AD SENSE

4 Sunday B: Authority and Zeal for the Mission

Fr. Tony Kadavil: 

1: Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?

Jesus' world was a demon-haunted world. Men and women in the ancient world believed in demons. Demons for them were intensely real. The first century world was one of pain and suffering. There was no relief from pain. It was a world of natural disasters that took a heavy toll on life. Disease, even the slightest illness, could be fatal. There was a high rate of infant mortality. Life expectancy was in the middle forties. Because they had no idea of the causes of natural disaster, calamity, or disease, the people associated them with demons. It is difficult for our modern world to realize the power and influence that demons had upon first century human life. But when it comes to evil and demons, is there that much difference between the first and twenty-first centuries? We cannot dismiss evil as a first century phenomenon. It operates as an active force in our world as well as in our souls. In one lifetime we have witnessed the Holocaust of World War II, the Jewish holocaust, genocide in Cambodia, Jonestown, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, child abuse in America, Branch Davidians, the bombings at New York's Twin Towers and Oklahoma City. Boko Haram and ISIS atrocities. Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit? 


2: Show him yer papers!

"There is an old story about some linemen who were busy putting up telephone poles through a farmer's fields. The farmer ordered them off his land, whereupon they showed him a paper giving them the right to plant poles wherever they pleased. Not long afterward a big and vicious bull charged the linemen. The old farmer sat on a nearby fence and yelled: 'Show him yer papers, darn ye, show him yer papers!'" To many Christians, Jesus' authority is only a paper authority. His word is something we study for inspiration, but we really don't believe that what Jesus teaches applies to our situation. For many of us, Jesus' authority doesn't extend to putting a marriage or a family back together. It doesn't mean curing an addiction or healing a character flaw. Maybe 2,000 years ago he had authority, but not today. 

3: Athletes proclaiming the authority of God.

Athletes with religious convictions are nothing new.  In 1954, the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded "to present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church." In a visit to the FCA's extensive Web Site, many familiar names pop up: Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Cris Carter, Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, University of Washington quarterback Brock Huard and Heisman-trophy-winner Charlie Ward. New Orleans Saints quarterback Danny Wuerffel is an active member of the FCA and a contributing writer to the FCA's monthly publication, Sharing the Victory. Wuerffel has said: “I am a Christian who happens to be an athlete, and not vice-versa." Courtney Chase declares, "For Christian athletes religion is part of the game." “Muscular Christianity" has been around since baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday loudly refuted the idea that Jesus was a weakling, a man of sorrows, a loser. The football stadium at Notre Dame is situated next to a huge library mural known as "Touchdown Jesus." It was big national news when Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders Sunday gave God all glory for the victories of his after the Cowboys' 37-7 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Professional athletes are getting saved, and sports writers are getting annoyed! There can be no doubt that the number of athletes publicly testifying to their faith has drastically increased in the last few years. When the Yankees won the 1996 World Series, for example, The New York Times quoted the team's born-again star receiver, John Wetteland, saying, "Jesus Christ is my point man." Increasingly, the athletes are attributing their victories to God. Such testimonies -- along with the Bible study sessions, chapel services pre-game and post-game group prayer -- have all become an accepted part of the game today, bearing testimony to the authority of God in all spheres of human activities. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus demonstrates this Divine power and authority in his teaching and healing ministry.

 4: The en vogue theory:

During a discussion of William Shakespeare, a student asked the old professor about the en vogue theory that Shakespeare did not write the plays ascribed to him. The professor growled, "Young man, if Shakespeare did not write those plays, then they were written by someone who lived at the same time and had the same name!" It is a sure sign of desperation in the atheistic circles to speak of Jesus as a myth - the idea that Jesus did not even exist, much less conduct a ministry with Divine power and Divine authority as described in today’s Gospel. 

