Jan 28, 2018 message from worship at Good Shepherd, based primarily on Mark 1: 21-22

When I watch the news at night I often see the Presidential Press Secretary speaking.
She stands at a podium before the media and is suppose to speak for the president.
But sometimes what she says seems confusing or contradictory to what he has said.
That’s why the press prefers to hear what the president himself has to say to them.

Its been the same with all presidents, be it Obama, Bush, Clinton and on back.
Their spokespersons try to relay what the president has supposedly said,…and yet, it’s sometimes can seem a little like ‘whisper down the lane’.
Remember that game as kids when you tell one person something and by the time it gets passed along through several others you can’t recognize the original intent?
If you really want to know what a person thinks then you need hear what they themselves have to say.

It’s the same thing with what God has to say.
God does not have a Press Secretary but has been speaking to us.
Instead, God has used prophets who have spoken for him throughout history, and actually all of the Bible is supposed to be the inspired word of God. 
Still……wouldn’t it be nice if we could hear what God himself has to say.

In today’s world we have lots of people who try to speak for God.
People like Jerry Falwell Jr. or the Pope say they are purportedly speaking for God.
You can even say that parish pastors like me all over the world, try to speak for God.
We all have the scriptures themselves, but also consult with ‘expert’ interpreters and scholars and translators and previous leaders from early church history.

And yet, you can have the same scriptures and history considered by different people and come up with vastly different views of what God thinks, or says, or does.
Why is it that we and the Catholic church believe that Baptism is what we call a ‘Sacrament’ and most other Protestants profess baptism to be a mere symbol?
Why do you think that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that purgatory is a real place while all Protestants say there is no such thing?

But there is someone who, not only speaks for God, but who, in fact, is the voice and persona of God himself - Jesus!
If you want to know what God thinks about something; then listen to what Jesus says.
If you want to know what God would have us do; then look at what Jesus did.

That’s what our Old Testament lesson from Deuteronomy begins to talk about.
It says there that God will send one to speak his word.
But then in Mark’s Gospel we hear more clearly about the power of Jesus’ words.
It says that as he taught in the synagogue that “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

You see the scribes were like me, or any other pastor, or Christian leader.
They spoke through the knowledge and help of what others before them have said.
A little like whisper down the lane, we rely on what others have passed on to us.

But we also have the main source to finding out what the mind of God thinks.
Jesus, the Christ, who, when people first heard him said “he speaks with authority”.
In other words, Jesus was speaking as though he was God himself!
That refers to this idea that Christians are supposed to believe - Jesus is/was God.
That, he is not just a prophet or a nice teacher whom God speaks through.
But that Jesus is God actually speaking and doing in our world.

If we think about some of the bible stories about Jesus, we remember that is true.
In refuting scripture he said things like “You have heard it said…, but I say to you.”
Other times he contradicts scripture and religious practices when he challenges sabbath rules and rituals that people and their experts believed were from God.
And then maybe the most authoritative thing he did was forgive sins himself.
Not just say (like I do) that God forgives you,….but Jesus says it himself - “I forgive you”… or…. “Your sins are forgiven”.
Only God himself can do that.
That is not someone interpreting what God says, but one who speaks with authority!

I always tell people that, when we read scripture, we read it through the lens of Jesus.
What he said or what he did helps us to interpret the rest of the scriptures.
Because the bible says all kinds of things and sometimes they can seem confusing or even contradictory.
Jesus is the filter and special code through which we understand and fully know God.

Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t speak to every single issue that we encounter today.
He didn’t specifically say he was in favor or against;…war, abortion, capital punishment, gay and transgender rights, open immigration or environmental protection.
Some Christians like to pick out bible verses to show what God says on such things.
But highlighting certain passages,without looking at them through what Jesus said or did, does not give us what God says.
If people come to conclusions because they say its what God says, but they do so without Jesus as the filter, they are just imposing their own political views onto God.

The one thing we do know for certain is what Jesus says over and over again.
That he loves us and forgives us and wants us to do the same to others.
That, in him, God wants to cast out the demons of sin and pain and death.
So as we try to understand what God says, let’s remember and be sure of two things.
That we always check to see what Jesus said and did on a subject or issue,….
and to know that God always loves and forgives us because, in Jesus,…God said so.

Amen.