Thursday, February 5, 2015

Angels and Mothers-in-Law

This past week at the Krum Church, we dove into Mark’s gospel to hear about our kingdom work. We’re in the middle of a series, moving from water to glory.

A few weeks ago, we talked about our baptisms as we remembered Jesus’ baptism. In baptism, we are adopted by God and put on a new family name – Christian. And when we become a part of the family, it’s time to take on the family business.

Last week, our reading started at Mark 1:21, but already in this gospel we've met John the Baptist, witnessed Jesus' baptism and the voice from heaven, seen God's Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness to encounter and resist Satan, then Jesus’ return to announce the presence of the kingdom of God and calls hearers to repentance before calling Simon, Andrew, James and John to fish for people. Mark’s gospel is a fast-paced adventure story, characterized by phrases like “just then,” “immediately” and “at once.”

The text we studied focused on Jesus’ teaching in a synagogue and exorcism of an unclean spirit – both offering windows into his authority.

Authority – now there’s a concept I often struggle with. Usually authority means someone’s authority over me and the necessity of my obedience and submission. Not my favorites. But as I've struggled with these ideas in the course of my discipleship, a hymn came to my aid – “As the Deer,” whose opening lyrics are based on Psalm 42.

As the deer longs for the water, / so my soul longs after you. / You alone are my heart's desire / and I long to worship you. (Refrain) You alone are my strength, my shield / To you alone will my spirit yield. / You alone are my heart’s desire / and I long to worship you 

Hearing this song, sung by a youth choir many years ago, was like a key in the lock for me when it comes to authority. To GOD alone will my spirit yield. It was entirely freeing. I don’t have to bow down to worldly powers or consent to abuse by a partner. I don’t have to be satisfied with making 70 cents on the dollar or concede my unique gifts because of any classification under the sun. I don’t have to be content with the world and its exercise of authority.

I yield to God. That’s what I’m called to as a Christian in the world. It means I might be going against the grain sometimes. Really, if I’m not swimming upstream in this broken, hurting world, I’m failing to follow my savior.

I don’t have to worry about God abusing God’s authority over me the way I might worry about worldly powers. While corporations, countries, and citizens destroy the earth and degrade the image of God in each person, God is all about the liberation and redemption business. I can give myself wholly over to God’s authority, because God loves each of us so much, myself included, that God gives love and sacrifices God’s own self.

In a worldly sense, Jesus didn't have any power. He wasn't a king with political or military power. He wasn't a priest, who had the power in Roman Judea. He wasn't even a scribe with the authority of Jewish tradition. The only authority he had was the supreme confidence that what he did and said was God's will and God's truth. He lived into God’s kingdom, bringing a glimpse of life as it will be.

In a world plagued by powers that try to enslave us, Jesus breaks through. We are rescued from evil, injustice, and oppression by the authority of the crucified and risen Christ. When we put ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we become agents who break the bonds that enslave our brothers and sisters.

So what does that have to do with angels and mothers-in-law? I’m sure not all of you are blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law like mine. I've heard enough grumbling and joking to know that.

But this Sunday we’ll take another look at Mark’s gospel, picking up in chapter one where we left off last week. Immediately after he rebukes an unclean spirit in the synagogue, Jesus goes to Simon Peter’s house, where his mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. Jesus heals her and she responds in one of the biggest surprises in the whole gospel.

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