Service from 1/31/2021: I was contact traced during COVID and required to stay home for 10 days (incubation time) until I could test negative. This service was broadcast on Facebook live from my home.
Message Title: A Message from Beyond
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Main Text: Mark 1:21-28
Scripture Reading: Psalm 111
RCL Scripture: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Focus: Jesus casts out a demon who knows Jesus’ divinity and others recognize Jesus’ authority.Function: To recognize the need to get back to the core of the message of Jesus by letting go of our own stigmas about Christianity.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
Announcements & Happy Dollars
Call to Worship
Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 111 Praise the Lord! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the company of those who do right, in the congregation. 2The works of the Lord are magnificent; they are treasured by all who desire them. 3God’s deeds are majestic and glorious. God’s righteousness stands forever. 4God is famous for his wondrous works. The Lord is full of mercy and compassion. 5God gives food to those who honor him. God remembers his covenant forever. 6God proclaimed his powerful deeds to his people and gave them what had belonged to other nations. 7God’s handiwork is honesty and justice; all God’s rules are trustworthy— 8they are established always and forever: they are fulfilled with truth and right doing. 9God sent redemption for his people; God commanded that his covenant last forever. Holy and awesome is God’s name! 10Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins; sure knowledge is for all who keep God’s laws. God’s praise lasts forever!
LORD’S PRAYER: Our Father, who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
Sermon: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
A Message from Beyond Mark 1:21-28
NOTE ON AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Now because of the lag that exists in live videos, I may ask questions and you may thoughtfully type out an answer but feel like the moment has passed. Send it anyway. We may not be super fluid in our conversation but we may reach some good topics.
INVENTION: Thomas Edison & Spirit phone
Audience engagement: If you could pick up the phone and call someone who has passed away, who would be your first call?
- I would love to talk to my paternal grandmother again. I didn’t get to say goodbye.
I found the invention I want to tell you about this morning to only be a rumor. The ‘Spirit Phone’ was an experiment of Thomas Edison through a series of interviews and a recovered journal. Journalists recorded Thomas Edison’s Spirit phone would not require “any occult, mystifying, mysterious, or weird means, employed by so–called “mediums” in order to function. Historians and credible sources still debated if Thomas Edison was pulling the legs of interviewers with these details or if he genuinely was exploring the spirit realm.
TRANSITION: text today will examine the Spirit realm through a story of exorcism.
SCRIPTURE: Mark 1: 21-28 21Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.” 25“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” 26The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. 27Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.
- In the Gospel of Mark, after Jesus called his disciples, he went to teach in the nearest synagogue. (cool coloring page on the bulletin if you printed it off).
- While Jesus is teaching, a man possessed with demons comes, calls Jesus by name, and identifies him as from God.
- Jesus silences the demon & casts the demon out of the man. In the Gospels there is a thing called the “messianic secret” that Jesus regularly prevents people from saying too much about him being the Messiah. That’s something to reflect on after our service today, I won’t give you an answer 😉
- After all of this unfolds, the people acknowledge Jesus differs from other traveling teachers or leaders of Moses’ law. He has an authority unlike the others.
TRANSITION: I am sure many of you would like concrete terms of what the spiritual realm looks like or have a glimpse into spiritual warfare. While I have some personal stories, I could share on this topic, that won’t be our focus today. This is the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a season of revelation or discovery. I want us to take some time to have a revealing conversation about this world instead of focusing on the abstract nature of the spiritual world.
INTERPRETATION: *Prepare the audience* I want to talk about something difficult. And because we’re interacting digitally, it is very easy to turn off the screen or sound if I were to say something you don’t like, understand, or disagree with. Instead, I encourage you to ask questions or dig deeper into the conversation. You can follow the instructions on the bulletin for a way to reflect or contact me for a conversation. I cannot guarantee I can/will answer every question in the chat, but I will connect with you afterwards if you feel your question is unanswered. The only way to grow as humans is to engage, not to shut down, when we hear something difficult.
I want us to take time to ponder a different type of exorcism.
As I was preparing for this sermon, I was studying and pondering the spiritual implications of Jesus’ actions. I was off in the ethereal, considering abstract thoughts. My fellow pastor friend brought me back down to earth with a hard statement:
The American church needs an exorcism.
OK. Take a deep breath. There’s a good chance you gasped at those words and may still be holding your breath. Take a moment to loosen your muscles and ponder different angles of this statement. What could it mean metaphorically?
A puzzled look on your face would be logical as a first reaction. Especially when entertainment depicts demon possession and exorcism in such graphic ways. Cinematics can unconsciously build our expectations in weird ways.
