Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried 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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Hey everyone, Genny here to start this week’s email off with a confession: I dread the exorcism stories in the Gospels. It’s the type of narrative I have the hardest time relating to: miracle stories are definitely a challenge in this scientific, post-Enlightenment world of ours, but at least I can connect to the longing for wholeness and life that resonates in those stories.
But demons? I’m immediately thinking of people’s heads spinning 360’s on their shoulders, priests desperately flinging holy water, and other various Hollywood-inflicted travesties that make little if any sense in the world I inhabit. Yet, here we are, Gospel of Mark, ole’ buddy. This is the story we’ve got, front and center in a chapter designed to introduce us to the big themes in Mark’s version of the ministry of Jesus. The fact that this is the very firstmiracle story in the Gospel of Mark means paying attention is especially warranted. So here we go, exorcisms and all!
What are we 21st century Christian-folk to do with a text like this? I’ve got some hunches – I’ll even give you a hint: I’m pretty sure this whole first chapter of Mark is illustrating Jesus very short first sermon in this gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kin-dom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (v.15). The world today is still full of hurtful stuff that holds us back from being the people we hope to be, in the world we dream of living in. We do hurtful stuff, we’re affected by hurtful stuff, and a lot of the time it seems like we can’t escape from things that seemingly possess us and possess our society. Jesus is pointing to a way out in this passage. Can we really believe that things can change in our own lives and in the world around us? Or is it the same old story?
Please join in the conversation Sunday as we talk through meeting ancient stories with our current lives. Looking forward to being with you.