Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral 1/29/12
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Mark 1:21-28
As I was working on this homily,
struggling with the question of
what these scriptures were saying to me and
trying to decide on the most important point
of all the possible ones,
I recalled a preaching institute I attended
shortly after my ordination.
The main focus of the presenter was
that God must be the object of all of our preaching.
Preaching should focus on God.
So, what do today’s scriptures tell us about God?
How can we know God better as a result of today’s readings?
In today’s Old Testament reading,
we heard that the Israelites knew of the power of God.
They were fearful that,
if they had direct contact with God
through His voice or His fire, they would die.
But we also heard that God understood their concerns.
God told Moses that He would change his method
of communicating with them.
He would raise up a prophet from among them.
God would put the right words in the mouth of the Prophet,
and the prophet would speak God’s words correctly
to the Iraelites.
It would be the responsibility of the Israelites
to listen and to follow.
Any false prophets will be dealt with severely.
The God of the Israelites was
a God who understood their needs - a God who cared for them.
In the first letter to the Corinthians,
Paul described the anxiety one suffers in the conflict between
the things of the Lord and the things of the world.
He seems to be saying
that this conflict is particularly prevalent in marriage,
that the unmarried can more easily concentrate
on the things of Lord.
In the end, Paul does not want to restrain people from marrying;
he just wants to warn us so that we can remain faithful to God.
So, who is this God?
He is a God who sends his prophets, his disciples,
his missionary St. Paul to relieve our anxieties,
truly a God who cares for us –
a God who wants us to please Him by placing our trust in him.
And in the Gospel,
Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue was different
than that of the scribes.
He didn’t just preach the traditional party line.
He had a new message about the kingdom of God.
He delivered this message with authority;
a manner which commanded the attention of the people.
He also performed an exorcism.
Even though the unclean spirit knew exactly who Jesus was,
the Holy One of God,
Jesus had power over the spirit and easily cast out the spirit.
The people recognized the power that Jesus had,
but they did not yet know who he was.
So , who is our God?
A God who sent His Holy One to be with us,
A powerful God who can conquer evil,
if we are faithful to Him - a God who cares for us.
God knows us all too well;
God knows that, for us to understand His plans for us,
He must continue to send his message to us
through human beings.
God sent many prophets to the Israelites:
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezekiel and others.
Jesus is the ultimate prophet promised by God to Moses,
and, since that time, many, including St. Paul and other saints,
have continued to bring God’s Message to us.
God really cares for us.
And we are all possessed by the unclean spirit
that expresses itself in the anxiety that Paul described.
We are divided between the Lord and the world.
And God has sent Jesus, not just as a prophet,
but also as our healer and saviour,
to conquer the anxiety of sin
so that we can overcome that anxiety
and keep our focus on the Lord.
God, present in the words of the prophets to guide the Israelites.
God, there to take care of the Israelites.
God, present bodily in Jesus, who lived died and rose to save us.
God, ever present to take care of us.
There is a curious similarity between what we do here each Sunday,
and what Jesus did in the synagogue.
First, he taught the people;
he was THE ultimate prophet with a new and astonishing message.
Every Sunday we hear a snippet of that same astonishing message
in the Liturgy of the Word.
This is what we are doing right now.
God continues his presence with us in the Word
and we are to listen just like the Israelites.
After he taught the people,
he healed the person possessed by a demon.
After we finish the Liturgy of the Word
with the General Intercessions
or as they are commonly called the Prayers of the Faithful,
we will enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Through the action of the priest,
God continues to be present to us,
but in a special way on the altar,
in the Body and Blood of his Son,
sent for our healing – for our salvation.
The Eucharistic Prayer ends with the Great Amen.
We then pray the Lord’s Prayer and the priest follows it with:
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin
and safe from all distress
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Every Sunday each of us brings our lives
with our anxieties, our distress,
our unclean spirits, to the altar, so that Our Savior,
Jesus Christ, can come to us and cast them out.
Then after the Sign of Peace and the Lamb of God,
the priest holds up the Body and Blood of Christ and says,
“Behold the Lamb of God,
Behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.”
We all respond:
“Lord, I am not worthy
That you should enter under my roof
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The miracle of the transformation of the bread and wine
into the Body and Blood of Christ,
is followed by the miracle of our own transformation.
Though we are not worthy,
we believe that God so cares for us
that he sent His Son to cast out our sinful spirits.
Unlike those who witnessed Jesus’ exorcism
and didn’t recognize who he was,
we know the whole story.
We recognize the miracle that has happened;
we know that the miracle of God sending his only Son
to suffer, die and rise from the dead
is the means by which we can be healed.
Our redemption began 2000 years ago
with Jesus’ ministry of teachings, wonders and signs
and continued to the sacrifice on the cross.
That same miraculous sacrifice is what we celebrate today.
Jesus continues his healing among us.
Our God is truly a God who cares for us;
A God who wants us to put our faith in Him;
A God who heals us of our sins
when that faith goes astray;
A God who dearly wants us to be with Him
at the final supper of the Lamb.