5. God sends His prophets all the time:

For example, when Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed the freedom of all the slaves in the United States, his was the voice of a prophet. When Lincoln’s contemporary, Susan B. Anthony pioneered the suffrage movement that eventually led to the passage of the 19th Amendment (1920) and gave women the right to vote, hers was the voice of a prophet. When Pope Leo XIII delivered his encyclical entitled On the Condition of the Working Man and called upon Christians to attend to unjust labor laws and practices, his was the voice of a prophet. Similarly, when Cardinal Leo-Josef Suenens of Belgium stood up at the end of the first session of Vatican II and urged the council to examine not only the mystery of the Church in itself but also the Church’s relationship to and responsibility for the world at large, his was the voice of a prophet. Rachel Carson’s book entitled Silent Spring (1962) was prophetic in that it summoned the world to an awareness of the dangers of environmental pollution. When Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu drew the world’s attention to the dangers and injustices of apartheid, his was the voice of a prophet as were so many others in this century alone, e.g., Dorothy Day, St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Teilhard de Chardin, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino and the Latin American Bishops who raised their voices first at Medellin, Colombia (1968) and then at Puebla, Mexico (1979) to affirm the Church as “an instrument of liberation, an agent of social justice and a defender of the poor and the oppressed.” These prophets tried to bring the reality of the sacred into every sphere of the human experience.  In today’s liturgical readings, we are called upon to allow the prophetic messages of Moses, Paul, Mark and Jesus to penetrate our consciences and claim them for God. Moreover, we are challenged to continue to listen to the prophets among us, and to exercise the ministry of prophecy for our contemporaries in our words, works and manner of living. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez).
 
6: Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?

Jesus' world was a demon-haunted world. Men and women in the ancient world believed in demons. Demons for them were intensely real. The first century world was one of pain and suffering. There was no relief from pain. It was a world of natural disasters that took a heavy toll on life. Disease, even the slightest illness, could be fatal. There was a high rate of infant mortality. Life expectancy was in the middle forties. Because they had no idea of the causes of natural disaster, calamity, or disease, the people associated them with demons. It is difficult for our modern world to realize the power and influence that demons had upon first century human life. But when it comes to evil and demons, is there that much difference between the first and twenty-first centuries? We cannot dismiss evil as a first century phenomenon. It operates as an active force in our world as well as in our souls. In one lifetime we have witnessed the Holocaust of World War II, the Jewish holocaust, genocide in Cambodia and in Jonestown, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, child abuse in America, Branch Davidians, the bombings at New York's Twin Towers and Oklahoma City. Boko Haram and ISIS atrocities. Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?
7: Jesus taught and acted with authority:
Kenneth L. Woodward, writing in Newsweek magazine, gives us a glimpse of what Christ's coming meant to the world. He writes, "Whether we like it or not, Christ's life radically changed human culture throughout the world . . . Before Jesus came, the world was ruled by the 'might makes right' theory. But Jesus' teaching about humility and turning the other cheek redefined our views of human character, of war, of masculinity. Jesus' commitment to the poor, to women and children opened the way for civil rights and equality for women. Marriages became more equitable. Also, it was a common practice in Roman families to kill female babies. Sociologist Rodney Stark notes that evidence exists that among at least 600 ancient Roman families, less than a dozen had more than one daughter. But Christians valued the life of all people, whether male or female, and prohibited the killing of any children." (“2000 Years of Jesus," March 29, 1999, p. 55.). But the revolution is not complete. We still live in a pre-Christian world. There is still too much hatred, too much violence, too much debasement of human dignity. If you are comfortable in Jesus' presence, you simply do not see him as he really is.
8. Authority to forgive sins:
A dirty and drunken wino who was passing a Catholic Church one day, noticed a sign on the door that said:  "Confessions Being Heard."    Since he had not been to confession for a long time, he staggered into the church, knelt down in the confessional and began to confess his sins.  Unfortunately, his breath was so foul that the priest who was hearing confessions couldn't stand it and decided to cut things short.  "Look," he said to the wino.  "Have you murdered anybody lately?" "Nope," the wino replied. "O.K. then," the priest told him.  "I am going to say the prayer of absolution.”  Slightly puzzled, the wino staggered out of the confessional and as he was walking down the steps of the church steps, saw a fellow wino who was going into the church.  "You going to confession?"  The first wino asked. "Yep," said the second wino. "Don't waste your time," the first wino said.  "He ain't hearing nothing today except murder cases."

