Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Epiphany   January 31, 2021   

Karin Liebster, Associate Pastor

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
(1 Corinthians 8:1-13 not used)
Mark 1:21-28

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Jesus taught them as one having authority.”

Who are the people who we grant the authority to make pronouncements that will change my life, guide me in my life, correct me in my ways and the choices I make. Take a doctor for example. We prefer to seek out an authority in their field so that we get a clear, trustworthy diagnosis. We are willing to accept regimens of treatment and projections about our outlook if the word comes from a source that speaks with authority.

Or take teachers. We’ve all had them. Good ones and bad ones. The bad teachers used their authority to dominate. They let us know how much power they have or had over us, our lives, our minds, our schedules.

The good teachers are those who teach with authority. Who open our eyes. Who open up mysteries; when class is over and the world is not the same anymore. Understanding floods you from inside, a new lightness lifts your step how to approach life or a specific subject. The world has changed, and a new time has begun.

We are still looking for teachers, we are looking for leaders, world leaders, whose authority we trust. Because we are still in search of a new time. We are in search of the knowledge and skill that will change our lives and makes us whole, or even only a little more whole, purposeful, directed. We yearn to leave behind the confusion, the multitude of conflicting answers that we get. We yearn to leave behind the deception of political and economic answers that we have discovered do not provide clarity and wholesomeness. We yearn for deeper understanding to leave behind conflicting voices which let us make wrong decisions, decisions that in turn cause fear, loneliness.

When it dawns on the people of Israel that their beloved, trusted teacher and leader Moses will not be with them forever, and that if they didn’t have a mediator between them and God to receive God’s word they would in the directness of God’s awesome, holy presence simply burn up and perish, Moses comforts them saying that there will be a new prophet for them. And prophets there were, we just met some of them again recently, Samuel and Jonah, there were Elijah and Nathan, and Isaiah and Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, and all the others, the sages and wisdom scholars of the later centuries. God, the ultimate authority, does not leave us alone.

And now we are in Capernaum, a small Jewish fishing village on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus makes that his base in Galilee, not Nazareth from where he is. What we know about him is that he is filled with the Holy Spirit, bestowed with God’s divine authority at baptism as the Beloved Son. We know his one sentence of preaching/teaching that he has uttered so far, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news,” and we know he called four disciples. Simon/Peter and Andrew actually are home in Capernaum.

It is the Sabbath day. Jesus steps onto that path that John the Baptizer prepared for him, the paths made straight in the proverbial desert, hills made low, valleys lifted up. Jesus enters the synagogue, the community hall where on the Sabbath the Torah is read and studied.

The Sabbath is a different time. It is always a new time. A day of rest and re-creation. It is the day when the people remember the kingship of God, that God is the ultimate authority, that we people are not the center of the universe. It is the day to remember God’s purpose for creation, God’s rule over creation.

Into this Sabbath day Jesus proclaims: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent, and believe in the good news.”

The hour has begun, the day of God’s time and rule is here. Jesus teaches it with authority, and those with him in the synagogue are astounded. They know viscerally/ on the spot that the skill, the wisdom, the scholarship, the reputation of their revered authorities (the scribes) does not come close to/does not reach into this fulfilled time, the hour that has now begun for which they all so yearn.

They are filled with amazement.

“Just then there is in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit and he cries out.” Now, this is no coincidence. It is silent in the synagogue. Those present, those astounded do not speak. Jesus’ teaching provokes a powerful counter force. An unclean spirit screams into the face of Jesus’ proclamation: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?!”

Jesus exorcizes the unclean spirit, with a word, silence! be silent! Filled with the Holy Spirit of God, Jesus denies that unclean spirit its host, the poor man, in whom it had settled in place for so long. One last time the man convulses, and the spirit is gone, disempowered, not able to hold sway over this human life anymore.

Silence and peace fill the synagogue.

And all of a sudden there is space, there is room. People stir in amazement, they talk, their tension and nervousness gives way: “What is this? A new teaching, with authority!” God’s hour has begun, the time is fulfilled!

The news spreads throughout the surrounding region of Galilee: it truly is Sabbath today, God’s day.

The world is not the same anymore. Now the people in the synagogue are talking, brought out of silence to wonderment, recognition, knowing in a deep way. They are engulfed in a true teaching moment, recognition pulsing through body and mind.

Can we, too, enter into this realm of authority? Into Jesus’ time, God’s time? The full time? The Sabbath day in Capernaum is gone so long already.


The good news is, dear congregation, that it is Sunday today. Sabbath is followed by Sunday, the eighth day of creation, the day in which we, the baptized, the Church, join Sabbath re-creation. We live in the continued presence of our risen Lord who meets his disciples in Galilee. If in Galilee, that can only mean in our own home towns, our own lives, our own specific time.

A new time has indeed begun. We live in the presence of the risen Christ who in dying destroyed the conflicting, convulsing forces of this world that still try to wield power and hold sway over us.

The world is not the same anymore. Jesus’ teaching opens the space for us to begin to share our questions, experiences, our stories of discovery, just like after every great, eye opening, life changing lesson.
It is the time to share in amazement and wonderment the discovery that hope is still there! It has not disappeared even 11 months into the pandemic.

In this new space and time we may be surprised to find ourselves speaking with authority, calmly, attentively, heart to heart, Christ present, the hour is here.

We do not always remember that we already live in the realm of Christ’s, of God’s ultimate authority, but we do.

Through us the healing, life giving authority of Christ changes the world, dispersing the confusion, the bewilderment that has beset us, one by one, word by word, hope by hope. Christ met us in Galilee, and Christ meets us here. Amen.