“A New Teaching” Let’s pray…Rev. Stuart C. Buisch

Work or die? It’s an interesting choice. The Israelites complained to Moses that they would rather work than die (already they had forgotten they were slaves and that they had complained about that too). Covid has certainly reminded us that death is not far away. Continued cases and deaths are occurring within the group who are choosing to not be vaccinated. Work or death.

But God! Moses tells the children of Israel don’t be afraid, stand firm, you will see what God will do for you. The Lord will fight for you only be calm. Easy words to say or preach difficult words to live. By the end of the text for today the Egyptians are repeating the same idea, the Lord is fighting for them.

In Mark’s gospel we read about the first called disciples. All four were fishermen. Two only used nets and therefore had to work from the shore, the others worked for their dad and had a boat and hired workers. Two different situations. Some were leaving the day to day grind and uncertainty of enough income to live and provide. Two others were leaving family, security and reputation behind.

Jesus says to the first two come and follow and I will make you catch people. I wonder what they heard in that? What could those words mean to Simon and Andrew? No such language was used with James and John, was there enough hunger for the Messiah that their dad would be proud to have his sons go and be in the new wave of Judaism? Had he worked all his life so that his sons could have a better life working with people, offering life in Jesus Christ? Not working as he had by the sweat of labor and toil.

Mark would have us understand that all five went into the synagogue and Jesus began to teach. Jesus taught differently than scribes – the students of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. Jesus spoke with authority. Everything is going particularly well until the interruption takes place. A man starts yelling at Jesus. The words that man says aren’t actually bad. They disclose that Jesus is the holy One of God. Jesus’ response is not bad. When I am being yelled at I get defensive, maybe all of us do. Jesus doesn’t show any defensiveness. He does take charge succinctly, ‘Be quiet, come out of him’. If the yelling was not enough the convulsions and loud cry finished the scene off. Nothing is said about the man after he is released from the oppression, except that he is free. Remember for Moses’ group freedom was not enough. They wanted freedom, food, and safety from enemies. In Jesus’ day everyone was trying to make sense of what just happened. Jesus had indeed caught a man, bound by a demon, by forces that hindered his well-being, destroyed his freedom and his very life. Now caught by Christ he is free and he is evidence that Jesus is saying something new. Jesus is living something new, something that changes lives, that gives people freedom to act in life enriching ways.

Unclean spirits obey Jesus. If the unclean obey Jesus, what does that say to us? Some say that the only difference between the fifties (1950) and now is not the number of churches closing/dying, but the number of new churches starting. North Tonawanda is an example of a community of renovated churches. I am not sure that the ministries were renovated. We now have wedding chapels, theaters, and private homes, where worship once took place.

At North we need to ask are we liberated by Christ’s teaching or are we hanging on to our own theology and familiarity. Churches can be very much like the weather, if you wait long enough everything will change. The ones who refuse to change become retrofitted for another purpose. For me the glaring part of those words come from the lips of a disciple, ‘to whom shall we go’?

Jesus offers us new life but also new ways of living, is that what we want?
This Christ we say we follow and worship sets us free from our occupations and preoccupation to serve Christ. Christ has authority over the oppression that destroy the lives around us and our own lives. I meet lots of folk who want everyone around them to change but can’t see their way clear for changes in themselves.

After Jesus rose from the dead, Peter took the ‘fishers for men’ back to the sea to fish for fish.

Following Christ is not the easy option and for some of us it will involve some convulsive behavior as we are liberated from compulsions, destructive behaviors and unhealthy habits. Many will say ‘I would rather be working (as a slave with garlic and onions) than to be liberated from my familiar ways. In some ways the children of Israel and the man controlled by an evil spirit did die. Israel had to die to its understanding that God would offer them an uneventful life of milk and honey. They had to come to life embracing trust, and a calm belief that all could and would be well. But for those of us who have lived our lives for decades an abrupt death to certain patterns of living may be the only way to a free life.
Are you following Jesus or Moses out of captivity and into freedom or are you locked in your ways of being that eat away at your soul? In the name of Almighty God, paradise promising Jesus and Hurricane Strength Spirit, amen.

Most High, life our eyes to your freedom and will…
Will of God obeying Jesus, call us to follow and …
Spirit of God, empower us in that following.