9. Whose authority? Jesus’ or your denomination’s?

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off.  So I ran over and said, "Stop!  Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. "Well, there's so much to live for." "Like what?" "Well, are you religious?" "Yes." "Me too!  Are you Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist?" "Christian." "Me, too!  Are you Catholic or Protestant?" "Protestant." "Me, too!  Are you Episcopalian or Baptist? ”Baptist." "Wow, me, too!  Are you Church of God or Church of the Christ?" "Church of God!" "Me, too!  Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" "Reformed Baptist Church of God!""Me, too!  Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic," and pushed him off. 

10. You may have heard about the preacher who asked one elderly lady how it was with her soul. "Oh," she replied, "the old devil has been giving me a rough time." Immediately her husband protested. "Now hold on," he said, "she's not too easy to live with herself."

11. The new nurse asked the psychiatric doctor, "Is that man really sick?" "He surely is," answered the doctor gravely. "I don't know of a more serious set of complications. For forty years he has suffered agonies from imaginitis, scarecoma, apprehendicitis, and general fearosis of living!"
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Fr. Jude Botelho:

Dear Friend,

Though most people do not like to be ordered about or told what to do, yet people listen to persons who speak with authority. Of course, people who flaunt their authority are often challenged, but people who exercise quiet authority are listened to. Sometimes authority comes from experience, for others authority comes from within, for still others it comes from who they are and how they live their lives. The prophets of old and the prophetic voices among us derived their authority from God.
Have a discerning weekend recognizing the prophetic presence of God in our midst!

 

In the earlier part of Deuteronomy Israel was warned about using all kinds of soothsayers and magical techniques to find out the will of God. The divine will was to be made known only through the prophets. Prophesy was to be Israel's special means of communication with God, Yahweh's special gift to his people. The people asked to be spared the ordeal of hearing the voice of God directly. They asked Moses to intercede with God to let His prophets speak on his behalf. Yahweh granted this request and the prophet became a mediator for the people. In the first reading Moses foretells the coming of a prophet who will speak about God's word to the people. Deuteronomy presents Moses himself as the ideal prophet. The prophet can never speak on his own authority, but speaks on behalf of God. The Jews believed that God would raise up in the last days a prophet like Moses.

Commonplace Prophets
An Amos walks the beaten paths of Tekoa, but he hears a divine voice which no other vine dresser in Tekoa ever caught; a Bunyan tramps about England mending pots and pans, but above the din of this lowly task he catches voices that presently are to reverberate immortally through Pilgrim's Progress; a Lincoln steers his awkward raft down the Mississippi and ties up near a slave-auction block. But out of his rough routine labour a voice sounds which no other raftsman ever heard; a Riis tramps the round of a New York reporter in search of news, and out of the ugly tenements through which his duties carry him catches a challenge from the God of social justice which makes him a veritable prophet; and a lad of Galilee at a common carpenter's bench, shaping the same yokes of wood for the necks of cattle which countless other carpenters have shaped, dreams his way into a vision of the coming kingdom of God, when man shall wear the spiritual yoke which he shall shape for them as easily and as gratefully as these toiling bearers of burdens shall wear the wooden yokes which he is now making. In every case the majesty of the commonplace lies not so much in the task itself as in the spirit which the great soul brings to the task.
Frank S. Hickman in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

 In the second reading Paul is advocating the unmarried state, namely celibacy as an ideal way of life for those looking for an opportunity for contemplation and the apostolate. Paul's contention is that the person who decides to offer himself to the Lord's service should give his undivided attention to the Lord and not be preoccupied with family matters, and that anything that distracts his attention from the Lord should be shunned by him. Paul believed that the duty of providing for a family clashed with one dedicating oneself fully to the Lord. This teaching of Paul may have also been influenced by his belief in the immediate second coming of Jesus. The time was short and one should not be sidetracked by worldly matters. Paul's teaching still holds good for all who wish to make the kingdom the top most priority of their lives.

