We are beginning a regular blog series entitled “Inspiration for Beloved Community” which will give us an opportunity to share our Sunday messages with our friends and supporters! We hope that this series will – like its namesake – inspire us all toward beloved community. Here’s the first in the series from Pastor Brandon Wrencher’s Sunday message, “Walking Your Talk”! Listen/read, reflect, comment and SHARE!
Walking Your Talk
Mark 1:21-28 (NLT)
21 Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
23 Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. 26 At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.
27 Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” 28 The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.
This is the Word of God for us the people of God! Thanks be to God!
The Super Bowl is tonight. One of the biggest sports events of the year. Because it’s so big and there is so much on the line, there’s a lot of junk talking happening for weeks leading up to the game; and for the days leading up to the game junk talking is on steroids. At some point, though, everyone recognizes that talk is cheap, that what really matters is what actually happens on the field. I grew up playing football, basketball and baseball and there was nothing more frustrating than someone that had a lot of mouth but no bite, those folks who talked a big game, but their skills and performance were subpar. Even if you aren’t into sports, is there anything worse than somebody whose words are big, but their actions are small, somebody who doesn’t put forth the walk to back up their talking? There’s an old saying that says if you’re gonna’ talk the talk, you better know how to walk the walk. For the brief time I have this morning, allow me to share from the thought: Walking Your Talk!
Jesus was many things, but this passage makes it clear that one of the most significant is that he was a teacher. And yet one of the first odd features of this passage of Scripture is that there is no indication of what Jesus actually teaches in this synagogue. There is no Sermon on the Mount. No parables. We don’t read of Jesus pulling the disciples to the side to give a lesson.
This makes this passages’ selection for the lectionary this week ironic. It’s the season of Epiphany, the time that we focus on Jesus’ teachings in order to come to some deeper revelation, a more illuminating understanding of life with God. But how is that possible if Jesus doesn’t actually teach in this passage. Or does he?
The passage says that Jesus’s teaching was amazing because Jesus taught with such authority. It turns out that what Jesus teaches is not with words, but with his life; a life that teaches constitutes authority. Jesus teaches this group in the synagogue about authority. The teachers of the law or scribes don’t have such authority. They were educated in the bible and religion, and they spoke a lot about what they had learned, but there was a gap between what they spoke from their lips and what their lives demonstrated. When your life does the talking, even demons and evil recognize who you are. The demons knew Jesus’ identity before even his disciples knew he was the awaited Messiah. True authority comes from action because it’s ultimately how you act that uncovers authenticity, that uncovers who you really are, that uncovers what’s really inside of you. An evil spirit. Religious arrogance. Or the calm assurance that comes from knowing that you are close with God.
The crucial question for us this morning friends is this: what’s inside of you? What’s inside of you? Your words can be hollow. But your actions will always tell on you. Your actions tell me what’s happening on the inside of you. It was Jesus that said:
17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit….20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. (Matthew 7)
Our identities are wrapped up in our actions, not our words, our actions! And your identity, what’s on the inside of you, is the source from which you have authority, influence, control, the source from which you are able to have an impact in this world. Friends, are we not all seeking authority? Who isn’t searching for how to have more authority, more control over that situation or this area of your life? This sickness. That relationship. This insecurity. Those bills. That decision.
Control and authority are one of the main sources of the challenges we face in our society and world: of war, of racism, of poverty. And yet what we hear most often are shallow words. Rarely do we hear the love of service. Friends, you’ll be hard pressed to hear from the pundits the courage of forgiveness,
No, our world has become well-adjusted to the shrieks of vitriol, the violence of indifference and comfort. We are much more used to the arrogance of empty promises.
You want to know how this church will grow, how this community will flourish, how your life will flourish: by the sweet sound of acts of compassion and mercy, not by the deafening echoes of agendas and naysayers. It turns out that the old saying from St. Francis is still relevant. We must “preach the gospel, when necessary use words!”
Friends, let your life speak. Don’t allow your lips to do all of the talking for you. Being loud, complaining and such communicates emptiness more than anything of substance. I’ll take someone that is willing to act any day. Let your life speak. Don’t take my word for it. The bible says:
1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)
Friends, the truth is that we are only able to walk the talk, to have the kind of authority that comes from being authentic because of a deep inner peace and assurance from knowing that we are beloved by God. You’ve gotta’ know deep within your inner self that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You’ve gotta’ believe in your soul with the prophet Jeremiah that God has plans for you, plans for your well-being and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. You’ve gotta’ be able to receive within your inner most being the truth that you are God’s beloved sons and daughters in whom God is well pleased!
Friends, true influence and power in our lives comes from knowing deep, deep inside that we are made in God’s image, that we are fully human. If we don’t have that inner peace and assurance, evil, struggle, and pain will find what’s fake and insecure.
Fortunately, our God is not just one who speaks. Ours is a God whose Word becomes flesh. God demonstrates God’s Word in being wholly for humanity’s freedom. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan and evil don’t have the last word. God does!
And this is the Word we receive when we partake of the blessed cup and bread in order that we might act justly, in order that we might love mercy, in order that we might walk humbly with our God. Please join me in celebration of Holy Communion!