Sunday, January 05, 2020
Pastor Mark Aune
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
Last Monday, the 30th of December I had an early morning hospital call and when I came to church after being at the hospital the Matrix clients were still here. Sunday the 29th was their first night at Augustana
I wandered into the kitchen as the clients were packing up and leaving for the day and one man, as he shouldered a very large and what looked like a very heavy backpack said to me as he was leaving for the day, “thank you for the sanctuary.”
Then he walked out to north door and was gone for the day.
I was really struck by his choice of words.
He could have said thank you for a warm place to sleep last night or thank you for sharing your building with us but he said, “thank you for the sanctuary.”
We think of this as the sanctuary and it is but for the man I spoke with on Monday morning the 30th of December, the whole building was a sanctuary. The welcome he received was a sanctuary. The warm and dry place to sleep was a sanctuary.
The sanctuary as a place of refuge, healing. A place free from evil because a holy power is at work here.
As Jesus begins his ministry in today’s reading, we find him in a sanctuary, a synagogue.
When the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 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.”
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
What strikes me about this story, the first healing story in Mark’s gospel, is that there is a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue. In the Jewish sanctuary.
I wonder if he was homeless as he carried that heavy burden, an unclean spirit.
I am surprised that unclean people were allowed in the synagogue. And do I see myself that way and if I do, in what ways am I unclean and am I in the right place today?
The man with the unclean spirit in the synagogue is an encouraging sign for me and it makes me think about this sanctuary. Are we a place where ‘unclean’ people are welcomed?
Do we, as a place of refuge, a sanctuary if you will, allow people in who carry large and heavy burdens?
I hope we do and I believe we do.
If the presence of Jesus is going to be made known in and through this place then this is something we must do as we seek to both welcome Jesus and follow Jesus. If the holy power of Jesus is going to be revealed then it will happen because of you and me.
Just 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.”
The two questions asked by the unclean spirit tell us something about the mission of Jesus.
What have you to do with us?
- Jesus says, I’m here to show you the Kingdom of God has arrived.
Have you come to destroy us?
- And Jesus replies, yes I have.
The demons know Jesus as Jesus calls them out.
Even before the people are entirely sure of who he is, the demons know him.
How do we hear the news that Jesus has power and authority over unclean spirits and demons?
Do we believe it to be true and do we act like we believe it to be true?
How do we recognize and name these evil forces in our lives and what does it mean to know that Jesus fights directly against them on our behalf?
Evil has many names and it is present in our world, in our own communities and yes, even in our lives.
We call it different things, we have clinical names for it and it manifest itself in many different ways but we know it when we feel it.
Because the power of evil always diminishes life,
- it creates darkness and fear
- it thrives on secrets and lies.
- it keeps us broken and separated from God
Jesus calls it out into the light. That is what holy power does. Consider the questions asked by the unclean spirit in the story; what have you to do with us and I know who you are Jesus of Nazareth.
The holy power of Jesus calls the unclean spirit out into the light and it leaves the man.
The holy power of Jesus is here today.
When we as individual followers of Jesus or as a church body actively look
- for those in our midst who are on the fringes,
- those who seem to carry a heavy burden,
- those who have an unclean spirit
- and those whose lives and hearts are shattered by evil forces.
Then we are doing the healing work of Jesus. We are casting out the demons of apathy, indifference and judgment of others. We are facing evil forces with love, with mercy, with a healing hand and an open heart.
We are using the authority and holy power of Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick
In the beginning of His ministry Jesus fights directly against them on our behalf.
He hasn’t stopped fighting and He never will.
His holy power is given to you and to me and to the church as we gather in this place to hear God’s promises, are filled with God’s power and sent out into the world.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
This is what holy power looks like.
This is what the world’s need looks like as well. They are gathered around our doors and they are even in this sanctuary.
We have His holy power and authority to do this work. This is the ministry of Jesus. This is the work of the church. This is our call to ministry.
To bring evil into the light and to heal the sick and brokenhearted in Jesus name. Amen