefore the United Church of Christ believes that “God is Still Speaking” and those who believe so are called to “Be the Church” creating a “Just World for All” 

These are just a few of the demons in our world and you can hear where the false authority comes from but through the power of Jesus and his teachings and example we can choose to excise these demons so that our world comes closer to the heaven on earth we pray for amen!


Pastoral Prayer

What have we done, Lord? We want to praise you, so we sing songs, we shout your praises, with hands held on high. We teach and preach your word. But we don’t listen carefully for you. We are so busy trying to shout above the noise of the day, that we don’t take time to really listen and know you. The voices of the prophets spoke to people long ago who were too busy and anxious to hear. Their words streamed in the winds of time and have come to us. We need to pay attention to your message offered through them. You are our God, the God of all creation, the God of power and love, whose mercy is offered to us. In Jesus’ time, he proclaimed the good news through words and actions, reaching out to those who were troubled, alienated, cast aside. He offered healing and hope to those others turned away. Help us to learn that you alone can heal us and fix those areas in our lives that are wounded and twisted. Help us to understand that you alone can offer to us a new way of life through Jesus Christ. Remind us again that as we have spoken the names of people and situations that concern us, praying for your healing touch, that the same touch is offered to us in Jesus’ name. Lord, we need to let go of our control issues and place our trust wholly in you. Now and forever. AMEN.

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn



Where charity and love Prevail #396

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us


Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen


Invitation to the Offering

God, you are the source of all goodness and life.

We bring our offering to you this day,

knowing that all we have comes from you.

We hear your call and we answer,

bringing all that we have and all that we are.

Donate Here!


Doxology #778


Offering Prayer

Bless these gifts with your voice of creation,

your healing, and your love, Mighty God.

Use our gifts, our talents, and our bodies

for your work of peace and justice. Amen.

 The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry


I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in


O Love, How Vast, How Flowing Free #209

(starts at 54:20)

 Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.


Benediction/Sending Forth

Jesus comes to us, offering healing and hope, speaking and acting with authority. Listen to him. Go into this world, confident in God’s love and healing power. Go in peace and may God’s love and peace always be with you. AMEN.

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