Pastor Mark’s Sermon

Sermon by Reverend Mark Thompson

Lansing Central United Methodist Church

January 28, 2018

“The Call to New Good News”

Mark 1: 12-28

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

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.

 

Sermon

¯Good news, the chariot’s coming,                     Good news, the chariot’s coming
Good news, the chariot’s coming,                         Yeah, I don’t want to be behind.

Long white robe in heaven, I know                                   Long white robe in heaven, I know
Long white robe in heaven, I know                                   Yeah, I don’t want to be left behind.
Good news, the chariot’s coming,                         Good news, oh, the chariot’s coming
Good news, the chariot’s coming,                         Yeah, I don’t want to be behind.

Golden slipper in heaven, I know                          Golden slipper in heaven, I know
Golden slipper in heaven, I know                          And I don’t want to be left behind.

Starry crown in heaven, I know                             Starry crown in heaven, I know
Starry crown in heaven, I know                             And I don’t want to be left, Lord,
I don’t want to be left behind.

It’s fun to sing those ole songs. I recall singing that song at the Church of God St. Louis Campground. It was in the old pole barn type tabernacle, the kind of space that brought forth the image of the sawdust trail down the middle isle…it was there that the songs of Zion would ring from the rafter, literally.

 

¯Swing low, sweet chariot                                    Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot                                        Coming for to carry me home

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see             Coming for to carry me home
A band of angels coming after me                        Coming for to carry me home

Swing low, sweet chariot                                        Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot                                        Coming for to carry me home

If you get there before I do                                     Coming for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I’m coming, too                         Coming for to carry me home

Swing low, sweet chariot                                        Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot                                        Coming for to carry me home

 

The emotional feel of those songs can run to your bones.  Oh my. The memories.

Doug Oldham, strong bass singer, was the one who could make me feel like the chariot was willing to swing to the lowest point on earth and sweep up the lowest of the low and whisk that saved soul to heaven.

I also recall Mrs. Lee, my choir teacher and high school choir director telling us the history of that song. Mrs. Lee, of Sandford Meridian High School opened my eyes in a whole new way. You see, she told the class that “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was a song used by people in that horrid time of slavery in our nations. The song would be sung in the worship services of the enslaved black people. Deep sorrow was felt with the hope that God would somehow rescue them, socially their children.

There was little hope in the slave owners or politicians who would promise that freedom could be earned. No, the black women and men had given up on that.

What was left was their hope in a God of mercy and justice. You see, when they heard the black preacher speak the words

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

as a quotation from Jesus, they believed it. They were waiting for the redemption of the Lord to come. They were waiting for the fulfillment of good news!

Yet, they grew weary of waiting. I sure would have. I would have grown weary when I saw my children born into slavery. The wailing of the Psalm

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Deep lament of the soul during hearing the good news can drain the spirit. The promise of the light of day is sometimes difficult to hang onto. It can be promises, good news of words on a paper.

Yet the one who read from the book of Isaiah in olden days:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

yes, Jesus of Nazareth, concluded that speech with saying:

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

How very audacious. How puzzling to those who were listening. How puzzling to us as we look back at that time of human history and wonder where is the freedom Jesus? There are still people who are imprisoned, some without the promise of hope to stand before a judge after being taken into custody by an ICE officer.1.  Some black men and women targeted for questioning simply because of the color of their skin. More and more people are giving up hope that the message of the church is worth listening to because too often the message is the propagation of half truths and lies to benefit the powers at hand.

¯Swing low, sweet chariot… comin for to carry me home…

There are folks who need the church to sing it.

¯Swing low, sweet chariot… comin for to carry me home…

Some of the church did during the slavery days of the United States of America.

The Quakers are considered the first organized group to actively help escaped slaves. George Washington complained in 1786 that Quakers had attempted to “liberate” one of his slaves.

In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper set up a network in Philadelphia that helped slaves on the run. At the same time, Quakers in North Carolina established abolitionist groups that laid the groundwork for routes and shelters for escapees. 2.

Along with Harriet Tubman and brave Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, working with these Quakers, thousands of persons saved… people made in God’s image… people who believed in Jesus who lived through the lives of many…Jesus who still speaks through the actions of disciples,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

Jesus, the one who knew what it was like to suffer.

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested,

…Jesus, the one who responded to his cousin being arrested by a political figure bent on using his power to get his way of adultery and vile behavior…this Jesus responded by going to Galilee and

proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”

May we be so bold as to stand strong and as Jesus did, call forth the best in those around us. May we, like Jesus, call disciples to follow in the ways of Jesus. May we be found connecting people with God.

Our culture right now is like the man who ran into the synagogue and called 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.”

Too often we are seeing people fall to the belief that God’s blessings come in the form of money, prestige and power. We are seeing even preachers turn the other way at vile and God-cursing ways of living so as to gain control over their followers and the marginalized.

Yet, Jesus is still speaking in many ways, through the witness of many people,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

Jesus is still calling out to the corrupt and disturbed as saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” come out of the dark corners and show yourself and be gone so that freedom will come to those enslaved in the corruption of the day.

When we hear the words of Jesus being used to set the captives free, we hear some asking one another as they did in the olden days, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

May we hear the freshness of the Good News of Jesus, the Christ. May we see more and more disenfranchised people, more dreamers of justice and peace, more people “…tired, …poor, …huddled masses yearning to breathe free” all people and all of creation come to a chapter where justice, peace and equity is the norm.

May the good news that Jesus proclaimed in and through us so that his “fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee”, in downtown Lansing and beyond.

We have a message of good news… for the Spirit of the Lord is upon us to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives

Jesus is calling us to

Do all the good you can,                 by all the means you can,

in all the ways you can,                   in all the places you can,

at all the times you can,                  you all the people you can,

as long as ever you can.

Let this be our rallying cry. Let this be our focus. Let this be our reason for existence as Central United Methodist Church.

 

  1. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/immigration-detention-101-information-detainees-family-friends.html
  2. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/underground-railroad