Year B Epiphany 4 Mark 1
Mark 1:21-28

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.

I believe that this illustrates perfectly what is going on in the world today. You could show the terrible ravaging effects of AIDS and people will have promiscuous sex anyway. You can show someone a diseased liver and cancerous lungs and people are going to abuse alcohol and smoke regardless of the facts.

You know what I wish? I wish someone would just climb to the top of the tower and push off a ten-pound argument and a one-pound argument and let's just see if they reach the ground first. That would finally prove who is right and who is wrong. But then I am reminded that when Galileo did that no one believed him. Even with the authority of obvious visible proof, i.e. the two weights reached the ground at the same time, the professors did not believe. The problem here is obvious. Most people are going to believe what they have always believed regardless of the facts.

But something different occurred in the life of Jesus. Something persuasive. Mark records that when Jesus came to Capernaum, on the Sabbath day, and entered the synagogue and taught, the crowds were astounded. Why? One word: Authority. He taught, not as the scribes taught, but as one having authority.

What was it that convinced them? What did they hear and see in the life of Christ that made him stand above all other teachers. Why were they so drawn to him?

  1. His teaching was new.
  2. He taught with authority.

A Very Different Top 10 List
Mark 1:21-28

I am a big sucker for lists. I love lists. Top 10 Lists. Bottom 10 Lists. David Letterman lists. Any list.

In fact, there's a book written for us list lovers called "The Incredible Book of Wacky Lists" by Patrick M. Reynolds (2001), where he has lists of "Plants That Eat Animals" (there are 4 of them: Venus's flytrap, Butterwort, Sundew, Pitcher plant), "Seas Named After a Color" (Black, Red, White, Yellow Seas), 3 Tallest US Presidents (Abe Lincoln, 6'4", LBJ, 6'3", Thomas Jefferson, 6'2", now 4, with Barack Obama, 6'2"), "7 Birds That Can't Fly" (emu, kiwi, penguin, ostrich, cassowary, rhea, Galapagos cormorant), "10 Animals with Pockets" (kangaroo, koala, opossum, sea horse, Tasmanian devil, wombat, wallaroo, bandicoot, cuscus, echidna), and "10 Knock-Knock Jokes" (enough is enough-I'll spare you.)

My new favorite list is at first flush an alarming one. It is called "24 Things About To Become Extinct In America." Among the 24 predicted extinctions are the imminent demise of the Yellow Pages, movie rental stores, phone landlines, VCRs, Ham radio, incandescent light bulbs, cameras that use film, and the milkman. In fact, some extinctions are good. When things are no longer useful, when things do not function in a helpful way, or just aren't sensible anymore, they should become extinct.

When extinctions happen, whether biologically or culturally, they leave a blank spot, an opening, a new niche that needs to be filled. The exit of the mighty dinosaurs made it possible for an upstart little group of creatures called mammals to thrive. Does anyone want to trade in their iPod for an eight-track tape player? Does anyone who works in an office miss the mimeograph machine, or typing and correcting carbon copies?

The extinction of certain behaviors and attitudes is long past due. During his inaugural address as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama recalled that only a few decades ago his own father would not have been allowed to sit and be served lunch at the majority of the restaurants in Washington D.C.. Jim Crow is a species that needed to be wiped out. And we must be vigilant to keep the Jim Crow species on the extinction list.

In today's gospel text Jesus acted as an agent of extinction. When Jesus entered into the local synagogue in Capernaum it was time for the unclean spirit inhabiting that place to go extinct. The presence of Jesus, whom the unclean spirit declared to be "the Holy One of God," left no room for the unholy attitude and actions of that demon... presents Leonard Sweet