Deuteronomy 18:15-20 † Psalm 111 † 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 † Mark 1:21-28
A video form of this meditation can be found here.
We know the old adage about first impressions and how deeply they imprint an expectation. Such is the case here, I suspect. This is, after all, the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry—the first impression. It is his inaugural act on the heels of assembling his leadership team.
Inaugurations say a lot, I suspect, about our leaders. And each of the gospels underline something a little different about Jesus. Matthew begins with the Sermon on the Mount, presenting us with a version of Jesus who is a definitive teacher. Luke offers a vision statement of social renewal—Jesus as the one to bring good news to the poor. John skips the ceremony and goes straight to the wedding party at Cana and a sudden abundance of good wine to show us a savior who came for life abundant.
Mark’s Jesus is a little like Marshawn Lynch was back in the day, I suppose—he’s all about that action, boss. He leaps into the fray. He starts where we are today, in the synagogue—at church, if you like—with a new teaching, with authority. But it isn’t just about words, certainly not empty words, not words alone. These words evoke something big. They have power. They change everything.
You know. It’s pretty standard stuff when it comes to what we’ve come to expect in worship, I suppose. A teaching that leads to a loud encounter with an unclean spirit. Screaming. Convulsions. Pews flying. An exorcism. You know Tuesday, or, I guess, Sunday, as it were.
Ezekiel 33:7-11 † Psalm 119:33-40 † Romans 13:8-14 † Matthew 18:15-20
You can find a video copy of this sermon in the context of worship here.
Daniel Kirk, has given his expertise to studying early Christianity, particularly as it is represented by the apostle Paul. Kirk attends two churches on Sundays: a traditional Reformed Church in America and a house church—well, he did before the pandemic. Kirk has shifted his definition of church from what we do to who we are together. “Church is the people I’m trying to follow Jesus with and the people who are following Jesus with me. It’s the intentional community of people who walk in self-giving love for each other while trusting themselves to the care of God.”[i]
I am especially struck and convicted by that last phrase--trusting themselves to the care of God. Richard Rohr gets at this when he suggests Jesus praised faith even more than love.
Now, both are pretty important, it seems. Especially in these polarized times. I remember visiting Cuba some years ago. We traveled on a religious visa with the Presbyterian church and spent much of our time with the First Presbyterian Church Havana community.
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 † Psalm 32 † Romans 5:12-19 † Matthew 4:1-11
Is sin a virus? Does it spread with contact or exposure from one person to the next to the next? Is it transmitted communally, somehow?
Perhaps it is the attention that we’re giving to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus outbreak creating growing concern throughout the world, that has me thinking about this connection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that while the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low for the general public in the United States, "current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic" and that more cases in the US will be identified.
The story is changing rapidly, as you surely know. I want you to know we are paying close attention, and thinking about how best to respond appropriately and reasonably to the most reliable and current information. And we trust that you are educating yourself, and considering how to respond according to your needs and resources—staying home if you have a fever, keeping yourself from potential transmission if your health is already compromised, practicing good hygiene.
For now, though, listen again to the beginning of the Romans reading:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.
Sin sure sounds like its gone viral as we pick up the writer’s metaphor at this point in the text. It seems to have some of the same characteristics as this new epidemic and, for that matter, many a youtube meme--
St. Andrew Sermons