Posts Tagged ‘authority’

Who’s in charge? To what authority will you defer? After which authority will you follow? These are the questions upon which we reflect in worship today. May the following prayers, scripture readings, music, and reflections serve as a guide in your worship of God today to help you focus your heart on the Lord.

The Worship of God

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Call to Worship

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

The trees of the wood await spring’s re-clothing;
the branches will be green again:
This we affirm: God is faithful and true.

The sun will rise higher in our skies;
its light will be warm upon our faces once more.
This we affirm: God is faithful and true.

The days will grow longer;
light will push back the darkness.
This we affirm: God is faithful and true.

Seeds will germinate and grow;
the flowers will bud and bloom.
This we affirm: God is faithful and true.

The ears of the wheat will form and ripen;
the grass will grow to feed the cattle.
This we affirm: God is faithful and true.

Swallows will return and fill the skies;
birds will fill the land with song.
This we affirm: God is faithful and true.

Opening Prayer
Let us pray,
As the days lengthen
Alpha and Omega, you were there at our beginning
and you will be there at our end.
Coasts and islands wait for the dawn,
the dark sea surrounds us like waters in the womb,
like the last river we have to cross.
We wait, trusting, seeing the sky lightening, horizons opening up,
colours of dawn dancing across restless waves.

Spirit of God, in Jesus, you shared our birth and our mortality,
and you are present with us now. We wait.
The clouds become bright, the rocks glow,
our hearts catch fire with sudden joy – the sun rises.
Rise in our hearts, we pray, today and every day.
God of creation, you greet us every new day,
and, as the days lengthen, we see green shoots of spring;
snowdrops, faithful in their presence year by year;
lengthening days and sunlit moments,
all these speak to us of your love.
We praise you for these signs of your life-giving Spirit
and for Jesus, who embodied that love,
who came to share our human lives,
calling men and women to follow him,
and to be salt and light in their communities;
Jesus who listened and shared meals, taught and healed,
walked country tracks and city streets in the land that we call Holy;
who kept the faith and challenged apathy and abuse of power;
who was rejected and reviled, tortured and nailed to a cross.
Who died.
And who rose again, like the sun in the morning,
so all the world can see that your love is stronger than death.
We praise you now in the power of the Spirit,
enlivening, encouraging – and present with us now. Amen

Song of Praise
God of Grace and God of Glory
Author: Henry Emerson Fosdick
Tune: CWM RHONDDA

1 God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your pow’r.
Crown your ancient Church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

2 Lo! the hosts of evil round us
scorn your Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us,
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

3 Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.

4 Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore.
Let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.

Psalm 111
Common English Bible

Praise the Lord!
I thank the Lord with all my heart
in the company of those who do right, in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are magnificent;
they are treasured by all who desire them.
God’s deeds are majestic and glorious.
God’s righteousness stands forever.
God is famous for his wondrous works.
The Lord is full of mercy and compassion.
God gives food to those who honor him.
God remembers his covenant forever.
God proclaimed his powerful deeds to his people
and gave them what had belonged to other nations.
God’s handiwork is honesty and justice;
all God’s rules are trustworthy—
they are established always and forever:
they are fulfilled with truth and right doing.
God sent redemption for his people;
God commanded that his covenant last forever.
Holy and awesome is God’s name!
Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins;
sure knowledge is for all who keep God’s laws.
God’s praise lasts forever!

Prayer for Others
Pause after each paragraph to give voice to prayers as prompted.  Let us pray,

Merciful God, who shelters us and guides us,  
we give you thanks for…. 

God who comforts,  
receive those who are fearful and lonely…. 

God whose love is steadfast,  
be refuge for the ill, the dying, and those who care about them.… 

God of righteousness,  
we ask for your wisdom and ways of justice to prevail  
in our community, this nation, your world…. 

God who seeks our trust, grow us and guide us in your ways
that are life-giving in your world.  Amen.

Anthem
Undivided Mystery
Author: Bev Easterling
Composer: Mark Schweizer

Holy Father, Saving Son,
Blessed Spirit, Three in One:
Undivided mystery,
Author of eternity.

Loving God, Anointed Son,
Eternal Spirit, Three in One:
Word Incarnate, Well Beloved,
Heav’nly King and Lord of Love.

Mighty God, Redeeming Son,
With the Spirit, Three in One:
As the sacred Trinity
Alpha and Omega be.

