Mark 1:21-28 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
Palmer in awe of Colorado
William Jackson Palmer found himself far from home as he explored the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This was long before there were cars, or highways. Before buildings dotted the skyline. Instead, there were farmhouses that dotted the plains, here and there. On one such explorative journey, his party travelled north from Pueblo. Riding along the foothills through the night, in the light of the full moon. As they travelled, General Palmer slept on the top of his carriage under the full moonlight. He awoke with the moon shining in his face, and Pikes Peak towering in the distance. Moonlight glistening off of the snow covered peak. He could not sleep anymore with all the splendid panorama of mountains gradually and unrolling itself as they travelled. As the sun began to peak over the prairie, he and drank in, along with the purest mountain air, the full exhilaration of the early morning ride.
Palmer was in awe. Isn’t it interesting? The phrase “in awe?” We don’t feel “awe.” We don’t think “awe.” We are “in awe.” Almost like we are taken up into something that bubbles up from within us, surrounds us, grows to be more than us, until we are “in awe.” Seeing the sun rise over the plains, lighting up Garden of the Gods, and Pikes Peak, William Jackson Palmer was “in awe.” Captured by the scene, taken up into a moment that was beyond thought, beyond emotion.
Disciples in awe of Jesus (Narrative + Text)
Here these words from Mark 1:27-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee..
May God bless the reading, hearing, and understanding of this word.
Jesus, walking along the sea, called the disciples to follow him. And they did, immediately! Immediately, they went to Capernaum. To the synagogue. Where Jesus taught. Now, you have to remember, they didn’t see Jesus as the Messiah. In fact, in the Gospel of Mark, they never really do understand. They get close, but they could not see. Not really. They had just decided to follow him, they didn’t know what to expect, what this adventure would hold for them! So, when Jesus stood up to teach in the synagogue, I don’t know what they expected! Maybe to hear what they had heard from all the other preachers they had ever heard. But that isn’t what they heard. They were astounded at his teaching. He taught like no one else, he spoke with an authority that was unlike any authority they had ever encountered before. They were “in awe.” Taken up in something that bubbled up from within them, something beyond emotion, beyond thought. They were in awe of his teaching.
(Have you ever been there? Has this thing ever happened in worship that you couldn’t quite name, couldn’t quite put your finger on? But from somewhere deep within you, something bubbled up from deep within you, becoming bigger than you, a response beyond thought, beyond emotion? I remember the first time I experienced Lessons and Carols. The pitch black of the sanctuary, the hushed voices barely audible in the space, the tension in the air high…Slowly, step by step the choir entering the sanctuary, singing “oh come, oh come Emanuel.” Each holding their candle until the room is bright with light and song. Or that moment in the sermon, when brings you to full attention with a story, and he just waits until it settles in your soul a little, as you lean forward and wait for that long, dramatic pause to come to an end… have you ever been “in awe” during worship?)
Jesus is preaching this jaw dropping sermon, like no other sermon that anyone had ever heard, and just then… right in the middle of the sermon…. a man from the back of the sanctuary starts crying out… I don’t know about you, but I have been there! I was there when a woman started telling me where I could go, in very loud, not very churchy language. There was the man that walked up to the very, very front to watch Kent preach one Sunday. When I was preaching outside last summer, there was the man that walked up… during my sermon …to explain that he was Jesus and he needed my microphone! Those are uncertain moments, I can feel my heart starting to race and my vision starting to focus in, just THINKING about those moments!
In the middle of an amazing, jaw dropping sermon, the disciples in awe, this man starts crying out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” And Jesus, rebukes the man, “be silent and come out of him” he says. And the spirit did! The spirit came out of the man. And the disciples, they were “in awe.”
We are in the middle of a sermon series about home, returning home, because we all are away from home. We were pushed out of that place of comfort, and safety, and routine over 18 months ago. As a world we are grieving those things that we just took for granted. Hugs and handshakes. Laughter and gatherings without fear.
But being away from home isn’t all about the fear. It is when we are away from home that these moments of awe capture us and our being. The disciples were “in awe” in this moment. Overwhelmed by the teachings of this man that had called them away from home. William Jackson Palmer, was “in awe” of this moment that the beauty of Pikes Peak came into view. You have been “in awe” before…These moments would not have happened had we not left home.
I don’t know how hard the last two years have been for you. For some people the last couple of years have been devastating, for some people it has been a slight change in daily living… but there is not a person in the world that has been completely unaffected.
My question for us this week, for you, is what are the moments when you encountered the sacred, something bigger than yourself… when have you encountered the healing presence of Jesus, that you would not have encountered had you not been away from home?
I can look back… do you know how many people stopped to worship with us when we were outside? I know if you were online, or in your cars, you didn’t get to see. But from standing right out there on the back of a pickup truck, I saw. I saw the people riding bikes, or walking dogs, or just going for a morning stroll, stop to enter into that moment with us. In ways they never just wander by church and step inside to see what we are doing.
Did you know that church leadership is away from home too? CoVid changed many, many things for us. We are living outside of what was OUR normal world. We are living outside of the comfort of the known, the normal, the safety of a predictable world. It has been so hard… BUT there are moment that we find ourselves “in awe.” There is a moment, in the very beginning of the shut down, and we knew we had two choices. We could try to pull our community and world back to what it used to be with all we had, or, we could step back and look for opportunities. We could use this moment in history to shift, adjust, to correct, to find who we are and build from there. We spent time evaluating who we are, and how we want to respond, and came up with our cause for being. It isn’t really a mission statement, mission statements have a “goal” at the end. It’s more of a core identifier of this journey that we are on… our eternal journey is to create a community of people that are living into whole, healthy relationships with God, one another, and our world. We are striving for relationships, not fake, not pretentious, not shallow, or divided, but vibrant relationships with God… with one another… we don’t want to pretend like everything is okay… we want to acknowledge differences, weaknesses, fears, and encounter them together… we want to live in our world in a healthy way, not divided, or angry, or unwilling to listen, but to care for our environment, our community, the broken and marginalized. We know, this is not easy. We KNOW it is a never ending challenge that we hold out in front of us every step of our journey…
We also know, healthy relationships needed to start with the FUMC staff team. So, we took three days at John Wesley Ranch. And man it was three days! There was a scavenger hunt, I think one of Ann’s questions was actually cheating… but if you can find the singing Roman, I will give you a free gift! 😊 There was the evening we went to Cripple Creek WITH reservations, at a restaurant that wasn’t open… ooops! We called restaurants, walked into restaurants, walked Bennet avenue, hungry after a long day of work before finally finding a restaurant that could take us… with a warning that it might take awhile! (And it did!) We sat outside cuddling up in blankets in front of the fire pit, looking at the stars, watching for shooting stars, laughing, telling stories, just being together. We named hard things, things we struggle with. We named things that are not okay. Named things that we hope for. And the very last day, Lorenzo, to all of the staff, told us, “you know, when I got the email that this was required. I was like “ugh” I don’t want to do this. But you know, I am SO glad I came.”