Sunday, September 8, 2013

Church Musing: Mark 1: 21-27

Today's scripture was Mark 1: 21-27.  The New Revised Standard Version online ( calls this passage The Man With the Unclean Spirit, which could be sung to the tune of "The Man With the Golden Gun" a la James Bond.

Here it is; I've tacked on verse 28 as well, because I thought it was a funny way to end the story.

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 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.’ 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26 And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 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.’ 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

When I was reading along this morning, the man with the unclean spirit had the same voice as the demon in The Exorcist.  And, like Regan in the movie, the man with the unclean spirit can't control what he's saying and has convulsions.  Whatever else this passage means, it is an example of an early horror story.

My other thought, more logical, was "That poor guy was probably really mentally ill and/or had seizures."

I think the last verse is a funny (albeit fitting) way to end the story though; it is like a star is born almost, a rock star's beginning.

I'm not going to make an attempt to deconstruct our Pastor's sermon, because quite frankly, I can't remember everything he said (which is one reason I'm going to try to write about church afterwards) (and, equally quite frankly, his sermons aren't always that stellar to begin with, although occasionally he hits them out of the park).  I wrote down one phrase he talked about:  the crowds loved Jesus because of his "triumph of spirit."  He said Jesus made the people feel like they were not inferior, but that they were as good as everyone else.  That's really revolutionary, if you think about, especially then but also now.  Because if no one is equal now, there were certainly even more distinctions back then. I thought too that there was two sides to Jesus's triumph of spirit:  if he made the inferior feel special, he also told the upper muckety-mucks to stop putting on airs.  In the ladder of life, he wants the lowest to climb up and the highest to climb down.

Our hymns today:  #545 The Church's One Foundation words (1866) by Samuel J. Stone (1839-1900) ; music (1864) by Samuel S. Wesley (Aurelia) (1810-1876) .  I didn't know this hymn at all; it was long.  Samuel John Stone was a Victorian Anglican curate and vicar who was pretty much known for this one hymn.  Samuel Sebastian Wesley, on the other hand, was a bit more well known.  He was one of the most famous organists in England during his life, and was also the grandson of Charles Wesley.  Aurelia is Latin (feminine) for "golden."

#463 Lord Speak to Me words (1872) by Frances R. Havergal; music (1839) adapted from Robert Schumann  (Canonbury).  Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) was an English religious poet and hymn writer who died rather young at 42.  Robert Schumann, of course, is the German composer. Canonbury was the name of a street in London; the tune was first used as a hymn tune in 1872.  It's from Nacht­stück, Opus 23, No. 4; Nacht­stücke was a set of four pieces by Schumann for piano.

#664 Sent Forth by God's Blessing words (1964) by Omer Estendorf; music from a Welsh folktune (The Ash Grove), harmony by Leland Sateren (1972).  Omer Estendorf was one of the earliest lyricists for Roman Catholic liturgy in the last century.  Leland Sateren was the son of Norwegian immigrants; his father was a Lutheran minister.  Of course, he lived all of his 94 years on Minnesota, most of them as the chair of the Augsburg College music department.  A Roman Catholic liturgist and a Lutheran composer in a Methodist hymnal.


I checked out the The Interpreter's Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 7, Matthew and Mark, to read up a bit more on Sunday's scripture.  A long dead guy named Halford E. Luccock, who was "professor Emeritus of Homiletics" at Yale Divinity School (what the hell is Homiletics?  Sometimes this is like a never ending chain of rabbit holes) wrote the "Exposition of Mark" and this is something really cool (at least I thought it was cool) about the passage:

What Have Your to Do with Us, Jesus of Nazareth?  This question, first recorded as the frightened shriek of the disunited forces of evil, is the cry of evil power in all centuries and in all languages.  It is still being vociferously and angrily shouted today.
     It is the cry of greed.  "What have you do with us, Jesus?  Mind your own business. Our business is our own.  Get back to Palestine.  Get back to the Bible.  Get back to the church.  Get back anywhere, so long as you do not interfere with our profits."  The powers that exploit men and women and children insist that profits are sacred, and protest that the teachings of Jesus have no jurisdiction over them.  To bolster their case they words at Jesus, and at those who proclaim the judgement on mammon -- words such as sentimentalist, romanticist, dreamer, impractical.  It was the language of the slave trade.  It is the language of the profiteers of slave labor, commercialized vice, a debauching liquor traffic, race discrimination.  It is the language of entrenched power everywhere, of oppressive government, with its "long drip of human tears," of dominant militarism, of shifty diplomacy.  It is the language of unrestrained individualism.  "I have a right to live my own life" usually means "What have you to do with me, Jesus of Nazareth?"
     To this cry of the evil spirit, Jesus answered, Be silent, and come out of him!  He makes the same answer today.  Jesus has to do with everything that affects people.  Nothing human is foreign to him.  He is concerned with every burden that rests heavily on human shoulders and cuts cruelly into them, all that concerns the welfare of God's children -- the hours and conditions and wages of labor; housing (Jesus was concerned with the housing situation in Jerusalem, in his denunciation of those who devour widow's houses), law, civil rights, amusements -- the whole varied spread of human life.  There is a ready answer to anyone who tells a preacher, as he brings the teaching of Jesus into social questions, to "mind his own business."  It is to say, "People are my business.  I was put into it a long time ago by my Master, and I cannot quit it without betraying him"

I much like the sentiment of this.  Since I'm a practitioner of some "commercialized vice" and a daily last stop for the "debauching liquor traffic," I'm not so sure I agree that part.


Here is the King James version.  I always like the poetry of the King James, even if sometimes it makes the passages very hard to understand.

21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 1:24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Let us alone.  According to The Interpreter's Bible, this is a mis-translation.  More the pity, because this is the creepiest line in the story.  Imagine this is The Exorcist voice.  Deliciously scary!

I also like the words Hold thy peace.

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