Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Who Stories

February 1:

Call:       Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
Reading:    W&S #52
Text:       Mark 1: 21-28
Closing:    1 Corinthians 8: 1b - 3

                Who Stories

Several times a year
someone in the community
comes up to me
and     comments/inquires about a particular sermon title
or the sermon titles in general.

My usual response is that they can learn more about the title by joining us
at 10:30    on the first day of the week.

One of my favorite incidents involved Susie Carl
    An active and faithful Episcopalian.
But even Episcopalians read our sign.

Susie called Betsy and pointed out a spelling error on the west
or what I now call the Episcopal side - of the sign.

Betsy told me and I checked it out.

Sure enough, in putting the letters in,
    I had inverted two of them
        A mistake that had not been made on the east
            - or what we might call, the Presbyterian side.

I corrected them and then called Susie
    And I congratulated her on being the only one in Potsdam to pass the test that I had put forward by deliberately inverting the letters.

My tone, however, revealed to her
that the inversion had not really been deliberate.
And that I was teasing
- rather than trying to convince her of a falsehood

I have had so many comments across the years,
That on many weeks after putting the title on our sign
I wonder about the thought processes of those who would read it over the following week
as they     drive by    or walk by  the words on the sign

This week I imagined that those trying to figure out
What    "Who Stories" was all about
Might be considering
    A Dr. Seuss elephant who heard a "who;"
        The elephant, of course, was Horton
    A British scientific television program featuring Dr. Who;
        A part 11 people have played since its inception in 1963
    A culprit in a "Who Dunnit" novel.
Or  Even the sound that an owl makes at night.

I doubt that more than a handful even contemplated the possibility
    That I was addressing the words of an unclean or evil spirit
    Who spoke to Jesus and said,
        "I know who you are.     You are the holy one from God."

Those words may have been spoken by an evil spirit
    But they express accurately and well
    Something we all need to,   and want to,    say to Jesus
        "I know who you are."

And this morning our three stories or scriptures
    Help us to be able to say that.
Thus they are   "Who is Jesus?" stories
    Or  "Who stories"   for short.

We begin with the middle of the three stories
    Middle chronologically
    Middle in its scriptural placement
    Middle in its placement in our service.

But the scripture - although in the middle - is not from Malcom
    It's from Mark

[Mark 1: 21-28]

Mark places this story right after the call to the four fishermen,
    Using it to mark the beginning of Jesus' ministry

That ministry began in Galilee
    with the amazement of the worshippers in the synagogue
They were amazed because they had the sense that
    This was not simply a well educated rabbi sharing his knowledge.

No!
This fellow Jesus was different.
This fellow Jesus was special
This fellow Jesus was teaching with authority.

He was teaching with an authority that they recognized
    An authority that even an evil or unclean spirit recognized.

The man who was suffering from that spirit screamed
    "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?"
    "Have you come to destroy us?
And finally, he screamed the words that ring in our ears today
    "I know who you are
    You are the holy one from God."

Jesus silenced and cast out the spirit
    Thus adding evidence to the conclusion that he had authority.
    An authority even over spirits because it came from God

Now, I have always had a problem with this scripture.

You see, I have never been fully comfortable with Jesus silencing the spirit
    when I think it is important
Not only that we know who Jesus is
But also that we - like the spirit here -
tell others who he is.

But after prayer, and reading, and contemplation,
    I have come to understand that my troubles with the scripture
        comes from my post ascension perspective
And thus my perspective comes from a time
        After his earthly ministry had been completed
        And after proclaiming the Great Commission
            Which directs us to be witnesses for and of him.

But the event in our story
took place at the very beginning of his ministry
It was too early for him to risk an interruption    or a derailing      of that earthly ministry.

Still, the spirit's scream
informed us     who he was  and who sent him
And the casting out of the spirit, as noted earlier,
    Provided additional confirmation of his authority

Then,   the last verse of this scripture states,
   "news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee."

One of the reasons that the people accepted that he had authority,
One of the reasons that the news spread throughout the region,
    Was the line of prophets that had preceded Christ's ministry.

That line began with Moses
    In the promises         in the passage from Deuteronomy
that called us to worship

Moses - the most respected and beloved Israelite - said
    "The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me
        from your community
        from your fellow Israelites
            He's the one you must listen to."

And in telling of God's promise to do this,
he quotes God's statements to him,
"I'll raise up a prophet for them from among their fellow Israelites - one just like you."
        "I'll put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him."

As they sat in the synagogue in Capernaum,
The Israelite people were familiar with these promises
And they        had         been        waiting.

And thus as they sat in that synagogue listening to this fellow Jesus
        They recognized that he might well be the prophet like Moses
        One who had authority
        One who was sent from God
        The one we are to whom we are to listen.


And they recognized his authority
And suspected that the evil spirit was correct about whom he was        because of the very thing Paul observed
in his first letter to the Corinthians  [8: 1b-3]

When those people listened to him in the synagogue
    They observed that his message wasn't simply knowledge
        Which is, of course, valuable
            But which tends to plant seeds of arrogance
    But that instead, that this fellow Jesus taught with love
            Which,  rather than planting arrogance,
builds people up.

That is the key for you and me
    If the message we hear is not a message of love
        We may not know from whom it is coming
    But we will know
        That the message is not coming from Jesus Christ

It is through His message of love that
you and I recognize Christ and his authority
    and who He is - the holy one from God
and we can, in good confidence say,     "I know who you are."

In the Great Commission which he gave as he prepared to ascend
   He told us to tell and show people by being witnesses of just that
We can thus be confident that he won't shut us up      Or cast us out.

I like these "Who Stories" better than
    Those from Dr. Suess or the BBC
or any "Who dunnit" novel I have ever read.
And I find them far more necessary and far more comforting
than the haunting sound         an owl makes at night.

WHOOOOO?    We know who!        You and I, we know who!