Tag Archives: spiritual evil

Celebrity Jesus


Biblical Text: Mark 1:21-28
Full Sermon Draft

The text is Jesus’ exorcism of a unclean spirit in the midst of the synagogue. But the tension in the early part of the gospel of mark is between the reality of the messiah and the fame. Every time after Jesus expels a demon or does some work of power his fame spreads. This sermon playfully looks at this exorcism at a meeting of celebrity. It then juxtaposes our fame mentality against the reality that Jesus chose – the cross. That fame mentality seeps into our lives deeper than we think. And the freedom of the cross is more real and costly than we imagine.

Recording note: I have left in two hymns. The first is the introduction hymn which if you are asking what the real “Reformation Hymn” was I have to put up Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (LSB 556). A Mighty Fortress is what we think of, but Dear Christians reads like Luther’s testament. Listen for all the demonic/Satan/spiritual evil language which seemed appropriate for a lesson with an exorcism. The Listen for Luther’s proclamation of the gospel. The second hymn is our children’s choir with an Epiphany Hymn Come Thou Bright and Morning Star. Within the sermon there is a play on words with Star (Celebrity), Morning Star (Lucifer) and Morning Star (Jesus). Come our real morning star.

Prayer Paradox

Text: Mark 9:14-29
Full Sermon Draft

This text itself is something of a paradox. It has two of the most memorable phrases from the gospels. “I believe, help my unbelief” which in the story context is this heart rending plea of desperation. And it has Jesus’ summary to the disciples, “This kind only comes out through prayer” which can seem oddly tacked on to the story, seems to add a differentiation to spiritual evil and makes a comment on technique that is wholly absent elsewhere, and added to that is the manuscript tradition adds fasting to prayer. Our two best manuscripts do not have fasting, the first corrector of one of those manuscripts added it, almost all the other manuscripts have fasting. The best textual scholars all say fasting was an early churchly scribal addition, but the evidence of it being original is somewhat staggering for such an easy verdict. The reason that is interesting at all is that driving out spiritual evil by fasting would be a long term thing while just by prayer is an in the moment operation. The disciples did not fast because the bridegroom was with them (Mark 2:18-19). With fasting Jesus’ words would seem to be directly addressed to later hearers after the bridegroom had ascended.

And this is the paradox, with all that interesting stuff to ponder, this episode has been sparsely preached and commented on. Interesting sayings and emotional scenes are usually sermon goldmines. You can here preachers everywhere saying, “That will preach”. Not so much here.

My approach was to struggle with what I think is the central paradox. The father in the story is example. We are the disciples, or they are our entry into devotion. The time that prayer is most necessary, is exactly when you don’t believe in the person you are talking to. When you are thinking – “My God, why have you forsaken me?” is exactly the time you need to say “Into you hands I commit my spirit.” A paradox of prayer.

Less brought out in the sermon, but still something of a paradox is the question of exactly who believes and trusts? Is it our belief and trust that enables miracles? Or is the one who believes really Christ alone? His belief is given to us. His belief helps our unbelief.

Both of those will preach. Both of them point to a deep promise – “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory – Matt 12:20.” At those breaking moments are when we can be most sure of grace.