Freedom to serve
During the early days of the nineteenth century a wealthy plantation owner was attracted by the heartbreaking sobs of a slave girl who was about to step up to the auction block to be sold. Moved by a momentary impulse of compassion, he bought her at a very high price and then disappeared in the crowd. When the auction was over, the clerk came to the sobbing girl and handed her the bill of sale. To her astonishment, the plantation owner had written 'Free' over the paper that should have delivered her to him as his possession. She stood speechless, as one by one the other slaves were claimed by their owners and dragged away. Suddenly, she threw herself at the feet of the clerk and exclaimed: "Where is the man who bought me? I must find him! He has set me free! I must serve him as long as I live!"
Anthony Castle in 'More Quotes and Anecdotes'

 In the gospel we are told that Jesus in order to get his message across to the people, used the opportunity provided by the synagogue to address the people. Normally any member of the synagogue or an important visitor was given the opportunity to speak to the people. Jesus used this opportunity given to him. Jesus' words carried great authority with the ordinary people, because his words had a ring of truth. His teaching was given with authority and confirmed with miracles, the sign that God was with him. In today's gospel we see how Jesus spoke with authority, and how ordinary people recognized this. His teaching made a deep impression on the people. His authority, unlike the scribes did not come from an external source, like the quotations used by the scribes, but from within. His authority was not second-hand, what others had said but from his own experience. He had experienced what he was talking about. He did not have any official position but he spoke the truth and truth does not need external support. The scribes always quoted the official position and their authority was buttressed by the opinions of great legal masters of the past. Jesus quoted no one; he spoke for himself, with his own authority. There are certain human beings who possess an unaccountable spiritual superiority. This gives them enormous moral authority. They have this authority, not by virtue of an office they hold, but by virtue of the kind of persons they are. Jesus possessed this kind of authority. Jesus also revealed the kind of authority he had when he was interrupted in his teaching by a poor demented person. "Do not meddle with us, Leave us alone. Have you come to destroy us?" The possessed person thus testifies to the power that Jesus had over the power of the evil one. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit sharply. "Be quiet! Come out of him!" And the unclean spirit was forced to leave the possessed man and went out with a loud cry. The people were astounded at the power of Jesus and remarked: "Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it; he gives orders even to the unclean spirits and they obey him."

Speaking with Authority
Antiochus Ephiphanes, King of Syria, had a great interest in Egypt. He amassed an army and invaded that country in 168 B.C. To his deep humiliation the Romans ordered his home. They did not send an army to oppose him; such was the might of Rome that they did not need to. They sent a senator called Popilius Laena with a small and quite unarmed suite. Popilius and Antiochus met on the boundaries of Egypt. They talked; they both knew Rome and they had been friendly. Then very gently Popilius told Antiochus that Rome did not wish him to proceed with the campaign and wished him to go home. Antiochus said he would consider it. Popilius took the staff he was carrying and drew a circle in the sand round about Antiochus. Quietly he said, "Consider it now; you will give me your decision before you leave that circle." Antiochus thought for a moment and realized that to defy Rome was impossible. "I will go home," he said. It was a shattering humiliation for a king. But that was the power and the authority of the Roman Caesars. - In today's gospel we hear of another man who exercised authority; not the authority of brute power that subjugated people, but the power that comes from God. His authority was different from anyone else. His authority was divine.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

"Jesus spends the Sabbath at Capernaum with his first disciples. There he manifests his extraordinary authority, both by his teaching and by the healing of possessed and sick people. Thus from the beginning of his ministry his fame spreads throughout Galilee, this region which, after the first Easter, will become the place of universal mission. For the present, Jesus goes to the synagogue and teaches there. After the catechesis of the law given by a scribe, no doubt Jesus would have given the homily, as at Nazareth. He arouses the astonished admiration of his audience. Unlike the scribes, who were anxious above all to explain the letter of the text on the basis of commentaries received from their teachers, Jesus expresses himself like someone who knows what he is talking about, and is not satisfied to repeat what others have taught him. Referring to no one but himself, he appears to be free with regard to the law which he interprets with authority. The healing of a possessed man, who interrupts Jesus with his cries, confirms the power which the Holy One of God disposes of. It can only provoke the question: Who is this man? Let us recognize our difficulty with such an account. Today, medicine and depth psychology relegate to a purely pathological level what antiquity attributed to the supernatural world. 'Schizophrenia' is what we think of when confronted with this so-called demoniac, an explanation which may not explain anything at all. Why should Satan not sometimes act by means of the split in a psychotic personality? Let us not fall into the trap of the new conformity and look only to the human sciences and the philosophies of surmise! It is in order to liberate us from received ideas and reactions that Jesus comes, now as in the past, to speak to us with authority." -Glenstal Bible Missal

