Mitchells Presbyterian Church
Audio/Video Service January 31, 2021
4th Sunday after the Epiphany
“Sing to the Lord a new song”
Welcome and Announcements:
Welcome everyone to Mitchells Presbyterian Church on this January 31st , the last day of January and the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany! I’m Reverend Michael Clang, Covenant Pastor here at Mitchells and I am so glad that you all have tuned in to our YouTube channel to worship with us today. It’s my hope and prayer that the next 30 minutes will be a real blessing to you.
I hope that everyone has had a great week. I know that I was secretly hoping that we would have received more than just a dusting of snow at my house. It’s one of those love/hate relationships isn’t it? I hate the inconvenience it can cause, but I just love the beauty and that special quietness that comes with a nice snowfall. Oh well, maybe next week!
For the Mitchell’s congregation, more information will be in the upcoming newsletter but wanted to remind you of these two dates for upcoming Parking Lot gatherings. (1) Saturday February 27th at 11:00am for the Annual Meeting of the Congregation and (2) Sunday March 28th at 11:00am for our Palm Sunday Service.
United together as one, wherever we may be this day, let us now call ourselves to worship.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 111):
L: Come! Let us give thanks to the Lord with our whole heart.
P: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
L: Glory be to the One whose wonders are to be remembered.
P: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
L: The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
P: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
L: Come! Let us give thanks to God.
Hymn of Adoration: Maroon Hymnal #20 “It is Good to Sing Thy Praises” (v. 1&2)
1 It is good to sing your praises
And to thank you, O Most High,
Showing forth your loving-kindness
When the morning lights the sky.
It is good when night is falling
Of your faithfulness to tell,
While with sweet, melodious praises
Songs of adoration swell.
2 You have filled my heart with gladness
Through the works your hands have wrought;
You have made my life victorious;
Great your works and deep your thought.
You, O Lord, on high exalted,
Reign forevermore in might;
All your enemies shall perish, Sin
be banished from your sight.
Prayer of Confession:
Trusting in the promise of grace, let us pour out our hearts before God. Holy and all-powerful God, who commands all spirits, comforts those in distress, and casts out destructive forces, we confess that we are unable to do your will. We protect what is familiar and reject what is unknown. We admire those with courage but excuse ourselves when we falter from the truth. We forget that you are always with us, and that with you all things are possible. Forgive us, lead us, and make us new. (time of silent confession) Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Hear the good news: In Christ, you are a new creation! The old is gone and behold, the new has come. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen
Prayer for Illumination:
Spirit of life, God of love, open our hearts and enter in, that hearing your word of love, we may become your love for others. Amen.
Lessons: Deuteronomy 18:15-20 & Mark 1:21-28
Sermon: “A New Teaching”
“Let the words of my mouth . . . “
When I was a kid, sometime around the 3rd week of August, my mother, before she lost her eyesight, would load my sister and me in our wood paneled station wagon, that work horse of a vehicle before SUV’s were cool, and drive us into town to the local Five & Dime store for the annual ritual of gathering our school supplies.
We would shop all the aisles for the things on our list and then hurry home to lay everything out on the kitchen table to assemble it all together. I loved it! New notebook with tabbed dividers for each subject, clean paper, and that wonderful smelling plastic pouch filled with unsharpened #2 pencils; a red pearl eraser; small scissors, and a protractor.
By the end of the year, those pencils would be stubs, the eraser lost, and the wonderful plastic pouch would be stained and the zipper would no longer work, but at the start it looked and smelled like heaven; everything new and in order. I came to realize that these supplies were more than just new pencils and erasers but that they were a symbol or metaphor for “starting fresh” or “new beginnings”.
These feelings carried over with me into college and graduate school. The excitement and anticipation, sitting with a fresh spiral notebook, a sharpened pencil, and a new syllabus, ready to hear that first lecture because like a good inaugural address that inspires a nation and informs the people of a leader’s agenda, that inaugural lecture lays out the professor’s agenda or pedagogy for the rest of the semester.
How will they break down and challenge each of us to learn this new subject? It sets the tone for the semester but speaking to you current and retired educators, you all know that it’s different with each of you. Just like our Gospels. With different communities or “classrooms” being addressed, each of our four Gospel writers or teachers chose different events in Jesus’s life as their inaugural one to report. For Matthew, Jesus will be the definitive teacher, so his inaugural event was the Sermon on the Mount.
