Sermon Briefs: Mark 1:21-28
Richard Rehfeldt1 points out the many ways we are bombarded with, at times, more words than we know what to do with, from more directions than any of us would care to consider as it's enough to make one's head spin! But as Rehfeldt reminds us, the words by which we are surrounded on Sunday mornings ask us to consider something far more important than which brand of laundry detergent we will try to fight which stain. It is from the pulpits in our sanctuaries that we are challenged to consider the Word and the fullness of the same vowels and consonants we use daily, which make up the verbs and nouns which send us a very powerful message.
Jesus, throughout the Gospels, uses words to battle evil, to heal brokenness and to cure illness. In verse 25, the third recorded time that Jesus spoke in the first chapter of Mark, Jesus rebuked an unclean spirit with the words, "Be silent, and come out of him!" Jesus' action packed words through the ascension at Bethany were not empty words which inundate, but authoritative words obeyed by unclean spirits and tempestuous winds. It is the Word by which we are comforted, challenged, empowered and accompanied. It is the word made flesh who, as Rehfeldt reminds us, said to the disciples then and to us today, "Because I live, you shall live also."
Harold C. Perdue2 begins with the familiar words we teach our children, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But words, while they can be tender and loving, can also be hurtful and hateful. Words can build up and break down. Yet as Perdue points out, Jesus' words are positive words, and "the power of God is most evident when our words help rather than hurt. To be most helpful our words must come from the quality of our lives, [and] our words and deeds must be joined together."
Jan Walker,3 while touching on the distinctiveness of Jesus' teaching, focuses more on the authority of Jesus' words from imagining his tone of voice. Just like a child's cry is different when hurt, hungry or tired, I'm sure Jesus' voice when he revealed himself to Mary on that first Easter morning was decidedly different from the tone he used to rebuke demons.
As many words compete for our attention, so many personalities compete for our loyalties. Yet through the many tones of voice which could be inferred throughout the gospels, and as "people continue to search for a secure haven from the dangers and the unpredictability of everyday life...they also search for the secret which makes life in this world worth the living. It is that very secret which Mark is trying to share with all the children of God who walk the face of this earth."
Yet through all the positive and negative forces and personalities that wage war against us in this world, there is only one way that we can turn when confronted with the crossroads of life. And that is to the One who speaks with such authority as to not only exorcise demons, but to tenderly reveal himself to a weeping woman at the empty tomb who thought he was the gardener. Just as he had everything to do with the man possessed by an unclean spirit, so Jesus has everything to do with us today. How can we do otherwise as disciples of the one who gives our lives direction in a searching, hurting world?
Barbara McGowan First Presbyterian Church of Holmesburg and Mayfair Presbyterian Church Philadelphia, PA
1. "The Lord Fights a Battle of Words," Augsburg Sermons 2, Gospels, Series B (Minneapolis: 1984), pp. 63-66. 2. "The Power of the Word," Sermon Briefs, Volume 3, Number 4, p. 52. 3. "The Secret of Life," Augsburg Sermons, Gospels, Series B (Minneapolis: 1975), pp 68-72.