Mark 1:21-28
Common English Bible

Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.” “Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.

Reflection on the Gospel
Rev. Tonya Vickery

Listen to Tonya’s reflection or read below.

The gospel of Mark demonstrates the power of the ministry and mission of Jesus through the telling of the story of Jesus.  Through each story we see and hear the kin-dom of God breaking into our world. Mark offers no explanations or dogmas or theories. Mark doesn’t outline theologies or rules and regulations. Instead Mark writes down the story of Jesus knowing that the stories themselves are full and meaningful enough to attest to the amazing ministry and mission of Jesus. This is a quick paced gospel with exciting news. We are invited on an adventure into the amazing revelation that God is interested in us, God has come among us, and God offers free grace to everyone!

One of Mark’s favorite words  to use is the word immediately.  Just in chapter 1 alone Mark uses immediately 11 times and the passage for this morning contains three. Mark uses this word like a drumbeat. It emphasizes moments and increases the momentum of the story moving forward into more momentaneous moments. This aural drumbeat gets lost in translation. Did you catch how many times I used a form of the word moment in the previous sentence?  In English composition classes we are taught not to use the same word over and over again.  Repeating the same word too often is poo-pooed. So translations clean up Mark for our English ears and eyes. “Immediately” becomes “then” or “at once” or “when” or “just then” and yes, sometimes “immediately.”  However, if the same word is translated multiple ways, we don’t lose the meaning of what is being said, but we do lose that insistent gospel drumbeat. So let’s “immediately” turn our hearts and minds to the gospel this morning.🙂

In this Sunday’s passage, Jesus and his newly called disciples travel to the village of Capernaum. Capernaum was a town or village of perhaps 600 people. “Immediately on the Sabbaths” Jesus goes to the synagogue and he teaches. Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus is teaching. Mark doesn’t share with us any information about the audience. But we do know Jesus’ teachings blow their minds and astonish them. Jesus’ teaching is different and they are amazed by it.

Synagogues were stone block buildings a little bigger than the footprint of our the concreate area behind the church where we have held outdoor worship (80 by 60 feet). Synagogues were something akin to community centers. The building functioned as court, and as places for political discussions. Archives were stored in synagogues. Children were educated there. And of course this was the place where the Torah was read aloud and taught by rabbis, and it was a place of prayer. Regular meetings were held in the synagogues on the Sabbaths.  No work was done on the Sabbath out of respect and honor to God. It was a day set apart as holy unto God as defined by the 10 commandments. Back then there were two sure signs of your Jewish faith and your commitment to God–circumcision and keeping the Sabbath.

Without hesitation (think “immediately”), Jesus attended synagogue services while in Capernaum. And he was called upon by the synagogue officials to teach. That he was invited to teach is not surprising to the people of Capernaum. But what surprised everyone was the manner in which Jesus taught. The lessons Jesus shared with them set him apart from everyone else. Normally, rabbis taught by sharing the words of the Torah and then explaining them by referencing the teachings of other rabbis.  The teachers of the law (also called “scribes”) were professional experts in the Torah. They studied, explained and applied the Torah to specific situations. But Jesus did not teach this way. Jesus didn’t reference other rabbis nor was he a trained professional expert in the law.

Instead, Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus is Divine come to live among us. Jesus is a part of that undivided Mystery of which the choir sang. This revelation of the Undivided Mystery, this Jesus does not need to consult any human authority to bring truth to those who listen. Jesus speaks on the basis of his own authority.  Nothing less could happen than they be profoundly impacted by this experience, for it is with Jesus–with God. Were they astounded because the teaching was extraordinary? Or were they astounded because the teaching was bold, true, and prophetic? Were they astounded because Jesus was teaching them something new, something they had never considered before? Or were they astounded because Jesus’ teaching challenged their safe sanitized understandings of God forcing them to rebirth their imaginations about God? I would say, all of the above is possible.

What if Jesus were to come literally and physically among us and teach us today? What would astound us? Would we be astounded merely by God being present with us? Would we be astounded because we were hearing something we had never heard before?  Would we be astounded because Jesus’ teaching was redirecting our ideas about truth, justice, compassion, and love? Yes, all of the above is possible.

