January 28, 2018 HOPE

Mark 1:21-28: Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 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. 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.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

In my final year of Seminary, I took a class on the Gospel of Mark. I signed up for it because I loved the two professors who were teaching it, but I didn’t bother to read too much about the course itself. It turned out that it was a class dedicated to memorizing and performing the Gospel of Mark, which was not exactly what I had in mind. In fact, I have for the most part carefully avoided situations that would lead to me performing something in front of a group. I was never in a play at school or took ballet classes. But by the time I realized what type of class I had signed up for, it was too late to drop it. So I figured I would give it my best and try to learn from it. And ultimately it as a fun experience and I now know the Gospel of Mark pretty well.

One of the passages I was assigned to memorize and perform was the one we heard this morning. I wasn’t too excited about this assignment, because Jesus’ words in this Gospel feel so harsh to me. It’s hard for me to imagine Jesus, the great lover of souls yelling at someone who is suffering so much. Yes he might be speaking to the demon and not the man, but it still comes across as harsh. And yet my professor really wanted me to yell “Be silent, and come out of him!” When I asked my professor why Jesus was so harsh to this man (or to his demon,) she said it was because it was too soon for Jesus’ true identity to be revealed. The demon or man recognizes Jesus for who He truly is. He says “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” And as you can see in your bulletin, this passage is from the first chapter of Mark. It is too soon for everyone to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. He has a ministry to do. There are many more healings to come. Jesus cannot risk the demon unveiling him now because He knows that His true identity will cause the people to condemn Him.

Jesus knows that it is not yet God’s time for his identity to be revealed and so he silences the demon. This is a good reminder for us that God’s time does not always match our own time. Things will be revealed as God chooses. Looking at the world right now you might be wondering when God’s time is coming. You might wonder when His Kingdom is going to be revealed. And yet while it may not be obvious to us, there are good things happening in the world even if the Kingdom is not fully revealed.

I recently read an article in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof called “Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History.”[1] This title may surprise you when many other articles are decrying 2017 as the worst year ever. But he had some good news to share. Kristof notes that while many people have been looking at the goings on in Washington with despair, humanity has seen real progress in the last year. Kirstof writes that “A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell.” He cites the work of Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Roser calculates that every day 325,000 more people gain access to electricity and 300,000 more people gain access to clean drinking water. These are encouraging trends.

Kristoff acknowledges that while there is much to be worried about in the current global climate, there are also many signs that good things are coming. Or as I would say that the Kingdom is slowly being revealed. Kristoff got a peek at the Kingdom through writing about a young Afghan woman from the Taliban heartland named Sultana. Sultana had been forced to drop out of elementary school. But her home had internet, so she taught herself English, then algebra and calculus through various educational websites. Without leaving her house, she moved on to physics and string theory.  Kristof wrote about Sultana in 2016, and with the help of readers, she is now studying at Arizona State University, taking graduate classes. She is proof of the good that can come from our global progress.

I share Kristof’s article and in particular the story of Sultana to demonstrate that good things are happening in the greater world even if the scary stuff is more obvious. So while this may not be the moment for God’s Kingdom to be fully revealed to us. There are signs that it is coming. We must have faith that the Kingdom will come in God’s time.

The people in the synagogue that day had a glimpse of the Kingdom. They saw Jesus’ power and authority and heard the man call him the “Holy One of God.” They knew something was coming but it was not yet time for it to be revealed. So we just like them must wait faithfully and play our part until the moment that God’s Kingdom is fully revealed. Amen.

Rev'd Grace Pratt

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/2017-progress-illiteracy-poverty.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share