Rev. Carol A. Prochaska (ret.)
January 29, 2012
Scriptures: Deuteronomy18:15-20, Psalm 111, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28
The famous baseball player, Mickey Mantle, has been quoted as saying: "It's unbelievable what you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life." Could this not also be said about life in general and in particular life as disciples of Jesus Christ?
It was some years ago: The place was Texas. The day was Sunday February 14th — Valentine's Day. John and I were working as Co-Ministers. If you've been to Texas, we were serving a church not far from the city of Houston. After worship and fellowship we locked up the church to make our way to our separate cars. We usually took two cars to the church because I was in the habit of arriving earlier than John on Sunday mornings, and more importantly, we so often needed separate cars in order to fulfill our church responsibilities according to our own job descriptions. On this day we were both going home at the same time for lunch. As we reached our cars I said, "See you at home!" John nodded. And off we went.
I had been home for about 10 minute — no John. Another 10 minutes, still no John. Then it became 40 plus minutes... still no John. I know! I know something is wrong. I know because because there was that time when my Mum and I were waiting for my Dad and he was late, he was very late because that evening he had died of a heart attack. I know because of the numerous times in my past life, in my previous marriage, when my daughters' father was late because he had been drinking — again. So I know! I know "LATE" can't be good. When the door bell rings I go expecting the very worst! However! There stands John! Grinning! He's standing there grinning—of all things he's grinning! He is apparently without a care in the world! And I'm shouting: "Where have you been? You're late! What's wrong?" I am so upset -because you see I know Ð I KNOW WHAT LATE MEANS!
I am so certain of what I know that it is only as the smile has totally faded from John's face, it is only when he is standing there looking stunned, looking as if he has just been punched, it is only then hat I see he is carrying in each hand a large red gift bag: two bags bulging with Valentine Day gifts!
The unclean spirit in Mark says: "What have you do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?" (It can't be good!) And indeed the unclean spirit accusingly asks: "Have you come to destroy us?" (For whatever reason Jesus has come it can't be good. It can't be about healing and salvaging and teaching and transforming and loving!)
Remember how the unclean spirit knows? It says: "I know who you are—you are the Holy One of God." True! This unclean spirit knows something about Jesus. Even so, Jesus does let it be
Jesus' rebukes the spirit, saying, "Be silent, and come out." We could say there is a catharsis: a coming out of that which is not helpful to the person. In the Greek, "unclean spirit" is literally un-catharted spirit. We are familiar with catharsis. Sometimes counseling or therapy, or simply talking with someone we trust. It's a process to get out something that is troubling something that is not healthy to keep bottled-up inside. It's probably not our fault. We're probably not to blame. But it is going to get in the way of us being whole and in the way of being in the present and relating in the present. Could I have possibly known why John was taking longer to arrive at home? No. Even at the very best of times I was not... am not... and never will be all-knowing! And I have a hunch that none of you are either! So if we're not all knowing can we still embody the love of God? We know we can! I could have chosen to go to the door embodying God's love. I could have gone to the door aware of my limited knowledge and that I was basing that bit of knowledge on the past. Then I would have been ready — on that day — in that moment to receive from John and to celebrate Valentine's Day.
Perhaps some of you could tell a similar story. I think this kind of experience is not all that uncommon between partners, between children and parents, between relatives, neighbors, work colleagues, church members. We respond as if we are all knowing. We ground ourselves, not in love, but in knowing—and sadly, at best—partial knowing.
John and I worked our way through that incident. We did celebrate Valentine's although it was a little subdued that year. Even when we have what could be called complete knowledge that in 1st Corinthians: "[W]e know that no idol in the world really exists, 'and that there is no God but one.'" We know this. But Paul goes on to say how not everyone in that congregation knows, so therefore those who know must take care that their liberty (their knowing) does not become a pit-fall for others. so we can take from this that to the best of our ability we don't use what we know to diminish or discourage or ostracize or harm in anyway. And above all else we soak—we saturate—our knowledge in the kind of love revealed in Jesus, the kind of love he taught and lived.
You may have been thinking about how much we all depend on knowledge. Someone's knowledge can be a matter of life and death. Lately we've been hearing in the news about the captain of a cruise ship who may or may not have known what he was suppose to be doing either before or during the ship-wreck. When I go to see my doctor I want my doctor to know—to know a lot—about a lot of things I don't while at the same time I trust that this particular knowledge will be used for my well-being. So yes we value and appreciate and need knowledge. And thus may God help us find a home for our knowledge. And may this home always be Christ-like love.
The apostle Paul reminds us that even if we can speak all the tongues of the earth, even if we can comprehend all mysteries, even if we have all knowledge, but we do not love, we are nothing, we gain nothing.