The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark the 1st Chapter
They 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 the second lesson Paul was dealing with a different kind of junk in a different kind of front yard, but in the end it too was simply stuff getting in the way of people being able to hear and believe in the same Good News. Paul, you need to remember, believed he was under a serious time crunch. He just KNEW every day he woke up that tomorrow... literally TOMORROW... Jesus would be back, and so that meant doing whatever needed to be done today to get that message to as many people as possible. In this story, the Christians were eating meat that had been used in sacrifices to idols. For the Christians and for Paul, it didn’t make any difference. They knew the idols weren’t real, so to them, the meat wasn’t magical, it was just barbecue.
Paul had the right idea… we, inside the Church, need to be the ones to bend for the sake of the Gospel… but he was off a bit when it comes to the timing of Jesus's return. Because he had the timing a bit wrong, we now know that we can take a little extra time today to confront cultural inequalities instead of giving into them in the fear of running out of time. We also know today that the specific things that got in the way of the Message in Paul's time aren't the same things that get in the way of people hearing that message today. Where we buy our barbecue will not help or hinder the message for anyone in Augusta today. Nobody in Augusta today will hear or not hear the Good News based on our choice to wear a hat or not. Those things aren’t what gets in the way anymore. Today, though, there are other things that DO get in the way of people being able to hear the message of the abundant life God created us to live.
Our job as Christians today, isn’t to worry about the specific pieces of junk Paul worried about in his time and in his culture. Our job as Christians today is to take a REAL, HONEST look at what it might be in OUR time and in OUR culture that right now might be getting in the way of the people of our area really hearing they are loved unconditionally by God. What junk do our neighbors today trip on... what structures, practices, customs or attitudes make it hard for people out there to hear that they too are included in God's infinite love and God's eternal and abundant life? What’s the unclean spirit we have that keeps Jesus’ message from being heard out there by all the people we know very well are spiritually hungry?
You and I have heard Jesus’s teaching with authority. You and I have been assured in the waters of Baptism of God’s endless love already, so now, like the Corinthians, we are being called to bend so that others might have a chance to hear as well. What can we do? What do we need to stop doing? How do we need to bend so that someone else can, for the very first time, hear the Good News and KNOW they are loved and accepted by God and by us here in this place? Amen.