Speaking with Authority
In one of its issues Newsweek addressed in depth the Women's Liberation Movement. It observed that once the revolution was declared, the nation was flooded with books on the subject. Some books, like those written by Nancy Woloch and Phyllis Schlafly, were serious studies of the significance of the movement. Other books, like those authored by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, were more strident and dogmatic. The latter illustrate what often happens in a movement - self-styled prophets emerge who presume to speak with full authority. And so we have had such figures as Hugh Hefner as the spokesman for the Playboy Philosophy, guru Timothy Leary for the LSD cult and the militant Malcolm X for the Black Power movement. History shows that many of these movements die out and that their prophets fade away. But there is one movement that endures, one prophet who lives forever. The movement is Christianity and the prophet is Jesus Christ.
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

Authority is a strange thing!
Authority is a strange thing. A fourteen year-old boy argues about the curfew imposed by his parents. Then the next day in the freshman baseball game, he dutifully lays down a good bunt, forgoing a mighty swing at the fence, because the coach flashed a signal from the bench. Instant obedience to the coach; reluctant submission to mum and dad! On an airliner the captain flashes the seat-belt sign and everybody complies. Four hours later in a rented car, the passenger disregards the seat belt. The irony: for the same distance travelled, the airliner is three times safer.
Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for all Seasons'


May we discover in the word of God the power and authority of Jesus Christ!

4.     Sermons.com 

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.
I believe that this illustrates perfectly what is going on in the world today. You could show the terrible ravaging effects of AIDS and people will have promiscuous sex anyway. You can show someone a diseased liver and cancerous lungs and people are going to abuse alcohol and smoke regardless of the facts.

You know what I wish? I wish someone would just climb to the top of the tower and push off a ten-pound argument and a one-pound argument and let's just see if they reach the ground first. That would finally prove who is right and who is wrong. But then I am reminded that when Galileo did that no one believed him. Even with the authority of obvious visible proof, i.e. the two weights reached the ground at the same time, the professors did not believe. The problem here is obvious. Most people are going to believe what they have always believed regardless of the facts.
But something different occurred in the life of Jesus. Something persuasive... 

There are two things we absolutely crave in our lives: predictability and spontaneity. 

We crave the comfort of predictability. We work long and hard to grow life in a steady job, a certain career, a consistent source of income.  We earn degrees, save money, buy insurance, invest for retirement. We have a home, a family, a schedule, which gives structure and meaning to our days and nights. We build our lives on the secure foundation of predictability.  

But conversely, we also crave spontaneity. We hunger for those unexpected moments that bring uncontained joy and unconstrained excitement to our day-to-day existence. We ache to be astonished and amazed. That is why God made ESPN. 

There is nothing like the unscripted, uncut, unpredictable moment-to-moment excitement of a live sporting event - whether it is football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis, golf, bowling or curling. That adrenalin anticipation is why no one will be staying for "coffee hour" today. We are running home to watch the Super Bowl.  

That is not such a bad thing, really. The Super Bowl brings family and friends together. It lets us eat lots of good-tasting, bad-for-you food. It is just plain fun. And as a sporting event it has absolutely no predictable outcome. Your team might win big, or your team might lose by a whisker. Bad calls, nasty weather, one momentary misstep can change everything. Even though the game is ordered by rules and stopwatches, guarded by referees and instant replays, it is still an anything-can-happen event.  

Life is unfair and unpredictable. We try to tame life's uncertainties with long-range plans and short-term check-lists. But it's the very uncertainty of life that makes every day such fun and so frightening. It is the reason why faith drives us to utter dependence upon God's promises, provisions and providence... 
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 The Authority of Jesus 

The church in the world is a lot like the story that E. Stanley Jones tells of the missionary in the jungle. He got lost with nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He finally found a small village and asked one of the natives if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. "All right," the missionary said, "Show me the way." They walked for hours through dense brush hacking their way through unmarked jungle. The missionary began to worry and said, "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?" The native said. "Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path." 

