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Stick to God like glue

by davesandel on January 31st, 2021

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 31, 2021 (today’s lectionary)

Stick to God like glue

In the synagogue at Capernaum was a man with an unclean spirit who cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

This time it was the demons who recognized Jesus and called him by his other name. When that happens, those of us who have been still are ashamed. We could also be naming Jesus as he should be named.

The demons are frightened. “Have you come to destroy us?” Perhaps we are frightened too. It could be the demons in us, or it could be that we have not come to claim the sons-and-daughtership our Father has offered us, his hands outstretched, reaching toward us. But we shy away, flinching from the wrong hands, these gentle hands of Jesus.

“Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out.

Well, not so gentle sometimes. The evil spirits didn’t think Jesus was very gentle. But what about that man in the synagogue. Just stand there with the rest of the congregation and watch his transformation. For the first time in years the tension rises up and out of his body. The dead skin and deep wrinkles in his face bloom and brighten, and he smiles. His teeth glisten in the sun, suddenly shining through the window.

The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light. On those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.

We could use some of that light rising in our own land, too long overshadowed by death. Not the flickering TV light of early morning and late night news, filling pixel after pixel of 70 inch screens on sale at Walmart for $448, but the inner light of Jesus, pouring onto us and healing us.

Brothers and sisters, I should like you to be free of anxieties, so that you can cling to the Lord without distraction. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Acclaim the rock of our salvation.

Climb the rock of my salvation. Cleave to the rock of my salvation. Cleave, that old Hebrew word from Genesis that means “sticking to like glue.” My fingers crawl across the rockface, feeling for any tiny place on the rock to cling to, and I do not let go. Even my palms are sticky, sometimes with fear but mostly with sweaty determination. It is just for this morning climb that light rises above a land overshadowed by a thousand tiny deaths, mostly born of entitlement, lethargy, confusion and a profound loss of hope.

Do not speak in the name of other gods, or you shall die.

At least the demons have an excuse, being taught their lines by the Father of Lies. We have none. Paul’s observation that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen, understood from what has been made” (Romans 1) leaves us no room to speak of what we do not know as if we do. Silence will teach us, if we let it. We could mute the news, and then finally turn it off. We could rise early to acclaim the rock of our salvation, and get ready once again to climb, cleave, and climb, and cleave.

The man free from the evil spirit notices, as he leaves the synagogue, that he is met by a beautiful white mare. She nuzzles his arm, and he turns to her, surprised at first, but then he holds her mane and jumps up on her back. The mare’s head comes up and she begins to trot away.

They make a beautiful team, this Spirit and her rider, while the ancient demon withers in a forgotten corner inside the synagogue. A man with a broom sweeps up what’s left, and dumps it outside. Jesus watches, smiles and waves goodbye to his new friend, fast disappearing into the sun.

(Deuteronomy 18, Psalm 95, 1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 4, Mark 1)

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