Sermon on Mark 1:40-45, February 12, 2012, 6th Sunday after Epiphany, Year B; Disobey God!
2012-02-11 by David von Schlichten

 

Sermon on Mark 1:40-45

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, February 12, 2012,

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 887)

 

Does the Bible Teach Us to Disobey God?

 

            If God told you to do something, would you do it? I hope I would. We certainly are supposed to obey God. The Almighty has baptized us into the great, holy family, the Church, has given us eternal life for free, and now we are to respond by running the race: being obedient, following the commandments, doing God’s will. If God tells us to do something, we are to do it.

            So then, given that we are to obey God, I find today’s gospel to be problematic, strange. Let me explain. In our gospel, Mark 1:40-45, Jesus heals a leper. Fantastic; golden. Then, after Jesus heals the leper, we hear this in verses 43 and 44: “After sternly warning [the healed man] [Jesus] sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” I don’t understand why Jesus tells the man not to say anything to anyone, but whatever. Jesus, who is God, gives a command, and we are to obey it. I do understand why Jesus says to go to the priest. After all, the Bible says that if you have been cured of leprosy, you need to show yourself to the priest, since it was the priest who was qualified to diagnose you as clean. Therefore, it makes sense that Jesus would order the man to show himself to the priest. Fine.

            Now, Jesus, who is God, has given the man an order, a commandment, but does the man do what he is told? By no means! Verse 45 tells us that the man “went out and began to proclaim [the good news of his healing] freely, and to spread the word.” The man disobeys Jesus. Further—and this is the point that perplexes me—the man gets away with it! Did you notice that? Jesus gives the man an order, which is not tell anyone and to show himself to the priest. The passage does not indicate that the man showed himself to the priest. Instead the man goes and tells everyone, even though Jesus ordered him not to, and there is nothing in the passage that says that the man was punished or criticized for having disobeyed Jesus. There is nothing that says, for example, “Jesus found the man and corrected him for disobeying him,” or, “And Jesus was angry with the man for his disobedience.”

            In fact, the man’s disobedience yields a good result. The good result is that more people go out to see Jesus. Calligraphantastic! We want people to turn to Jesus, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The down side, according to verse 45, is that Jesus can no longer go into a town openly. Still, the man’s disobedience does produce a positive result.

            Maybe that’s why Jesus never scolds the man for disobeying him. Although the man did not do what God told him to do, what he did do helped to spread the Good News, so Jesus let the disobedience slide. Jesus let the disobedience slide because the disobedience still produced good.

            We Christians often think of God as being pretty strict with the commandments, strict with the rules, but the Bible indicates that such is not always the case. Yes, God cares about our obedience. Sometimes, in the Bible, a person receives severe punishment for disobedience, but we also see in the Bible that God’s mercy is greater than God’s wrath. In fact, our psalm, number 30, makes that very point when it says in verse five, “God’s anger lasts a moment, but God’s favor lasts a lifetime.” The Trinity has a wrathful side but is vastly more merciful than wrathful. Likewise, the Trinity cares about our adherence to the rules, the commandments, but makes allowances for our disobedience, especially if our disobedience leads to good results, as in the case of the man in our gospel this morning.  

            So let me ask you, then, when is it permissible for us to go against the rules put forth in the Bible? Understand that I am not advocating for a reckless disregard of the rules. I am saying that, sometimes, for the sake of another good, disobedience may be in order. Indeed, Jesus himself disobeys the rules, such as by healing people on the Sabbath even though doing so is considered work and thus a violation of the Sabbath law. How do we determine if it is acceptable to disobey? We pray, study Scripture, discuss the matter with each other, and then make the decision that we think best honors God/helps others. What advances the gospel? What helps people? Whatever it is, that we are to do.

            “But Pastor, what if I make a mistake? What if I disobey when I am supposed to obey? What if I fail to do the right thing?” “[sing] I never meant to cause you trouble.” Indeed, we will make mistakes. Despite our best efforts not to, we will sin. When that happens, we turn to Christ and pray, “Jesus, I messed up again. I failed. If you choose, you can make me clean,” and Jesus stretches his arms on the cross and says to you, “I do choose. Be made clean.”

 





Lincoln, Darwin; the Good of Disobeying God
2012-02-09 by David von Schlichten

In our gospel, Mark 1:40-45, Jesus heals a man of leprosy and tells him to go to the priest. Instead, the man goes and tells others. He disobeys an order from God, and that disobedience seems to be a good thing.

So . . . is the passage saying that, sometimes, it's ok to disobey God? What do you think?

Lincoln and Darwin: These two geniuses share a birthday, February 12, 1809. This Sunday, February 12, it might be valuable homiletically to speak about these two men.