Our path out of the jungle of this world is God in Christ. We may have some Rabbis, Masters, Father's, Teachers, and Reverends but we are all like the missionary. We rely not upon men but Christ who is our path. 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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Don't Forget Your Dance Partner! 

C.S. Lewis once penned some thoughts on worship, particularly in the face of liturgical innovators in England who seemed to think that every worship service needed to be a kind of variety show with each week being different from the week prior. Lewis had no truck with that kind of thinking. Worship, Lewis wrote, should be a bit like dancing. Once you have learned how to dance and have become good at it, you are able to immerse yourself in the dance and just do it almost without thinking about it. But if you must constantly look down at your feet, if you have to think about each movement before you actually make it, then you can't dance yet but are just learning how to dance. 

Worship is like that, Lewis thought. A believer should be able to move through the liturgy without having to check his every movement first. An ideal service would be one you hardly notice in the sense of your simply being immersed and caught up in a set of actions and a series of thoughts that are fully a part of you already. Overall, Lewis makes a good point. Still, I would throw in a cautionary note to his analogy: worship may be like a dance that you are so good at you can just do it freely and flowingly, but we dare never forget who our dance partner is!

Scott Hoezee, Center for Excellence in Preaching
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Help in Facing Our Fears 

Leslie Weatherhead once told a parable of a little boy who fled from a witch who had turned herself into a cat. As the boy ran, he kept glancing fearfully over his shoulder. The first time he looked back, the cat was the size of a calf. The next time he looked, it had grown to the dimensions of an elephant. Then the boy fell, and was unable to go farther. Resolutely he got up and faced the pursuing horror. It stopped. So he took a step toward it. It backed away. As he continued to advance toward it, it began to shrink in size as it retreated from him. Finally it changed into a mouse and ran under the door of the witch's cottage to be seen no more. 

The moral is clear: it pays to face up to your fears. But sometimes that is hard to do. That is when we need to turn to Christ. He can help us stand up to our fears and conquer them. He can cast out demons.
Adapted from Leslie Weatherhead.
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 Christ Has Come to Free Us 

That man with an unclean spirit understands who Jesus is better than anyone else in the room. He is on the margins of society and the margins of sanity, but he knows exactly who Jesus is. Remember that the disciples don't figure it out until Chapter 8, when Peter says, "You are the messiah, the one sent by God." This man of unclean spirit is way ahead of everyone, and he wants to know, "What are you going to do with people like me? Are you going to destroy us?" 

"Be silent and come out of him!" And then the man convulses and cries out loudly and the unclean spirit leaves him. I still have no idea what an unclean spirit is, but I am impressed. Mark still hasn't told us a thing about what Jesus taught, but he has showed us that Jesus had a power over things that people label as unclean. Mark is making this point: that the will and purpose of God present in Jesus is engaging and fighting against the purposes of evil that exist among humanity. This battle is not fought just at the highest levels of government or industry, but right in the midst of common folk like us. The battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong, life versus death happens amidst the people who are gathered for worship. Christ has come to shatter the domineering designs that shackle people to lower standards for life than God intends. Christ has come to free us from the demons like prejudice and pride, greed and guile. Christ is among us, whenever we gather in church, to demonstrate a power among us. If we devote ourselves to anything less than a divinely directed destiny, we have missed the goal of faith. 

Todd Weir, What Will You Do with Us, Jesus?
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 Authority without Relationship 

A young second lieutenant at Fort Bragg discovered that he had no change when he was about to buy a soft drink from a vending machine. He flagged down a passing private and asked him, "Do you have change for a dollar?" The private said cheerfully, "I think so, let me take a look." The lieutenant drew himself up stiffly and said, "Soldier, that is no way to address an officer. We'll start all over again. Do you have change for a dollar?" The private came to attention, saluted smartly, and said, "No, sir!" 

