1.27.2012

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY Year B

Deuteronomy 18:15-20  • 
Psalm 111  • 
1 Corinthians 8:1-13  • 
Mark 1:21-28


How close can we be to God?
How close should we be to God?
How direct of a relationship do we want to have with God?

In a lot of our modern Christianity we see people reaching out and yearning for a Direct Relationship with God. And this shows up in a lot of ways. 

Some folks talk say with pride, "I don't need anyone to talk to God for me". Some folks refer to Jesus as their "buddy". Some refer to Jesus as their True Love.

Of course, there are some among us today that have a different view of this relationship:
"On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982).

One way or another, it seems this might be something important to think about.

In the passage this week from Deuteronomy 18 we see the words of Moses speaking to the followers of God. He is reminding them of what they said when Moses was receiving the commandments from God on Mount Horeb. The people said, (in Exodus) "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses is reminding them that they asked for an intermediary and he is telling them that another prophet will rise up one day. Moses says (on behalf of God) "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak--that prophet shall die." There have been, and are, arguments about who this references. Some say Jesus, some say Mohammed, some say it references a prophet (messiah) still yet to come.

In the passage from Mark we see Jesus relieving a man of an unclean spirit and observers wondering by what authority a person could do this. The people in the synagogue were amazed that he could command spirits and he could teach scriptures with authority and he could do both of these like no one they had ever seen. At this point, Jesus is not talking too much about who he is or by what authority he is doing these things. But the people are certainly seeing experiencing something that was unusual for them. They did not appear to have a direct experience of such spiritual events.

In the passage from Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth, we find Paul working to work out some of these relationships. The primary issue he is addressing revolves around eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. He is working to draw a wide circle of inclusion here. He is allowing for folks who do not hold the exact same belief as the followers of Jesus. He acknowledges there are those who do not yet understand the 'system' - There is God the Father, and Jesus Christ the Lord - and believe that 'idols' may or may not have some sway in the world. And for those people, eating meat sacrificed to idols is an abomination. And so, Paul says, even though I don't agree with them, I can avoid eating that meat so that I do not offend them so much that they will not listen to me. All of this speaks to the role that Paul understands that we as individual followers of God play. It is our responsibility to help point others toward God through Jesus. We are not playing the role of prophet or intermediary, but we do have some responsibility to help set the stage so that others may believe.

What is our role as follower of Jesus?
What is our relationship to the God we claim to serve?

God, help us to know our place in the world.
Help us to respect who You are
and who we are.
Help us as we attempt to reflect
Your Light
to those who 
find themselves
in darkness.
Amen.

© matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you. 


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