Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 1:21-28 bible study (August 21, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
Grace and Peace to you this morning and may the power of Christ may fill every minute of your life on this wonderful day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
As we begin this morning please be prayerful for the People of Maui, Hawaii. The tragedy of the massive fire which overcame much of their community remains for the foreseeable future. We must all recognize that we have, for a long time, remained dependent and willing to risk using aging infrastructure. This age, plus the seemingly constant new levels of change in the climate of our world make it much more likely that we will have many more circumstances of devastation from extremes of weather. You and I have been gifted with this beautiful and productive planet by our loving Creator. The Genesis charge for each of us is that we are called to be good stewards of these gifts from God. Though it all seems too big for me to help with, we all need to know that every thing that we can consciously change to use less water, less electricity, less carbon based fuel, all will help. We owe the LORD our deepest thanks for all with which we have been blessed. Remember, with Christ all things are possible. Prayers too please for H.W. who will have eye surgery to correct some previous surgical issues from cataract surgery. Keep the W. family in your prayers too. John is in some lengthy care out of state for injury he suffered during an accident at his work place for which he bore no responsibility. Sarah (our Parish Nurse) and Barrett are working hard to keep the family home, and budget moving forward during this time of separation during which John will not receive his full pay. You can link to a GoFundMe fundraiser for them here.
Lets move on to our bible study for today in chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark. Let's look at the Synoptic Gospel comparisons. This passage is unique to Mark and Luke only. There is nothing comparable to it in either Matthew or John. It is found in Luke 4:33-37 In all likelihood this tells us that Luke used Mark as his source, or that both used another source's content for telling us about this early ministry healing of Jesus. But in all of that we are now faced with a long time dilemma that in all probability has no answer with which you and I will be satisfied. Though it doesn't say it in Mark, it would appear that this gathering may have been on the Sabbath (Saturday). Of course we would naturally expect to find Jesus at the local Synagogue, where the faithful would gather for prayer and worship. It is in this encounter that we see Jesus healing a man possessed by evil spirits. (We know this because the Spirits use the pronoun we to describe themselves.) Of course we have the ministry encounter with Legion in a possessed man in another situation in which Christ is found. So the kind of thinking that was so common in this time of Christ, is that the world is a place filled with demons and evil spirits. New born babies, regular folks, the old and infirm, and all of the earth was a dangerous place to be, running rampant with evil. This was the kind of mindset that Jesus found himself living and ministering in. The kind of treatment that was intended to remove demons was to drill a small hole into the forehead of a possessed individual. So the issue that we encounter here is how we think about evil in our own world, and the follow-up issue would be wouldn't Jesus know about all of this as the Son of the Holy One of Heaven? Can we think that Jesus often operated with the parameters of the thinking of his time about these things, either by choice (which I believe) or because He only knew the thinking of His time?
Let's talk for a few minutes about our view of evil. The easy answer is that evil is present in exactly the way that the people of Jesus' time thought it was. OR, do you see evil being something that comes from the hearts of people who have become separated from the love of God, living surrounded and filled by the sin of their separation from God. I think that we might do better to consider that perhaps there is instead a combination of both of these things happening. If we claim that our sin comes from outside of us, then we ought to be able to claim that we are nothing more than victims of the pervasive evil of our world. However, we really cannot do that, because we know that we all fall short of the righteousness of God, and therefore there is no one (except Jesus) who was, or ever will be sin free, or worthy before the Father. You and I can see that to follow our sinful hearts is the easy way of living in this life. No commitment, No sacrifice for the good of others, No worry of what may come, but living for each new day to serve only ourselves. As we know such an approach to living can, and does become unavoidably compulsive, driving the people who live like this to disrupted lives with no place to turn for help outside of their limited selves. Here is another head scratcher for us. If God created everything then would it be true that God also created evil? Just a thought for another time's conversation. Today our reality is that we see those who are unwilling to treasure the value of life, seeing some they consider unworthy to be disposable. Remember, for these people there is no sacrifice out of thanksgiving to God for His Blessings and Love. Are these people just separated from the One True God having established lives filled with evil and a willingness to destroy others? Or is it only by the power of God's Love for our lives through His Son Jesus Christ that we can combat this empty for God and other's heart, finding ourselves drawn by the Spirit to return to the Lord, Our God? In our "modern" thinking we might see this man Jesus encounters as mentally ill, and Christ's command to dispatch the evil that resides in the man, being exactly what this man needed, instead of being told that he was condemned to live unable to find a change that could bring him mental health. I hope that you are finding me wandering a bit over this. I believe personally that evil comes from the hearts of sinful people, impacting their lives, and the lives of others, in terrible and destructive ways. Without the Love of Christ, people can all too easily get lost in their lives' journeys. I also believe that there may well be an evil power in creation that can sometimes overcome and destroy our ability to receive the hope that is God's gift for us through His Son, so that when we are faced with the end of this life taking us to an eternal darkness, and end to joy, the angst can create mental disfunction. I find myself in both kinds of thinking, but I do not believe that we are the victims of evil, we instead are the willing participants living without God in this sinful and broken world. In our sin, through Christ's saving Grace, we have become the victorious ones. Death is a gate to new life with our Savior. It is no longer the specter of an eternal emptiness and darkness, but instead the victory of the One True Light, Jesus Christ.
Tomorrow morning we will continue with the next section of chapter One of Mark.
With Love and Hope in Christ,