Epiphany 4b – Sunday 29th January 2012
Mark 1: 21-28
There’s a phrase that has become an almost ordinary, everyday expression of life. It has found its place in the vocabulary of many because of the popularity of a television advert. You know the one I mean?
Ronseal – it does exactly what it says on the tin.
Comedians use it in their acts. Teachers force home the point with it in their classrooms. Mates say it to each other in casual conversation. I’m sure that even a preacher or two has uttered the words from the pulpit.
If I’m to believe what Eugene Peterson says of the gospel of Mark, then someone in the crowd said it about Jesus – ‘A new teaching that does what it says?’
Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. “What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!” News of this travelled fast and was soon all over Galilee. (Mark 1:27,28)
What we’re talking about is the authority of Jesus. In his teaching. In his signs and wonders. In his life. Straight talking. Plain and simple power. No-nonsense, no baffling, no waffle. Jesus stood in the synagogue and held their attention for hour after hour as he talked, answered questions and mesmerised everyone with his confident manner.
His authority was inviting. His authority was gentle. His authority was sure. His authority was inclusive.
I’d give everything for 2 minutes of that in my sermon on Sunday! To hold the complete attention of my congregation. To address each one at the right level of engagement. Not to bore the pants off them. Not to lose my train of thought or go off at a tangent. To actually get my point across in a humorous yet wise way.
Over the last couple of months I’ve really enjoy visiting the weekly blog of Larry Patten over at larrypatten.com. I’ve discovered through his blog, that Larry has put into words – far more succinctly than I ever could – the thoughts that are forming in my mind. For the first three Sundays in Epiphany he’s written some real good stuff, and this week especially, he hits the proverbial nail on its head, with a blog entitled Not Limp, Tame, Cautious or Safe.
“A nervous writer, I worry if my words are too domesticated. Tame. Limp. Cautious. Safe.
I was influenced by something else, something read in the last week. Early in Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus taught at a synagogue, his listeners—his peers, colleagues, fellow Jews, neighbours—admitted to amazement. Why? He spoke with authority…
…If one sentence I write—or one paragraph or novel—ever wields a hint of Gospel-like authority, it’s because I’ll reveal humility. I believe that’s an essential aspect of what Jesus demonstrated in a long-ago synagogue. Human. Humble. Humility. From the Latin, humilus (low), humus (earth). Jesus’ authority was rooted in humility. Serving the other, not self. Nourishing the soul, not a bottom line.
His goal, with apologies to Facebook, was not to be liked, but to be honest from first word to last nail.”
Are our words too tame, limp, cautious and safe? What about our actions? Are they too timid as well? Another common phrase currently going the rounds amongst the more macho in our society tells people to “Man up”. (It might just be a man thing!) As Larry pointed out, it’s not the case that we need to “Man up”, we just need to be humble. To be true to ourselves. To serve the needs of others. To be authentic to the core of our lives that declares that we are made in the image of God, we are his children.
Do our words reflect the glory of God? Do our actions give praise to Him? Do we believe in the Bible? Do we believe in Jesus? We should do. After all, it does exactly what it says on the tin.