The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 6
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They 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, 24and 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.’ 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They 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.’ 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28The second stop for Jesus in the dawning kingdom is church. Jesus on the Sabbath heads to the synagogue to teach. When teaching, a man cries, "what have you to do with us?" I find this an interesting challenging question for us in the church to think about. It's a question for our religious institutions to stop and think about to see how we are living in the kingdom and following Jesus. From the outside, we in the church are seen as hypocritical, we don't practice what we say we believe. We as the church are perceived to be anti-science, anti-gay, anti birth control, harmful to children. In these perceptions of being against, how do we speak about following the Gospel, being for the things Jesus is for.
At the same time, this text asks us to think about the ways evil are present in the church. For in this story, Jesus encounters a person full of evil. The other church people have let this evil grow in their midst. As I read this passage, I am reminded of the many stories pastors share of people in the congregation who act as bullies set on getting their way over everything and making it difficult to follow the movement of God's Spirit. Bullies are sharing what is going wrong and whose fault it is. There is also a sense of systemic evil in the church where the way the people in the church relate to each other and outsiders in unhealthy.
Evil in the church, how do we talk about and confront it. I had gone to college leaving the church of my high school years behind. The people who volunteered with the youth were really into focus on the family. They made sure we new what was acceptable and unacceptable. Don't have sex until you are married. No questions, no discussion, no knowledge of how to prevent pregnancy. Do not use birth control and don't have an abortion if you mess up, gie the baby away. So there was an outsider in church. She was excluded from the inner circle. She was an undesirable child. So she made a mistake. She got pregnant. She decided to keep the baby and not get married. The church said no that baby cannot be baptized in the church. The innocent life. The innocent child and her outcast mother were left behind, excluded, ostracized. Evil entered the church and cause people to forget about mercy and forgiveness, to forget that everyone is a beloved child of God. The church let evil in their midst and forgot who Jesus was called to serve.
One of the intriguing aspects of Jesus' encounter with evil in the church is that it is evil that recognizes who Jesus is, the Holy One of God. The church people see him as one who teaches with authority but don't make the next leap into understanding that he is the Holy One of God.
Today as you stop and still yourself in God's presence, prayer for your church. If you can go to your church an walk through the building praying for each place and the people who use those places. Ask the Holy One of God to bless each room.