Luke’s compassionate Jesus will inaugurate his ministry with a mission statement about being the one to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed. John, whose Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, kicks off his ministry with the wedding at Cana where water is turned into not just any wine, but the best wine ever! Which leaves us with Mark.
Mark has moved us to this point quickly. In just 21 verses we have gone from Jesus’ baptism where we saw God tearing open the sky and breaking into our world; to the calling of his first disciples to “drop what was holding them back” and follow something new; to today’s confrontation experience at a synagogue in Capernaum where we get the first hint of what this “new thing” is going to be. It’s the Sabbath and Jesus and his disciples attend the synagogue where Jesus is asked to speak. Not to be confused with the temple in Jerusalem, the synagogue would be the place where the community would gather each sabbath for prayer, reading, and preaching or teaching.
Each community would have had a synagogue, and depending on the size of the community, maybe several. Generally, there was a “ruler” or “overseer” who monitored all the activities and this person would have the authority to call on anyone to read or to preach so the fact that Jesus was asked to speak was not that unusual.
We read that after he spoke, those in attendance were “astounded at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes”. Mark is obviously poking at the credentialed Jewish legal experts, the scribes, who did most of the teaching or preaching. This did not instigate a full-fledged fight, but it issues a challenge that we will see played out later in this Gospel. But beyond picking a fight, Mark is giving us an insight into Jesus’ pedagogy. Apparently, his teaching style is more declarative than deliberative. That is, he interprets the law and speaks on behalf of God without engaging in much dialogue about traditions or quoting experts to bolster his arguments as the scribes were known to do.
I imagine a Jesus whose words carry the vitality and authenticity of direct connection to the source: one who doesn’t just dispense content but tells the story he’s lived, who speaks not of what he’s heard but of what he knows. In doing so, he upset the proverbial apple cart, overturning it would seem, their understanding of the things of God.
When I entered seminary there was this saying among students “that seminary would take Jesus away from you on your first day and give him back to you when you graduated”. At first, I wondered if this meant that we would not be studying Jesus at all. No. I came to quickly came to understand it to mean that the veil was going to be pulled back on my limited understanding of the things of God.
Growing up, our family rarely missed Sunday school or worship. I was a mainstay in our youth group and as I have shared with you all, I was fortunate to have a mother and youth group mentor who really ignited in me a love of the Bible. And though we were using the same Bible, it seemed that in class after seminary class, I was being reintroduced to these amazing Bible characters that I thought I knew. These were not the same two-dimensional characters that I remembered.
I was being reintroduced to flesh and blood people, warts, and all, who had previously been caricatures at best. Scripture was becoming alive for me and I was hooked on this living story, this “new teaching with authority”. That is the Jesus that was handed back to me when I graduated. I wonder if this was what those in the synagogue in Capernaum felt? Are Jesus’ words about God so active, so alive, so compelling that they capture the attention and the imagination of all who hear? Do they hear the same old thing in a new a vibrant voice? Do the law and the prophets seem real and alive as they never have before? Is that what got the attention of the unclean spirit who cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth”?
The language of “unclean spirits” is foreign to us. Until, that is, you start thinking about the unclean spirits of our age. A social media driven obsession with our own ideas, thoughts, and appearance; the disavowal, or at least devaluing, of truth in lieu of conspiracy theories as dangerous as some are ridiculous; the increased devotion to the “unholy trinity” of me, myself, and I that measures all things in terms of how it affects me and only me rather than the broader community.
Yes, we may be uncomfortable with the notion of an “unclean spirit” and yet they are everywhere. Theologian Walter Wink said the following in his 1992 book “Engaging the Powers”. “Our society is possessed, Christians as much as anyone by violence, by sex, by money, and by drugs. We need to recover forms of collective exorcism as effective as was the early Christians baptism’s renunciation of “the devil and all his works.””
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth”? the unclean spirit asks to which Jesus says, “Be silent and come out of him”!
