Something Life Giving

by | Jan 31, 2021 | Sermons

Something Life Giving

What do you expect to happen when you come to church?

Do you expect to encounter the divine? Do you expect your life to change? Do you expect to sing hymns and read from scripture? 

Do you believe that something life giving will occur?

Scripture: Mark 1: 21-28

Thanks to Janet Leadbeater and Diana Carr for their leadership with the music ministry this morning. 

Annual Meeting

The congregation will meet via Zoom for its annual meeting on Sunday February 28th at 11am. Details about how to connec to the meeting will be shared over the coming month. We hope to have the annual report ready for you on Sunay February  14th. 

I was helping one of my kids the other day with a speech for school. They had to write a persuasive speech on a subject. The template was a familiar one, make an argument and then write three paragraphs to support it. Each paragraph should contain a new argument about why your argument is correct. At the end summarize the argument.

A very simple structure and the basis for which most essays are written. As we grow and develop, we eventually start adding in quotations from other people to support our argument. This adds authority to our argument, it reminds the reader of the essay that other people also think this. We build upon and expand the knowledge base and thinking on a particular subject.

Preaching is a lot like writing an essay, at least initially. I’ve had preaching described to me a variety of different ways and am familiar with a different style of preaching. Some suit me better than others. As a listener of sermons certain styles put me to sleep yes, I just admitted that I’ve fallen asleep during a sermon.

A few ways I’ve had preaching or delivering a speech explained:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them what you told them you’d tell them. Then tell them that you told them what told them you’d tell them.

Rev. Glen Davis, my minister while I was in my teen years, described it like this, I think of the one thing I want the congregation to remember at the end of the sermon and I focus on that.

A sermon is not an essay and though I quote form others during a sermon if I were to write an essay and then preach it, I would expect you to throw tomatoes at me. While it might be faithful to scripture, reflective of our situation and context and relevant to your walk of faith, I expect it would also be very boring. Having said that, preaching is not performance, even if it can entertain. It’s a bit of a highwire act, balancing out who I am as an individual and the sacred work of discerning what scripture is saying to us today.

Jesus was in Capernaum, which is on the Sea of Galilee. It was the Sabbath and so Jesus, like many others, went to synagogue. They did that because that’s what people do. But on this day a strange thing happened, Jesus began to teach on the scriptures. And people noted that he did so with authority, and they were amazed.

What made his preaching so different from the other rabbi’s and scribes who taught about the Law and Prophets? Why were people amazed and in what way did they perceive him to have this authority?

It’s an interesting question because as far as we know Jesus didn’t have any special credentials. He just showed up, started preaching and teaching. As Presbyterians we go about things very differently. You can’t just show up and preach. My authority is derived from the church, through my ordination as Minister of Word and Sacraments and the Presbytery of Lindsay-Peterborough that we are a part by installing me as your minister I receive my authority. Through my own actions of preaching and leading this congregation I develop and maintain a different form of authority, one that is earned through actions rather than the title or office I inhabit.

At this point you’re thinking, we know all this and you are perhaps reaching for those tomatoes. It’s a Sunday, and like those we read about in our passage who went to synagogue on the Sabbath you have arrived for church. You long to hear a word from God and all the minister has done is babble on about speeches and authority.

A funny thing happens that Sabbath day, Jesus is interrupted while teaching. We read that it is an unclean spirit that cries out “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Now the people are already amazed at the teaching of Jesus, for he teaches in a way that is different from the scribes. He teaches with authority. This unclean spirit names where that authority resides, for Jesus is the Holy One of God.

Jesus then commands the spirit to be silent and come out. Again the people are amazed. This whole passage is designed to highlight the encounter between Jesus and the unclean spirit.

The passage is structured as follows:

  • Jesus comes into the synagogue (21)
    • Jesus teaches with authority and those present are amazed (22)
      • A man with an unclean spirit cries out (23-34)
        • Jesus heals (25)
      • The unclean spirit cries out and leaves the man (26)
    • People acknowledge the authority of Jesus with amazement (27-28)
  • Jesus leaves the synagogue (29)

The passage sets up the focus as the healing act, this is where the emphasis lays.

The people went to synagogue on the Sabbath, because that is just what they did. You are here at church, because that is what you do. I wonder though, what were you expecting? What were you hoping would happen? I hope your weren’t expecting or planning to throw tomatoes at the preacher and of course I say that in jest.

When we come to church, what do we hope will happen? Those at the synagogue that day were amazed by what they saw. Are you amazed when you come to church? I don’t ask that question hoping you will say yes, the preaching is the best I’ve ever heard and the music second to none. I don’t pretend to be the best at what I do, only faithful in the doing of it. I do hope and fervently pray that when you come to church you encounter the divine and are open to how God calls us in life.

Scott Hoezee writes, “…we Christians go to church each week and we do know that the Son of God will be present via the Holy Spirit. But do we expect that this living presence of Almighty God will shake us up, make us exclaim over the power in our midst? We shouldn’t need to see the kind of razzle-dazzle the people of Capernaum saw that day nevertheless to know that we have encountered something wonderful. Maybe we should even expect it. Because when you gather for worship and Jesus is truly there, anything can happen but something life-giving will happen.

Every time.

We should expect no less.” (Scott Hoezee)

God is at work in us. God is present with us. Though we meet and worship in a way that only a year ago would have seemed foreign to us, the Holy Spirit is present with us. Flowing through this community of faith, encouraging us, inspiring us and reminding us that when we on behalf of the kingdom of God we do so with authority that comes from God.

The act of healing is the central act in our passage today, but the verses before and after cements its importance and lend to its authority. Those acts were acts of worship. When we worship we do so because it is pleasing to God, we do so because it brings us closer to God, we do so because we encounter God and every time we gather, whether we see it or not, something life-giving happens. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

Donate to St. Andrew's

Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website. 

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