“A Fresh Look at’ Used to Thinks'” Jan 28, 2024

“A Fresh Look at’ Used to Thinks'” Jan 28, 2024

Posted by on Feb 4, 2024 in Sermon archives

“A Fresh Look at ‘Used to Thinks’”

Psalm 111

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Mark 1:21-28

Mk 1;21 Jesus and his companions now arrived at the town of Capernaum and on Saturday morning went into the Jewish place of worship—the synagogue—where he preached. 22 The congregation was surprised at his sermon because he spoke as an authority and didn’t try to prove his points by quoting others—quite unlike what they were used to hearing![“

Our message today from the gospel of mark sounds a bit familiar, don’t you think? I mean, this kind of thing seemed to happen a lot: Jesus walks into the temple looking to preach to the congregation when some crazy man begins hollering and screaming that “I know who you are son of David. You are the holy one of God,” or something to that effect. This is usually followed by a series of curses and threats that really don’t amount to a whole lot, after which Jesus puts a stop to all this nonsense by, “commanding the demon to leave this man’s body,” which it does.  Peace and order is restored once again much to the amazement of those standing by.

I’d like to come back to this portion of the gospel later, if that’s OK,

But first, I’d like to visit what Mark tells us early in this passage, not because it is anything stupendous or profound, but because I found it to be interesting and somewhat unsettling at the same time. I’m referring to verse 22 which reads,

  1. “The congregation was surprised at his sermon because he spoke as an authority and didn’t try to prove his points by quoting others—quite unlike what they were used to hearing!Now, does anyone else get the feeling that that was a weird thing to say?  I mean, we’ve always been led to believe that preaching in the synagogue during the time of Jesus consisted of  little more than an elder sitting and reading from scriptures and that was it. I imagine there was music of some sort, but I never figured that these elders at the temples  spent much time with storytelling or scripture interpretation or any sort of real commentary; God forbid that they might crack a joke or two.   According to Mark, however,  it looks like I may have been mistaken. Vs 22 “The congregation was surprised at his sermon because he spoke as an authority and didn’t try to  prove his points by quoting others- quite unlike what they were used to hearing.” See what I mean? Even back then, preachers were stealing each other’s material. Who would have thought; and yes, I did find that very interesting. At the same time, I found it a bit unsettling because in my short 12 years of standing at the pulpit, I have learned that for any point I’ve wished to make, I could always find a quote from someone else who made it far better than me.

With that being said, we do have to stop and wonder what it might be like to actually be in a crowd as Jesus spoke. I imagine that his combination of wisdom, conviction, brotherly love, and the power of the spirit was irresistible. Those who are called to preach the word should perhaps take note. In the words of D. L. Moody, “The preaching that this world needs most is sermons in shoes that are walking with Jesus Christ.”

And yes, you’re right, I did it again: “trying to make a point by quoting others.” The thing to remember is that Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus didn’t need to do that, so it is small wonder that there were some who found themselves hanging on every word. Fortunately for us, they later were compelled to take the time and the effort to record these words as best they could. “The congregation was surprised at his sermon because he spoke as an authority,” Mark tells us. Oh my, if they had  only known. If they had  only known.

But besides a glimpse of the nature of preaching in the 1st century as well as a wonderful insight into the power of the preaching of Christ, our gospel passage today is probably best known for the scene that occurred that day in the temple. Once again, vs  : “23 A man possessed by a demon was present and began shouting, 24 “Why are you bothering us, Jesus of Nazareth—have you come to destroy us demons? I know who you are—the holy Son of God!”

Wow! Now that is taking the art of heckling to a whole new level. If you’ll recall, Jesus orders the demon to leave the man alone, which it does after a good bit of screaming and moaning. Similar stories are told throughout the gospels and let’s face it, most of us Are a bit uncomfortable with the idea of boogie men in general and screaming demons in particular.  So perhaps it would be best if we explored what it means to have an “unclean spirit.”  According to Delmer Chilton (there I go again)

The most, but not completely, satisfactory explanation of the demons is that they are “used-to-thinks.” “Used-to-thinks” are ideas people used to believe but which now have been proved wrong

that is, people used to think that the earth was flat; they used to think that the sun traveled across the sky each day. Similarly, people used to think that our problems and illnesses were caused by little invisible demons that went around causing trouble.”  I might also add that we used to think left-handed people are possessed by the devil and the list goes on and on.

If you spent much time on 3rd St. In McMinnville last summer, then you probably had an encounter with a homeless woman that we called Screaming Alice. She spent much of her time pushing a shopping cart around with her possessions, but sometimes she ventured out alone. My first experience with Alice happened when I rounded the corner on the sidewalk at KeyBank, and there she was. We made eye contact, which was probably a mistake, and then she proceeded to dress me down at the top of her lungs using language that would make a sailor blush. I wished her a good day and executed the best exit I could manage, but it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

My point is, we used to think that someone like this poor woman was inundated or possessed in some way by demons or unclean spirits. We now know that this sort of behavior is a direct result of mental illness, excessive drug use, or a variety of other factors like a chemical imbalance in the brain.

So yes, we used to think a lot of things, we’ve tried our best to rationalize and categorize the uncontrolled desires for evil and selfishness and cruelty in this world but it seems we always fall short. So for today, let’s hold on to the truth that Mark tells us, and that is no matter how you describe evil, Mark insists that Jesus can overcome it. Amen and Shalom


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