James W. Hewitt, Illustrations Unlimited, p. 42.
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 My Best Demons
 
Kathleen Norris writes, "When I think of the demons I need to exorcise, I have to look inward, to my heart and soul. Anger is my best demon, useful whenever I have to go into a Woman Warrior mode, harmful when I use it to gratify myself, either in self-justification, or to deny my fears. My husband, who has a much sweeter nature than I, once told me that my mean streak grieved him, not just because of the pain it cause him but because it was doing me harm. His remark, as wise as that of any desert Abba, felt like an exorcism. Not that my temptation to anger was magically gone, but I was called to pay closer attention to something that badly needed attention, and that was hurting our marriage. It confirmed my understanding of marriage as a holy act: one can no more hide one's true faults from a spouse than from God, and in exorcising the demon of anger, that which could kill is converted, transformed into that which can heal." 

What are your best demons? To name them for what they are and how they bring suffering, is half the battle. 

Kathleen Norris
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 What an Understatement! 

Now comes the understatement. The people in the congregation, having witnessed a scene to rival anything in The Exorcist, look around at each other and say, "What is this? ... A new teaching!" 

A new teaching? If this had happened in any congregation I know, they may have sat for hours in stupefied silence, they may have rushed to the altar in sudden repentance, or they may have jumped out of the church windows in terror, but the last thing they would have done was to comment on how this casting out of a demon constituted an innovation in Christian education. A new teaching? Indeed.

To call such an extraordinary event of the casting out of a demon a new teaching, well, I think that constitutes understatement for most of us because our ordinary experiences of teaching are so dull. So much of our teaching and learning involves stuff that is on the periphery of our lives. We may need to know it, but it doesn't exactly hit the core of us, the things which most centrally define us as persons. It doesn't move us, change us, make us new persons. 

Christ's teaching, on the other hand, transform us. Just ask the demon-possessed man, ask the apostle Paul, ask Martin Luther, ask John Wesley. You could describe this as a new teaching but better yet describe it as God with us. For if God is with us, that changes everything.

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com. Adapted from an unknown source.
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What's The Other Reason? 

A few years ago a teacher noticed one of her students, a shy young girl, was having trouble working out her arithmetic assignment. The teacher went to the child quietly and asked if she could help with any questions knowing the girl was timid about asking for help. 

When the problem was sorted out the little girl thanked the teacher. The teacher told the little girl not to be shy about asking questions, "That's one of the reasons I am here." 

The little girl thought about that for a moment and asked quietly, "What's the other reason?" 

Unknown
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 The Church Dare Not Have an Influence 

In his penetrating book The First Circle, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Russian author who defected to America, makes an interesting observation about how the Russian authorities handle the church. He writes: "No one stops them from ringing their bells; they can break communion bread anyway they please. They can have their processions with the cross. But they will in no way allow them to have any connection with social or civic affairs." The church was allowed to go through the motions; it could have a presence, but it dare not have an influence.

What bothered the scribes was not that Jesus prayed and preached. It was the fact that his prayers and his sermons were moving the people to action. I wonder if the church still has that concept of authority. So often our problem is not that we do not have authority, it is that we do not use the authority that we have...

6. Sermons Illustrations:

These illustrations are well known but here it is for the record:
In U.S. Navel Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch illustrates the importance of obeying the Laws of the Lighthouse. Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
The lookout replied, "Steady, Captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: 'We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the signal, "Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees."
The captain said, "Send: "I'm a captain, change course twenty degrees.'"
"I'm a seaman second-class," came the reply. "You had better change course twenty degrees."
By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send: 'I'm a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course.
Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 153.



When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
"Excuse me," Governor Herter said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?"
"Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person."
"But I'm starved," the governor said.
"Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around.
"Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state."
"Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."
Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 5-6.



For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right. 
Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 22-23.



Amy Carter brought an assignment home one Friday night while her father was still President. Stumped by a question on the Industrial Revolution, Amy sought help from her mother. Rosalynn was also fogged by the question and, in turn, asked an aide to seek clarification from the Labor Department. A "rush" was placed on the request since the assignment was due Monday. Thinking the question was a serious request from the Prez himself, a Labor Department official immediately cranked up the government computer and kept a full team of technicians and programmers working overtime all weekend...at a reported cost of several hundred thousand dollars. The massive computer printout was finally delivered by truck to the White House on Sunday afternoon and Amy showed up in class with the official answer the following day. But her history teacher was not impressed. When Amy's paper was returned, it was marked with a big red "C." 
Campus Life, May, 1981  p. 59.