Sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu to the People of St Pauls 31 January 2021

Greetings in Jesus’ name!

Collect: Raphael Mdepha

Sermon: Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu

Prayers: Portia Nodangala

Please note: We will not hold a service in the church this Sunday.

Collect Raphael Mdepha

Merciful Lord,
Your word brings healing and life:
cleanse us from our sins
that we may serve you with a quiet mind;
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit
one God, in glory everlasting.
Amen

Sermon by Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu

Few Weeks ago, as we were reflecting on Jesus’ baptism, it came out that Mark seems to have a special focus on Jesus’ identity.

This also seems to appear on Today’s gospel reading, with the man possessed by an impure spirit saying, “I know who you are, the Holy one of God!” One may wonder,what’s happening here? what does Jesus have to do with the man possessed by demonic spirits? Here Mark narrates to us the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he calls first disciples (Simon, Andrew, James and John), he takes them with him to the Synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath day.

The synagogue is a worship space, a place of prayer, teaching, and community gathering. It is in this place that Jesus begins to teach. Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus’ teaching was about, but what he tells us is that his teaching was different from what people were used to. His teaching had nothing to do with law and tradition as scribes would normally teach on, but his revealed authority. Jesus’ teaching is relatively free, Unlike the scribes, Jesus presents the God of freedom and grace.

He teaches as one with authority. His teaching doesn’t seem to confuse those in the Synagogue, instead Mark tells us they were amazed. They could just sense authority from his teaching. But where did Jesus get authority? He was not a scribe (a person with authority in the Jewish tradition) neither was he a priest (with authority in the Roman Judea), He was not a worldly king with military and political power, Jesus was seen as someone with no power.

The only authority Jesus had was from the One who sent Him, he taught with confidence that (unlike the scribes) whatever he said or did was from Godself. Mark here writes to people who understood Jesus’ situation, he is writing to the powerless and poor audience, living in a country occupied by a powerful empire. To them God’s power could be manifested trough the healing of the sick, disability and demonic possessed. To them hearing of a person who can set others free from these was a lifesaving goon news.

Hence even Mark presents Jesus as someone with the divine authority. While Jesus is still teaching, and people amazingly listening to his teaching, a man possessed by the impure spirit cried out. “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? have you come to destroy us?”

Mind you, we are not told that Jesus said anything about the demons But what we are told is that Jesus’ teaching differs from that of the scribes. Unlike the scribes He doesn’t teach law I wonder if Mark is not inviting us to draw the parallel between the man possessed by impure spirits and the teachings of the scribes Like the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees, the man possessed by demons is found in the Synagogue Like the teaching of law (by the Scribes and Pharisees) the man seems to have enjoyed his time in the Synagogue, until the arrival of Jesus I wonder if the struggle between Jesus and the demons do not signify the struggle between Jesus and the “scribes and Pharisees”

The conflict between their socio-religious dimension which favoured those with power over those with less or no power could be paralleled to the demonic possession.

What are the demons of today, what are those systems and practices that favours those in power over those with less or no power? Maybe let me think of a few:

  • Consumerism- that makes the rich to feel more important and better that the working class
  • Corruption- that robes the poor of their right to basic needs and enrich those in power.
  • Environmental degradation- that destroys the infrastructure, leaving those struggling to survive more vulnerable, just few days ago, Cyclone Eloise left a number of families in our neighbouring countries homeless.
  • Racism, Xenophobia, Homophobia, sexist- The act of hatred that allows us to continue to dehumanise our fallow brothers and sisters based on their race, sexual preference and nationality. Discriminatort actions that perpetrates hetero-patriarchal normative System.

All these are the demons of todays that favours those in the centre and excludes those in the margins. And it is these systems and practices that Jesus came to destroy It is these systems that we are called to challenge and destroy.

Some of them are internal, they exist within us, and unless we allow Jesus to take authority over our lives, we cannot overcome them. And some of them are external, they require us to go out and proclaim Jesus as the one who has authority over them. My Sisters and brothers in Christ, let us go in and reflect on our own contribution to the unjust systems of this society.

