Rev. Martha Jacobs
Right Before Our Eyes
Ps. 111, Mark 1:21-28
Sunday, January 28, 2018
We are in the liturgical season of epiphany – which means the season of revelations. During this time of our church year, we open ourselves up to God’s revelations about Jesus, as he began his ministry.
In the story today, Jesus walks into the synagogue, sits down and starts to teach. Here is this unknown person, along with his group of rag-tag disciples, not so different from other religious zealots of his time. But, Jesus is different. He teaches with authority, which means that he doesn’t just teach – he lets them know by the way that he teaches, that he knows what he is talking about.
Not only does he teach with authority, but Jesus’ teaching through words becomes teaching through action as this unclean spirit tries to get the better of him. Jesus can see that this man is struggling. So, Jesus heals him by commanding the unclean spirit to leave this man. So, while others are full of questions about who this Jesus is, this unclean spirit is the only one who recognizes who Jesus actually is, his true identity. That’s the revelation!
The writer of Mark, by making this the first public action of Jesus, wants this revelation to be obvious. He wants those who hear this story of Jesus to be amazed, not just by what they think they see, but by the reality they encounter in God’s love made known. Mark wants them to see God’s love for we humans. Right before our eyes, he wants the power and love of God revealed. Jesus heals this man who has the unclean spirit. Even though it is on the Sabbath, no one questions the timing of his healing, as they do later on. They are too amazed by what they have seen right before their eyes.
My question to us this morning is: are we too amazed to see what is right before our eyes? Are we too cynical, or too busy or too overworked, or overwhelmed, to see what is right before our eyes?
Well, I have to confess that these past several months I have felt a bit overwhelmed – getting ready for Advent, three services on Christmas Eve, the visit from the Magi, providing pastoral care to several members and their families (which I view as a priority), and the Annual Meeting booklet all needing to get done. And, overseeing the day-to-day running of this church can sometimes keep me from seeing what is right before my eyes.
But, then, came the revelation as I worked with Angela and Chris to prepare our detailed report for today’s Annual Meeting. In those details, I saw what was right before my eyes, but had not focused on until I had to read through the reports several times.
Here’s what was right in front of me. The power and love of God is revealed in those reports. Here’s why. Since 2014, our congregation has grown from 210 members to 238. In 4 years, even as we have grieved the deaths of 13 beloved members of our church, we have welcomed 49 new members into our church family, including those from our Confirmation classes. There’s more! We donated $6,241 in goods from Barn Sale, 1,000 lbs of shoes for micro-entrepreneurs, 803 lbs of food from Luke’s Pantry, almost 20 lbs of mittens, pjs, scarves and hats for children at the Community Center of Northern Westchester, and 86 lbs of clothing for the Confirmation Class to take to Boston last March.
But, wait, there’s even more! When we finished listing all of the financial contributions we have made over this past year, above and beyond our pledges and the $12,900 in our benevolence line of our budget, the total of our financial contributions came to $38,945.14. I was stunned – almost $39,000 of additional giving and 49 new members of our church in 4 years. I am deeply humbled to stand here before you today and share this revelation with you. I give great thanks to God and to each one of you for your generosity of spirit and open hands and hearts that have enabled us to serve so many more people.
Through all of these amounts, we are strongly proclaiming that God is indeed still speaking, still driving out the unclean spirits of our day that tell us that church isn’t important, that only the “haves” are important, that our focus should be internal, not external, that people who are unable to find good jobs and have a permanent roof over their head and be able to afford health insurance, are not worthy of being cared for.
Dear ones, God is working miracles right before our eyes – they may not be as dramatic as casting out an unclean spirit – but they are happening – large and small. I want to share just one part of this revelation that came into my head in the middle of the night Thursday night – and that is, the importance of $1.14 cents. We donated $38,945.14 above our pledges and benevolences. That $1.14 cents means more than we realize. That $1.14 cents is a miracle in itself. That $1.14 cents came from someone putting .50 cents in the collection plate one Sunday, and someone putting .64 cents in the collection plate for the Deacon’s Fund on the first Sunday of a month, totaling the $1.14.
To me, that $1.14 is about faith. It represents taking whatever change was in their pocket and putting it in the offering plate to help us make a difference. That $1.14 multiplied and enabled us to perform miracles – the miracle of helping families ravaged by hurricanes and wildfires. The miracle of making a difference for someone – for one of our youth perhaps, so that they can go on the Mission trip to Florida. The miracle of doing major repairs to our property. The miracle of helping someone in our community who has a need. All around us, miracles large and small are happening.
Miracles don’t happen in the way we may think of them – healing someone by a smile or a welcoming handshake or hug or upholding them when they are going through a major shift in their life – those too are miracles – not as dramatic as calling out an unclean spirit, but miracles nonetheless. All around us are miracles – right before our eyes.
In this season of revelations, this season of Epiphany, let us not be blinded. Let us see what is right before our eyes – a loving and caring community that is surrounded by God’s love and light which can drive away the demons of doubt, hatred, self-centeredness, of treating others as less-than. God is working right before our eyes. God’s love is unfolding, taking shape through ordinary, vulnerable, loving people. In other words – through us.