Epiphany Reflection for 24th January 2021

A Reflection inspired by Mrs. Anne Wilde

Call to Worship

God summons the day to dawn and teaches the morning to waken the earth. He inspires the valleys to sing and the trees to clap their hands. He causes kings to bow down and the poor to leap and shout for joy. God offers love and mercy lasting forever, fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise.                                                                                            

 

Hymn:  Brightest and Best of the Sons

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining;
low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;
angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all.

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
odours of Edom, and offerings divine,
gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean,
myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
vainly with gifts would his favour secure:
richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

 

Reading: Mark 1 vv.21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Reflection

Mark’s Gospel is incendiary! It’s full of underground messaging written in code! Because it tells of the alternative rule of God that he has already set in motion. Jesus has come to transform the earth, not to replace it! This story of the man with the unclean spirit is another of Mark’s ‘who is this? questions’ For the Jesus in Mark’s gospel as we heard today, teaches ‘as one having authority, and not as the scribes/ (Mark 1.22).

This story from Mark is the first recorded scene of Jesus’ public ministry. Perhaps it’s no accident that Mark starts the story with the cleansing of this man with an unclean spirit in a synagogue – a ‘holy’ place. And he ends that ministry with Jesus ‘cleansing’ the temple, the most ‘holy’ of places, which Jesus declares has become corrupt, unclean.

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, and what the people comment on is that he teaches with authority, not like the scribes, the religious experts they’re used to. Immediately (Mark’s favourite word!), immediately the man with the unclean spirit leaps up, and when Jesus silences the spirit and frees the man, the people’s response is again to comment with awe and wonder on the authority of his teaching. They are astounded. Whatever Jesus has said, he has said with an authority that people did not expect. And, he has said it with an authority that was different than that of the scribes.

In a worldly sense, Jesus didn’t have any power at all. He wasn’t a worldly king with political or military power. He wasn’t of the priests, who had the power in Roman Judaea. He was not even a scribe with the authority of Jewish tradition. The only authority he had was the supreme confidence that what he did and said was God’s will, God’s Word and God’s truth. His authority lay in the sheer power of his words and in the example of his deeds. His authority lay in his living as God’s servant. Jesus used his authority not to obtain power for himself but to serve humanity.

For what Jesus is telling us is that it is not what anybody else says we are that defines who we are in God’s eyes. It is being known by God and named by God as God’s beloved child. If you come to know yourself not through the eyes of this world but through the eyes of God, and through the name that God gives you, you will be set free by it and given life beyond measure. Jesus’ acting in authority brings blessings to his people. It brings health and healing. Jesus’ authority and kingdom ministry invite us to imagine a different world — and to live towards it. Welcome to God’s new world.

 

Hymn: Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
bow down before him, his glory proclaim,
with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him the Lord is his name.

Low at his feet lay your burden of carefulness,
high on his heart he will bear it for you,
comfort your sorrows and answer your prayerfulness,
guiding your steps in the way that is true.

Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth you would count as your own;
truth in its beauty and love in its tenderness
these are the offerings to bring to his throne.

These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
bow down before him, his glory proclaim,
with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him the Lord is his name.

 

Prayer

God of wisdom, we long for a world of love and understanding, where peoples in the richness of diversity live together peacefully, respect one another, care for one another.

We long for your kingdom where love has full authority. Your kingdom come: your will be done.

God of wisdom, we long for a church that is truly the body of Christ, where members with different beliefs, traditions and ideals worship together joyfully, build one another up, unite in serving those in need.

We long for your kingdom where love has full authority. Your kingdom come: your will be done.

God of wisdom, we long for a society that is just and compassionate, where men, women and children, wealthy and poor work together for a good future, value one another provide for one another.

We long for your kingdom where love has full authority. Your kingdom come: your will be done.

God of wisdom, we long for a society that is just and compassionate, where men, women and children, wealthy and poor work together for a good future, value one another provide for one another.

We long for your kingdom where love has full authority. Your kingdom come: your will be done.

God of wisdom, may human authority be exercised with love; may human knowledge be illumined by love; may human lives be inspired by love for you.

Your kingdom come: your will be done.

In the name of him who speaks to us with authority, Jesus Christ our Teacher and our Lord.   Amen.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen

 

Blessing

For all that God can do within us and without us, for all in whom Christ lived before us and lives beside us, for all the Spirit wants to bring us and where she wants to send us, Thanks be to God.

Christ has promised to be with us in the world as in our worship

Go in peace.         Amen.