Sermon: Feb. 1, 2009

4 02 2009

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.

 

                                                            Mark 1:21-28

             As many of you know when I was in college my major was Classical Languages and History.  What that means was that I studied the languages and the history of the Greeks and the Romans.  As I studied the history of Rome it didn’t take too long to realize that the Roman Empire – an empire that was the largest and the longest lasting empire that the world had ever seen.  An empire that covered all of North Africa – east almost to the borders of India – west to Spain and France – and north to England.  Rome ruled this vast empire because of its Legions and it ruled this empire for almost 2,000 years.

            But one of the things that always fascinated me about the Roman Legions is that they won almost all of their battles not because they were better fighters, because often the tribes that they fought, especially in Northern Europe, were better and more ferocious.  They won their battles not because they outnumbered their opponents, because often they were vastly outnumbered by their enemies, especially in Northern Europe.  They always won because the hallmark of the Roman Legions was discipline.  They fought as one.  They never broke formation.  They maintained their discipline.  Strength and honor – that was the hallmark of the Roman Legion.  Discipline.  Their units fighting as one.  Individually they could be defeated easily, but when they fought as a unit with discipline.  They were invincible.

            Somehow as I read this lesson over from Mark, I thought of that.  Mark reminds us that in life we face unbelievable powers and forces in life.  Powers and forces that can overwhelm us and beat us down.  At the heart of all this is the evil one himself.  Peter tells us in one of his letters – Be sober.  Be vigilant.  Your adversary roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  What are these things?  Just pick one.  Long term illness.  Unemployment.  Financial Problems.  Family Issues.  Marriage Difficulties.  Depression.  Fears.  Worries.  Worries about children.  Worries about parents.  Did I hit yours today?  What about fear of the future?  Will I find love?  Will I find security?  Will I find peace of mind?  Will my spouse and I be able to work through our problems?  How about one of those?  Fears of the unknown.  Mental problems.  Nothing yet?  Well, you fill in one.  And what Mark is reminding us in this story is that all of this is the evil one – roaming about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  He wants to feed on you.  He wants to feed on your worries – your fears.  But most of all he wants you to believe that you are in this by yourself.  Or he wants you believe that you can take on these problems one and one.  Because if he can convince you of that, he knows that he’s got you.

            The Roman Legion understood that if one of their soldiers broke formation – broke from the pack – that he would be overwhelmed by the enemy.  The Roman Legion understood that if all of the soldiers broke formation – that the army was doomed.  It was only by maintaining formation.  Staying within their ranks.  Following the orders of their superiors.  It was by doing that they would win the day against superior odds.

            That’s what Mark is telling us in this story of Jesus.  Right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he is confronted by the evil one.  He meets a man who encountered the evil one – tried to take him on one on one all by himself.  And what happened?  He lost the battle.  In fact when the evil one who has taken over this guy meets Jesus what does he say: “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, of course, shows His mastery over the evil one by commanding him: “Be silent, and come out of him!”

            Moral of the story.  If you want to take on the problems of this life – if you want to take on the evil one – don’t brake formation. 

            But how do we do that?  Well here are a few suggestions:

1. Make worship a regular part of you life.  It is when we gather together here with the rest of God’s children that we can find strength and courage to take on the evil one.  There is strength in numbers, especially as we hear the words of Jesus – as we experience His power here among the people of God.

            2. Make Bible study a regular part of your life.  It is as we gather together with others – talk about our life experiences – gain insight and strength from one another – tap into the power of our Lord Himself and listen to His words – that together we can take on the evil one.

            3. Develop a prayer life.  Prayer at home is good.  Prayer with a prayer partner is even better.  Prayer with a group of Christians praying together is even better.  You know, on the Church Council we have Prayer Partners.  Every member of Council has someone who is praying for them.  Someone whom they pray for.  Not only does this give you someone who is praying for you, but it also gives you a partner to talk with and confide in and draw strength from when you are at your weakest.

            Life is not easy.  The evil one is out there.  And remember the greatest tool in the arsenal of the evil one is to make you think that he doesn’t exist.  And remember the greatest tool in our arsenal to combat him is each other and our general who leads us – that by the way is Jesus.

 

Amen!

 

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