Mark wants us to know that in this inaugural moment of his ministry, that Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God, is ready to do battle and oppose all the forces that keep us, the children of God, from the abundant life God desires for us. He wants us to see that Jesus is the one uniquely authorized, commissioned, or empowered to declare and institute the reign of God. And through him, we glimpse the characteristics of this reign. It is intrusive, breaking old boundaries that benefitted another kind of rule, upsetting apple carts of old traditions, and liberating people from the powers that afflict them and keep all of Gods amazing creation, human and animal alike from flourishing.
Last week, Jesus invited his new disciples to drop their nets and become “fishers of men”. Scholar Chad Myers has suggested that when Jesus used that phrase that it was a Hebrew Prophet euphemism for ‘judgement upon the rich’ or we might say ‘judgement on the dominating powers’. He notes, “Taking this mandate for his own, Jesus is inviting common folk to join him in his struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege . . . and the first step in dismantling the dominant social order is to overturn the ‘world’ of the disciple . . . “ 1
1 Chad Myers “Binding the Strong Man”, p132.
Those disciples got their first glimpse of this upside-down world turning event today at the synagogue in Capernaum. They are joining Jesus in a cosmic battle that will put them at odds with the society at large, and as we know, will ultimately lead to the cross.
What about us? Having heard this first lecture are we ready to journey with Jesus? Are we ready to go up against the dominate voices in our society; those voices that work to enslave instead of liberate? Are we ready to work for wholeness and completeness for all of God’s creation?
We have our supplies and we have Mark’s syllabus before us. May it be so. Thanks be to God!
Affirmation of Faith (Statement of Faith from the United Church of Canada):
As our response to the scriptures being read and proclaimed, let us affirm together what we believe by reciting together our Statement of Faith: We are not alone; we live in God’s world. We believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Call for Offering:
“From the fullness of God, we have all received grace upon grace.”
Thank you everyone for continuing to send in your tithes and offerings to the church office. For the offerings that we have received this week, let us pray:
Prayer of Dedication:
O God, bless these gifts that we have given as expressions of our love for you and our neighbors, that they may bring closer to fulfillment your reign of peace and love; through Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer (with Lord’s Prayer):
The Psalmist says, “Be Still and Know that I am God” so as we come to this time of prayer, let us start with 30 seconds of silence to calm our busy minds and open our hearts to the presence of the living God who fills us and completes us and makes us whole. I invite you to take some nice slow breaths in and out; breathing in calm and letting go of anything that is troubling you. Let’s breathe [go 30 seconds]:
God of all goodness, we live in times of stress and controversy, injustice and cruelty. At times we cry to you for rescue and remember that we have leaned on you since our birth as we pray, O God of all creation, be our hope and trust.
We pray for leaders and nations around the world, that they may seek justice and peace, O God of creation, be our hope and trust.
We pray for your church in all its forms, that we may be the love you want, O God of all creation, be our hope and trust.
We pray for victims of domestic violence and victims of war; grant your healing and give your peace. O God of all creation, be our hope and trust.
We pray for those who are ill or suffering, and for those facing the effects of COVID, that they may feel the comfort of your love. O God of all creation, be our hope and trust.
We pray for your creation, that the health of the earth may be restored. O God of all creation, be our hope and trust.
We pray for all of those on our prayer list and for those on our hearts and minds today [silent prayer]. O God of all creation, be our hope and trust.
God our Wisdom, enable us to be humble and kind in all things. Remind us that, whatever the issue, today we know only in part. And even now faith, hope, and love abide; and the greatest of these is love. Help us to be, like you, Love; through Jesus Christ who taught us to pray saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Hymn of Dedication: Maroon Hymnal #349 “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” (Verses 1&3)
1 Stand up, stand up for Jesus
ye soldiers of the cross;
lift high his royal banner,
it must not suffer loss:
from vict’ry unto vict’ry
his army he shall lead,
‘til ev’ry foe is vanquished,
and Christ is Lord indeed.
3 Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
stand in his strength alone;
the arm of flesh will fail you,
ye dare not trust your own:
put on the gospel armor,
each piece put on with pray’r;
where duty calls, or danger,
be never wanting there.
Mark has set the tone with Jesus’ inaugural address. We are in a cosmic battle against those forces that look to deny us peace, wholeness, completeness . . . God’s Shalom.
Jesus is inviting us to come along on this journey. Are we ready?
You all are amazing and so loved! Have a great week! Here is your virtual hug .
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord be kind and gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace.
God’s Shalom! Today and every day! Amen.