If you can join me in sitting aside the weird images of The Exorcist, Annabelle, or The Conjuring, we may be able to unpack this thought in a helpful way.
AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What could an exorcism metaphorically mean for the church?
- We’ve lost our way, Gotten off track or topic, Worshiping the wrong thing
APPLICATION: To recognize the need to get back to the core of the message of Jesus by letting go of our own stigmas about Christianity.
- I want to consider where the church is and where we should be.
- AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT
- How would you depict or define a Christian? – what does a Christian look like in actions, words, beliefs, etc?
- What are the non-negotiable pieces of Christianity? Think about the connecting points between all Christian denominations of all cultures.
- Sometimes creeds or statements of beliefs are used but the more detailed we get the more spliced we get. We splinter and point fingers at other believers and question their faith because of x, y, or z. Words they use, Habits they have, Clothes they wear, Who they call family, How they vote.
- Human thoughts or ideas don’t limit God. Our God can do extraordinary things—like casting out demons. *Christ followers* look different depending on their culture.
- Current day example of culture changing: My grandmother expected me to act like a lady, dress like a lady, speak like a lady, and use good table manners. My brothers couldn’t wear hats at the dinner table.
- Can we admit that manners are cultural and change over time?
- In France to get the waiters attention you raise your hand, snap your fingers and make a “tsk tsk” noise.
- In Japan, its an honor to the chef to slurp your noodles loudly and drink the broth from the bowl. Eating quickly honors the effort of the cook to eat it hot.
- Examples: Christians in Africa
- Christianity doesn’t have one image. Christianity isn’t American. Nor are the majority of Christians living in America.
- American Christianity is not Christianity:
- We don’t need a message from The Great Beyond to learn that Christianity doesn’t have one image. We don’t have to be English speaking Americans with a 40 hour work week to be a believer in Jesus.
- Don’t hear what I’m not saying in this next sentence:
- American patriotism and the phrase “God Bless America” are American ideals but not Christian.
- While these are common ideals in American Christianity, they are not distinctly Christian. A Christ follower is loyal to God above any flag, pledge, or nation. If that offends you, you may be worshipping the wrong god.
- In Jesus’ time, symbols of the government were not allowed in the Temple nor was Roman coin accepted for tithes. If you wanted to tithe you first had to convert your roman coins to temple coins. Ceasar claimed to be god, his image was not to be brought into God’s house.
- Acts 15: Defining Christianity was discussed in scripture in the book of Acts. If you have ever wondered why Christians weren’t Jewish …because … I mean …Jesus was Jewish, turn to Acts 15. The readers’ digest of this chapter asks the question if all Christ followers have to become Jewish. They decided no. You could stay part of whatever culture you grew up in and follow Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 8: Paul expands on this later in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul spends that letter talking to them about setting aside certain behaviors from their culture or changing their mindset about the culture. He even tells them that eating food sacrificed to other gods is fine; (because, you know, they aren’t real so its not like the food is contaminated or anything). We can participate in our culture yet recognize we are distinct from our culture. Paul encourages the Corinthians to give up any aspect of their culture that may prevent others from hearing about Jesus. If eating idol food prevents them from listening, give up meat entirely.
- I think Jesus would be surprised at the hills American Christians will die on while sacrificing the true tenants of his teachings. We’re willing to question someone’s faith because of their stance on abortions, homosexuals or the consumption of adult substances but we don’t question their faith on things that truly are at the heart of Jesus’ message.
- We are majoring on the minors.
CONCLUSION: While the word exorcism seems quite extreme for the state of American Christianity—I do think American Christians need a “come to Jesus” moment about our loyalties.
We need to honestly reflect on our definition of Christianity and filter that through the teachings of Jesus Christ.
He alone is the one with the authority to decide who is a genuine believer. Our job isn’t to fill Jesus’ shoes but to love others as Jesus’ hands and feet.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING: what messages would you hope to hear from someone in the Spiritual realm? Jesus left us an entire book—are we willing to let go of our own ideas so that Jesus’ message rings true?
* Notes about digging deeper on bulletin*–If you find the link to the bulletin, there are instructions on how to continue worship, prayer, and study after this video ends.
If you want to consider American Christianity with me, I encourage you to call, text, email or send a homing pigeon. We grow as Christians when we discuss together. Keep the conversation going, keep the light glowing.
Blessed Be the Tie: Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above
Benediction: God help us to cling to you first. A child of God first. A Christ follower first. Help us to let THAT identity define all other aspects. Give us wisdom to see when we place something higher than you. Give us stamina to change our stubborn hearts to match your will. Amen.