Mark 1:27 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.”
These are changing times is a love ballad sung by Aretha Franklin & Michael McDonald. It includes the words “Caught in between, it comes back to you and me. Running out of time we gotta find a better understanding.”
As we continue to journey through the season of Epiphany much is being revealed about who we are as a nation and what God is demanding of us as a faith community. As we watched with much elation and relief the inauguration of President Biden and V.P Kamala Harris we juxtaposed it with the riots and insurrection of January 6th, 2021. The insurrectionists having tested their methods at other Capitol buildings around the nation made bold their previous threats to use their power to stop the ‘ever changing times’.
My friends in the Gospel of St Marks reading, we witness the clash between the evil spirit which sought to impede the new thing that was about to revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus presents a clear difference between power and authority. Power is that which one claims for oneself while authority is that which is received from outside in order to perform a greater task. Authority gives power but power does not give authority. Epiphany 2021 revealed that the evil power of white privilege has never been confronted by the authority of the church. Many white Christians claim that evil power as essential to their faith. This week we saw the tectonic plates of the financial world experiencing a major shift as ordinary investors used their authority against Wall Street power. Every major institution needs to pay attention. The Covid-19 pandemic has not only wrought death but created an environment within which every institution must reassess its relationship with power.
Thus, the Synagogue clash between the man with the evil spirit and Jesus is at its heart a tectonic shift of power. For one to enter into a new relationship with God demands the repudiation or exorcising of the evil that dwells within. Unless the church provides the space for Jesus to exorcise the demon of white privilege then it is doomed to collapse. For too long it sought ways in which it can sustain an unhealthy accommodation until Jesus using his full authority declared no one can serve two masters. It is about the willingness to bow at the feet of Jesus and claim a new identity. Christianity demands a radical transformation not just of one’s viewpoint but the very basis upon which one can claim identity. Too many have sought to progress in the nation and by extension the church based upon white privilege thus stymying the work we are called to perform in our urban communities. Our nation stands at the crossroads between the brink of an abyss or a launching pad to new worlds.
This was the gift offered by Jesus Christ then and now. It all began with one man’s overcoming struggle to be willing to allow Jesus’ authority to reshape his power. This has been the underlying theme for the past weeks in Epiphany. Christian discipleship is a radical submission to the authority of Jesus which then empowers us to become servants of the living God. In other places it’s called conversion. It is that experience which often times our young people complain of missing from our worship experience. The authority of Jesus was displayed in the restoration of the full humanity of the demoniac, now no longer a person with an unclean spirit but now a messenger of the Good News. There is hope for all only when power comes with authority. Last two weeks we witnessed political authority being given to President Biden leaving his predecessor with power. GameStop stock is more valuable than Apple stock!
To the prophetess Aretha we boldly declare and walk faithfully believing “These are changing time” The church like the demoniac “is caught between but it comes back to you and me.” Can it be saved to become an instrument of salvation? It’s all up to us as Christians to fully participate in the conversion experience. Yes, my friends there was much to fear when the demoniac roamed the halls of the synagogue and many cowered in fear of him. Jesus enters the space and reclaims it in the name of God! We are called to be sharing in the same ministry of entering into places of evil and redeem it in the name of God. In the words of the psalmist “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Ps.139:8)
Epiphany 2021 is truly becoming a season of revelation of God’s authority and power! Let us now claim it to restore his world.