31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 28, 2018
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“I eat broccoli in my oatmeal.”
Do you ever say something and wonder, ‘Where did that come from? Who said that?’
I wonder if the man with the unclean spirit thought that after he said, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” (Mark 1:24)
I wonder if until that moment the man thought he was fully in control, king of his castle, holding the reigns, in the driver’s seat.
I wonder if he thought that he was boss, and then, one day, when he was at worship, the same as he was every week, doing the traditional rituals and hearing the familiar teachings, something quite out of the ordinary happened.
Jesus of Nazareth came into the synagogue and began to teach, and his teaching was different than the scribes. There was a presence about him; there was power in his teaching; he was filled with the peace of the Spirit.
The only way to describe it was that he taught as one having authority.
Like the others gathered for worship, the man was amazed and then out of his mouth popped, “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.” (Mark 1:24)
‘Where did that come from? Who said that?’
And the man discovered that he was not the one driving his own bus. There was an unclean spirit in the driver’s seat.
But not for long, because in a head to head showdown of Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit versus demons and unclean spirits, there is no doubt who will come out on top.
Jesus said to the unclean spirit, “Be silent, and come out of him!” (Exclamation point!) (Mark 1:25) And it was so.
Like the man with the unclean spirit, we might be surprised to find that we are not actually the boss of our own lives, the kings and queens of our own castles, the drivers of our own buses.
We might think we are guiding our own decisions, charting our own courses, and then one day, we discover that someone else is in the driver’s seat. That unclean spirit can come in many forms however it almost always has the same name: fear.
There is fear of change, which is a close companion to the fear of loss. Loss of the world as we have known it; loss of our physical and mental abilities, loss of relationships, loss of control and power, loss of ego and attention.
And when fear is driving, our bus can be filled with lots of less than savory characters: our inner child, and not the child-like, innocent one, instead the needy, immature, temper tantrum one; Mr. Let’s Feel Good, whose destination is often addition – to food, to shopping, to alcohol, to drugs, even an addiction to other people; and of course, Anger with his side-kicks of Defensiveness and Criticism.
When fear is driving our lives, we often find we are unhappy with the destination and the journey because fear does not make good decisions. Fear always chooses short cuts. It doesn’t matter how dangerous, how short sighted, how harmful the decision is. Fear cannot help speeding through life, crashing into side rails and over turning apple carts.
Fear does know how to slow down though. Well, not really slow down. It’s really a hard stop. Fear knows how to keep us in park, whispering in our ear that it is dangerous to turn this way, dangerous to turn that way. Best to just not go anywhere, not try anything.
The man with the unclean spirit didn’t want that spirit, that demon controlling him anymore than we want fear controlling us; however it’s hard to oust an unclean spirit or an unhealthy mindset from controlling our thoughts and lives. Because often, fear is all we know, and what we know is comfortable. It has a powerful hold on us – even if it hurts, even if we feel like it is slowly killing us.
What we know has a powerful hold on us, even if it is as unhealthy as an unclean spirit driving our lives.
We might not have the strength to get rid of an unclean spirit or an unhealthy mindset. Jesus does though. He has the power. He has the authority. He is able to set us free of all that binds us, all that controls us, all that separates us from God and each other.
The writer of Mark wants us to know that Jesus has the authority to set this man free, and Jesus also has the authority to set this whole faith community free.
Free of all of the unhealthy, unclean spirits that use fear to drive us down the road of divisiveness, drive us down the road of scarcity talk; drive us down the road of intractable, set in stone and tradition, and institutionalism.
With God’s power and authority, filled with God’s Spirit, Jesus has come to set us free, of all that binds us individually, of all that binds us communally, that we might walk with Jesus, or drive, the way of humility, the way of service, the way of love.
That we might be free to live all of the ways that make others and this world better.
Trust Jesus with your life. He has dominion over fear, over loss, even over unclean spirits. He has the power to set you free from fear. Trust him to hold the reigns; to guide your path; to drive your bus.
Trust Jesus, not to be your boss, but to sit on the throne of your heart and be your Lord.