Sermon Trinity 1 - Sunday 6.9.2021
Mark has no Christmas story. There's nothing about a family tree - a lineage of respectable and disreputable ancestors. But Mark has one thing in common with the other 3 Gospels: Jesus: a man of Magic.
Mark's Jesus stands out for his exploits as a healer of broken bodies and souls; the restorer of hope; the repairer of relationships; destroyer of Satan; the announcer of the kingdom of God to ever-increasing crowds and master to 12 close disciples.
His doings were not only excellent but magical.
The trouble with Magicians, then and now, is that they are viewed with great suspicion. Lots of looks, thoughts and even audible comments like I wonder how he does that. He's pulled some wool over my eyes! There must be some trickery involved.
I say, maybe, because we know that Magic confronts us with the eternal dichotomy: divine or human, of the Earth or Heaven.
Indeed, Matthew's Gospel reveals that there are two types of Magi. Two types of Wise men.
Some magi serve at the courts of an earthly King.
Some serve a Heavenly King - the Christopher's who saw the Star in heaven and travelled to find baby Jesus to pay him homage.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the nagging question for the scribes and Jewish leaders of Jesus time was about his Magic source. By what authority? On whose orders? For whose benefit?
It was certainly not theirs. Jesus agenda didn't serve their ends. Instead, it undermined them. And if Jesus was not serving them, who then?
In essence, their bewilderment turned on the question: is Jesus divine or human? Is he carnal or spiritual? Is he a man of the flesh or a being of the Holy Spirit?
This is the question, the tension, at the heart of today's complex and rich passage from Mark's GospelGospel.
This tension is also present in the conversation God had with Adam and Eve. "Adam! Eve! Where are you?" said a searching God. "Oh! I've discovered that I am naked," said Adam. To which God replied: "You're naked? - "Whatever gave you that idea!" "The serpent" - confirmed Eve
Today, let's put aside the feminist angst about that conversation. Let's focus on its main lesson.
That lesson, of course, is that there is a force within creation that is inclined to resist God's way with and in us. Call it the serpent, Satan, the devil - whatever you will. Its essence is to resist the good, to undermine life and to flourish. It exists as Jesus declares in John 10.10: to enslave, to kill and to keep us from flourishing.
Today's Gospel, however, serves up a timeless warning. . We must not dare to confuse the action of the enslaver, the evil one, with the liberating works of God. Evil serves none of the ends of the Nazareth manifesto. The difference between the divine and the hum is so clear that you cannot mistake them What is more, Jesus says, that must not confuse or dare to interpolate them. It is unforgivable to ascribe the works of God to that of the devil. To do so amounts to wilfully rejecting God. It is to follow a path that leads irretrievably down to utter destruction.
The Psalmist and also Paul, in our second reading, both offer us good counsel against this embracing this dangerous wilfulness.
What they say in a nutshell is this: we must never foreclose on the power of God to save, to keep faith with the Nazareth Manifesto. With God, the good news is always brought to the poor, the captives are released, the blind see, and the oppressed go free. So whatever the circumstances of life, we must be prepared to cry to God for help and to "...wait and watch for GOD - (for) with GOD's arrival comes love, with GOD's arrival comes generous redemption. No doubt about it—he'll redeem Israel, buyback Israel from captivity to sin."
Paul even puts it more decisively: we must hold onto the faith that "the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us... into God's presence." We can do this "because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal."
And that is how we must see and consider Jesus. Not just as a human but as divine.
Jesus' identity goes beyond his humanity. Jesus is a magician of heaven. He is the eternal Son of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit as a healer of bodies, healer of souls, destroyer of Satan, the herald of God's Kingdom.
The practical effect of seeing Jesus in this way is that we will recognise him as Messiah who rose from death to lead us to the presence of God. It means we will encounter God as the Holy Trinity who abides in us, calls us, helps and empowers us in our struggle against sin and darkness. We will experience the divine resources to enable us to listen, and see, and act, to do God's will, and so be a family of spiritual brothers and sisters to one another. Amen.