Let us also go out and challenge the unjust systems of this society and in so doing we will be proclaiming the gospel of Jesus’ “authority” over the unclean of spirits that continue to take over our society. Amen

Prayers Portia Nodangala

Let us Pray.. Heavenly Father. We praise You for this day and Your purpose for it. As we sit in Your presence — for You assure us that where two or more gather in Your name You are there.

Let Your peace rain down on us today, as we seek You more than anything else. The Scriptures reminds us that the more we seek You the more we will find You. We seek Your clarity and Your peace. We know You are with us. Lead our surrendered hearts to the path of Your peace Help us to understand that we don’t need full clarity to walk into the unique purpose You’ve laid in our lives.

Lift our eyes to seek You first today, and always.

Shift our perspective to seek Your peace above all else.

In every situation we ponder in our daily lives, let the Holy Spirit translate Your commands.

Give us renewed strength and godly courage to obey You without Questioning.

Lord in Your Mercy…
Hear Our Prayers.
God of Christ Jesus,

Please hear our prayers for the human family in its happiness and in its distress.
Gather us up into the reconciling fire of your love——
that we may be purged of all that fosters misery, and inducted into everything that creates Love, Joy and Peace.

We commend to you those who feel –broken and isolated.,
We commend to you the hungry and homeless, those anxious or in agony.
We commend to you those who through Covid-19 are shattered and in despair.
We commend to you the frightened and insane, the dying and grieving.
We commend to you all who love Christ, and work for his way of Reconciliation, Justice, Compassion, and Peace.

May Your Spirit lifts us from our loneliness and despair,
With Your forgiveness—, may we work together to produce whole people who reflect your love in all our lives.

Lord in your Mercy….
Hear our Prayers
God of wonder,
We wonder at our world and pause to reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for.
We thank you for those who offer us love and support.
We praise you for the good things in our lives, times of work, and times of relaxation; the food we eat, and the pleasure we take from living.

May we take from the times of prayer and reflection a sense of the quality of life with You, and find ourselves satisfied with all You have offered us in the life of Jesus Christ.
Lord in your Mercy….
Hear our Prayers
God of life,

We pray for those who are materially rich and yet find themselves spiritually poor.

Here in South Africa, many enjoy a standard of living unknown on other parts of the country.
And yet no matter what we own we can feel empty, and dissatisfied with life.
With Your Spirit’s prompting; may those who hunger for something different discover that belongings and things may not always fill the gaps of life, and instead in the life of Jesus.

You guide all to be fed in the pursuit of Your Kingdom.
Lord in your Mercy…
Hear our Prayers
God of Happiness

We pray for those who want to escape from the emptiness and pain of their lives.
In the hunger to find a place of happiness, some dull the pain by harming themselves.
Others simply want to be reminded that they exist and matter.
As Christ’s community, may we find ourselves part of your desire that all people be welcomed, acknowledged and loved?

Lord in your Mercy…..
Hear our Prayers

God of all love and peace, we come to you in faith, offering you access into every area of our lives
We pray for those who are afraid to place faith at the heart of their lives.
We remember those who feel that life is too busy — to stop and reflect upon the wonder of the world in which we live;
Those who want to love and be loved and yet are afraid that in reaching out to others they will make themselves vulnerable.

May your Spirit always whisper gentle words of encouragement that invite them to sit and take time to feed on your story of Love, Joy and Peace.

Lord in your Mercy….
Hear our Prayers

God of Grace In 2nd Corinthians 12 verse:9 — you remind us that… Your Grace is sufficient for us, for your power is made perfect in weakness.” ——-Draw us close to yourself.

May many know of your Great Name. May they hear of your works and miracles of your faithfulness. We choose again today to fix our eyes, not on all the troubles that surround us, but on you alone.

You remind us over and over in your Word that you are always with us. You tell us not to fear and you draw us close into your Presence. You’re the only place we find refuge in the storms that surround us right now Lord. You’re the only place we can find peace and strength. So we ask you for your words of Truth and Power to strengthen us in our inner being and lift our hearts to you.

Thank you Lord that you are Victorious over every trouble and obstacle. Thank you Lord that you have overcome sin, and death, and any evil that we may face today. Lord thank you that through these trials you are using our lives and circumstances to make a mark on this world.

And because of you, We too can have victory, and we can walk strong in your peace.

May Your Kingdom continue to transform all we know of life.

AMEN.

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426