Let's see, Lincoln and Mark 1:40-45. Jesus liberates a man from leprosy, just as God used Lincoln to help liberate America from the slavery. Hmm.

What about Darwin? So many Christians have a negative knee-jerk reaction against Darwin, but there is no need to. God reveals truth about the world through people such as Darwin. Studying Darwin's  ideas can help us to appreciate the magnificence of God's creation. Evolution and Creationism need not be mutually exclusive.

How does Darwin relate to the Gospel?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator






2012-02-09 by David von Schlichten





Leprosies; 2 Kings 5:1-14, Mark 1
2012-02-07 by David von Schlichten

Both our reading from 2 Kings and our gospel from Mark 1 feature God curing lepers, so I find myself wondering, "How are we afflicted with leprosy today, and how does God heal us?"

Obviously, one can literally be a leper, but there is also metaphorical leprosy. If we think of leprosy as a negative condition that makes a person an outcast, what leprosies do we have? There are certain diseases, such as AIDS. There is mental illness. There are addictions. There is poverty. 

What other leprosies are there?

How does God heal us, make us clean? There are support groups. There is medication. Of course there are also the miraculous healings.

Can Sunday worship be a cure for leprosies? On Sunday, we gather to be one. We may have afflictions that alienate us from others, but on Sunday, those afflictions often recede because of the power of the Spirit-guided, Word-infused communion of saints.

What thoughts do you have? Feel free to email me at drdlphn@yahoo.com or to submit a post for possible publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Sermon on Healing and Mark 1:29-39, February 5, 2012
2012-02-04 by David von Schlichten

 

Sermon on Mark 1:29-39

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, February 5, 2012,

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 694)

 

Heals

 

            Our cat Panda is sick. We had him at the vet from Monday until Thursday last week, and he still is not well. He is unable to urinate, and it is unclear why. Throughout the week, we prayed for Panda to get better, but he is not. He may have to be euthanized. We’re still praying.

            The Bible teaches that God is a healer. But why does God sometimes heal us and sometimes not? How does healing work? There is much to say on this subject, more than we have time for here. Let’s consider what our gospel, Mark 1:29-39, teaches about healing.

            In Mark, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, she has a fever. The disciples tell Jesus about her. He takes her hand and lifts her up. The fever leaves her. She gets up and serves them.

            One of the first points about this passage is that it does not mention faith. Did you notice that? The passage says nothing about the faith of Peter’s mother-in-law or about the disciples. The disciples’ telling Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law suggests that they have faith that Jesus can do something for her, but the passage does not focus on their faith. In many other miracle stories, Jesus says something like, “Great is your faith,” or “Your faith has made you well,” but not here. In fact, the word “faith” does not even appear in the story. Her faith, then, does not appear to be important for her healing. What matters is Jesus’ power, not her faith.

            Often, we Christians think healing is about how much faith we have. We think having strong faith is necessary for healing, and, indeed, given other healing stories, it appears that faith is important to healing. However, this passage stresses that what matters in healing is God’s power, not our faith, and healing can happen even if faith is not strong. In fact, given that God has unlimited power, it is safe to say that, to heal us, God does not need us to show faith at all. Faith is important, but not essential, for God to heal us.

            A second important lesson from our gospel about healing is found in verse 34. Verse 34 says, “And he cured many who were sick . . . and cast out many demons.” This statement indicates that Jesus does heal many of us, but he does not heal all. Many, not all. The verse does not say why he does not heal all. It does not say, “Jesus did not heal the people who lacked faith.” No, we just know that not everyone was healed. Sometimes people are healed, sometimes not. Why Jesus does not heal everyone is a mystery, but the absence of healing is not a punishment and is certainly not necessarily indicative of a lack of faith. We do not know why some of us get better and others do not.

            What we do know is that, even when Christ does not heal the body, he frequently heals us in other ways. For example, when my mother collapsed on December 20, 2010, my family and I prayed for her to wake up and recover. That didn’t happen. We don’t know why. We had plenty of faith, but, in response to our prayers for physical healing, God said, “No.” However, God blessed us with other healing moments. Over the next few weeks, many of you gave us cards and expressed sympathy. A couple people sent fruit baskets. At the viewing, people expressed their sympathy. God did not send healing by healing Mom physically, but God did send healing by sending people to care for us as we grieved. God uses us to help heal each other.

            Indeed, in numerous, luminous ways God heals us. God heals us by comforting and guiding us through the Bible. God heals us during worship. God heals us by forgiving us our sins. Most important, God heals us by giving us eternal life through Christ for free.

            In about twenty minutes, God will offer you healing through the body and blood. “The body of Christ, given to heal you. The blood of Christ, shed to heal you.”

 





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