Ecumenical Sunday - Potterswood Methodist Church

Today was a real privilege for me. I want to thank the parish of Potterswood for allowing me to preach at and lead their service. I had a wonderful time,Thank You.

Below is the typed version of the homily. I went off script often so while this is roughly the homily given it's not exact by a long way.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 
Psalm 95
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28  

It is a real privilege to be invited here today to preach. I think it's a wonderful thing our communities are doing, swapping preachers, swapping ideas, sharing our worship. I am sure God would be proud of us all. Although, I have to admit I am more than a little intimidated about today, I don't want to let you down or disappoint anyone. I have been well guided by Neil & Elly in what normally happens here and I have tried to roughly follow that. However, I have also taken several elements from the Roman Catholic services that are happening across the world today. The opening blessing and the readings are taken from the Roman Missal and every church will hear those same readings. The prayer I used in the children’s blessing is a famous one from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The prayers of intercession that we will say in a few minutes are based on the ones prayed last night at the first Mass I attended this Sunday. The Hymns we have sung are Hymns I sing regularly and love.

I hope nothing we have done this morning or will do this morning is new to you. It's Christian worship, catholic worship in it's true meaning of universal, all encompassing, every church, every Christian.

In some ways all our journeys began with the story told in today’s Gospel. These events that Mark described are right at the start of his Gospel. In the few verses that preceded what we heard today, we were told about John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus and Jesus calling his disciples. Today we see the start of Jesus' ministry. We are told of his first teaching and his first healing.

It starts with a simple line, “When the Sabbath came, Jesus went to the Synagogue and began to teach.” But His teaching was different and to understand why Jesus' teaching was different we need to understand a little about what normally happened in a synagogue.

Synagogues were established to teach. Every Jewish settlement would have had a synagogue, in fact the law said where you had ten Jewish families you must have a synagogue. But synagogues were not run by a permanent preacher, vicar or priest. There were roles in the synagogue, there were the distributers of alms who took up collections for the poor, the Chazzan who looked after the scroll and there was a ruler who performed the administration and opened the service and invited people to preach. These people could and would be anyone from the community but often these teachers would be scribes. Scribes were important people, they studied the Torah, the first five books of our old Testament. The Torah contained everything, every instruction needed to live according to Gods will. The scribes over generation had built the rules of the Jewish people on the Torah, the Law. They taught from tradition, quoted other scribes and rules. They were good men I am sure but legalistic and it was from their knowledge of tradition and law that they taught.

Christ was different. Christ taught with Authority, his authority. He didn't site rules and precedents. He spoke from the heart, the same heart that had given Moses the Law centuries before. Christ with words alone was amazing people. He was telling them what they needed to hear in a way no man had done before.

To add to this amazement they witness the exchange between Christ and a man possessed by an evil spirit. The spirit, through the man, start heckling, and Jesus sternly commands the spirit “Be Quiet. Come out of him.” and the spirit does so immediately.

There is some archaeological evidence that suggests the cure for possession by an evil spirit or demon was to have a small hole drilled into the top of your head to let the spirit out, a technique called trepanning. The bone removed was then worn as a necklace. In one excavated cemetery of around 2000 years ago 6 out of 120 bodies were found with trepanned holes in the skulls.

Christ's command, a simple phrase, compared to this surgical procedure again shocked and amazed the people. So what we read today describes how our church started. The first Christian preaching, the first Christian healing. Jesus was a man who could preach something new and preach it with Authority. He was a man who could command demons. He was a man to be talked about because no understood who or what he was.

It's sad that 2000 years on many in our world still don't understand who Christ is. But there is also great hope, sure and certain hope, because many in our world do know Christ. We are here today because we know or want to know Christ. And we are challenged by today's gospel to carry on Christ's teaching, and to carry it on with his authority.

When you trust in him, he will give you the words. When you live with him he will guide your actions. The lives you live and the conversations you have will influence those around you.

We spoke to the Children a few minutes ago about starting things with prayer, about inviting God in to there lives. To share the fun, the important and even the normal everyday things like meals. I challenge you to do the same in everything you do. Invite God to be a part of it. Allow him to express his authority in this world through you.

Let take a couple of minutes silent reflection now, and maybe use the time to consider what we will do this week and how we will share it with God.

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