In the midst of  teaching, an impure spirit interrupts Jesus.  (An impure spirit or  unclean spirit is synonymous with demon.)  It wasn’t the man that cried out, it was the impure spirit. The influence of the impure spirit is at odds with a liberating God who came, in no small part, to set the captive free. This impure spirit has a hold on this man–mind, body, and/or soul. And this human needs to be set freed from its grip. This kind of work is central to the gospel — setting people free from whatever keeps them away from God and restoring God’s vision for all humanity.  The action does not happen without opposition. The unclean spirit identifies Jesus by name and place, and as the “Holy One of God.” The first thing Jesus does is silence this enemy of humanity. Jesus takes away the voice of the enemy and the grip loosens. Then Jesus demands the spirit to come out and the man is set free. The kin-dom of God which will come one day in all its fullness, this kin-dom has broken into the world and the captives are being set free. In the words of Zechariah 13:4 , On that day I will remove from the land the unclean spirit.  This day has come with Jesus Christ.  When Jesus commands the impure spirit to come out of this man here at the very beginning of the story of Jesus, it is like a flag for the kin-dom of God has been staked on earth. The territory claimed was not Capernaum or even the synagogue, but the territory claimed is the person who is possessed, oppressed, who is suffering, who is pulled away from God. And in this act, Jesus reclaims the holy place of humanity. 

If Jesus were to come to be literally and physically among us today, what impure spirits would he silence, rebuke and exorcise? What powers would Jesus silence? From what evil grip would Jesus set us free? What impure and unclean spirits torture us, overshadow us, overwhelm us? What evil is attempting to stand between you and God?  What addictions, habits, apathies, or attitudes are holding us back, pulling us away from the kin-dom of God? What evil powers among us would Jesus command to leave?

I’ve led us astray a little bit for I’ve seemed to imply that Jesus being among us is something like a dream or a distant hope instead of a present reality. Jesus has full authority over heaven and earth. But that authority is not something in the past only or only for the future. That authority is present now. God is interested in people. Jesus’ life shows us this. God cares about us, loves us, seeks us out to save us. A flag has been staked, a kin-dom is being built where we will live with God forever. And that life is not in the past or only in the future, that life is for today. God is at our side and all that causes us pain and suffering is painful and alien and antithetical to God. God in Jesus enters our sufferings. Jesus’ ministry shows a defiance of the destructive powers that enslave humanity. God doesn’t like them and God is against all that would rob us of the fullness of life God would have us experience. So I need to change the questions. What astounds you today about Jesus’ teachings? And what impure spirits today are keeping you away from God?  Jesus is still teaching us. Faith is not to be a static part of our lives, but something that should be growing deeper day by day. And yes, there are still impure spirits getting in the way of us living the Way. As in the 1st century as is today and will be tomorrow, Jesus will silence them, rebuke them and cast them away so that we might know that God loves us and is always at our sides.

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
O Christ, the Healer, We Have Come
Author: Fred Pratt Green
Tune: CANONBURY LM (Schumann)

1 O Christ, the healer, we have come
to pray for health, to plead for friends.
How can we fail to be restored,
when reached by love that never ends?

2 From every ailment flesh endures
our bodies clamor to be freed.
Yet in our hearts we would confess
that wholeness is our deepest need.

3 In conflicts that destroy our health
we recognize the world’s disease;
Our common life declares our ills.
Is there no cure, O Christ, for these?

4 Grant that we all, made one in faith,
in your community may find
The wholeness that, enriching us,
shall reach and prosper humankind.

Sending Out
May the path that Christ walks
to bring justice upon the earth,
to bring light to those who sit in darkness,
to bring out those who live in bondage,
to bring new things to all creation:
may this path
run through our life.
May we be
the road Christ takes.

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. 
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The image is from Our Lady of Mercy Lay Carmelite Community website.
  • The call to worship was written by Simon Taylor printed in Winter Liturgical Resource for November, December and January, ed. by Ruth Burgess. Wild Goose Publications.
  • The opening prayer was written Jan Sutch Pickard printed in Spring Liturgical Resources for February, March, and April, ed. by Ruth Burgess, Wild Goose Publications.
  • The opening hymn was sung by Mindy, accompanied by Tracy on the organ.
  • The anthem was sung by Mindy, Elizabeth, Laura, and Tonya, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • The closing hymn was sung by Mindy accompanied by Tracy on the organ.
  • The Sending Out was written by Jan L. Richardson, and posted on The Painted Prayerbook website.

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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