Flexing the Power of Love
Psalm 111; Mark 1:21-28
The psalmist writes that everything about this life is related to the power and reliability of our Creator. Our trust must be in God alone. We live in an age where our faith is misunderstood and misinterpreted by both the very conservative and the very liberal. So when we react to the scriptures from our world view of the third millennium of the Common Era, we need to pause and ask, “Just what was it the writers of the Bible were trying to say in their time and place?”
In Psalm 111 this morning, the complete focus is on God. And to be even more specific, the Psalmist praises God for the works that God has done. We best know God, by observing the practical, physical, results of God’s works.
There is a natural stress or tension between being a believer in the love of God and Jesus his Christ, and being a citizen of the world. We live in that tension. And if the truth be known, we thrive in that tension.
The muscles of our body only work when they are in tension. The body moves in response to coordinated muscle contractions, pulling with and against each other across the joints of the body. Without tension we are just a blob. Tension then brings out the best in us.
Our faith cannot flex the power of its value without recognizing and responding to the tension between confidence in God’s love and the values of the world. We live and thrive in that tension.
The gospel of Mark fires like a staccato attack. After John had been put in prison, Jesus began preaching the same message. Wait, what? John was put in prison? Why? What happened? You do not get such answers from Mark. His message is all about Jesus of Nazareth, the man of action. Something happens and Mark says, “Then immediately Jesus goes and does or says something.” You have to love the bare bones approach to the life of Jesus in Mark.
Jesus begins preaching and then goes down to the lake to call fishermen to be the core of his band of merry men. And Mark dutifully recalls, and at once – or in some translations – immediately, they left their boats and followed Jesus.
Mark does not say if they knew Jesus. Mark does not say if they had heard him preach. Other gospels claim to know more about the origins of the apostles, but Mark says Jesus called and immediately they followed him.
Then they went to the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus preached, and in the presence of the community, healed a man. Talk without action is just talk. It may excite some, but until actual results are visible, it is simply noise.
Most of us are not easily persuaded. We decide slowly and proceed with caution. We do our best not to claim too much. As people of this world we want health insurance, a pension, and time to plan our vacation in careful detail. But we are also followers of Jesus. We do cling to the Good News that Jesus delivered. We set our hopes on the love of God, best understood through the life, teaching, and practical ministry of Jesus. In our heart of hearts we realize, we are a part of God’s love in action.
This congregation is moving into a time of some stress, as there is a change in leadership. The Unified Board Meeting on Monday night was a local church rite for the transfer of authority. The Boards met after the Council and largely settled on the practical organization of their year. Who will be in leadership, when will we meet, what is the best way to contact each other?
We are also entering a time when we consider a change in the pastoral office. When we think about the questions, what kinds of skills and abilities should the new pastor have in order to make this congregation the most effective vehicle for sharing the Good News on the north end of Main Street in 2018 and beyond? What do we need to share and emphasize about the nature of the congregation when talking with potential candidates, in order to attract one who might help us be our best?
These are stressful and challenging questions. Fortunately, you do not have to reinvent the wheel. There is a process, more art than science - and less predictable than a manufacturing process, that guides loving congregations and caring pastors in their efforts to find each other.
In order for these processes to be effective, all of you need to participate. You have to speak up for what is on your hearts and minds. If there is something you think is really important that needs to continue, it is time to express your concern. Do not be afraid. You are among friends who want to know what helps you, and will respond to both you and respond to your ideas and concerns.
I read a couple of articles recently that say communities are most effectively built side by side. If there is something you care about, find others who share your interest and concern. Start right away on your own, do not wait and expect leadership to come down from on high and make it happen. The other article said that the mark of a vital faith community, is the impact they have on people who are not members. This is never more true than in a church like this one. Each member provides support and continuity to the others.
An example of that is the mission project that is being championed by the Property Board. With Divine inspiration, the Property Board, who has every right to claim that they more than enough problems and responsibilities, latched onto the practical local mission of Community’s Caring Cupboards. With the blessing of Council, and the promise of seed money from the Memorial Fund, they are moving ahead. They are forging partnerships with the Youth Board, seeking other Morton churches to get involved.
This model of responding to inspiration, forging partnerships in the church and reaching out into the community, is a useful and important way to express the vitality of this faith community. Faith without passion creates a congregation dedicated to the preservation of memories. Following our passion into action, makes us followers of Jesus, like the Jesus we meet in Mark’s gospel.
If our trust in God were limited to what one individual can do, our expectations might be pretty small. But what we are able to do together, within the framework of this supporting faith community, well that is amazing. We believe that God responds to our prayers. We believe the presence of the Holy Spirit is active where two or three are gathered. This is a power that belongs to the congregation.
The power of the people of God is not flexed when frozen by counting our losses and limitations. The power of faith is flexed like a muscle in tension, moving with power. You are the power of love, put together by a loving God, to speak to a world that needs the hope we possess. And when do you start? Well, immediately of course. Mark would have it no other way. Amen.