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Sunday Message for 31 January 2021: “JC Superstar”

In Mark 1:21-28 Jesus is teaching in a Capernaum synagogue, a Jewish worship house similar to a church. Jesus’ message wasn’t boring, meh or ho-hum: “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Jesus’ style and substance transformed him into a JC superstar.

The response to Jesus’ preaching suggests that he was a charismatic powerhouse, even apart from the miracles he performed. Clearly the manner and content of Jesus’ speaking distinguished him from the usual, staid speech by Jewish scribes who seemed content to recite and repeat scripture.

The synagogue audience in Mark’s passage perceived Jesus’ teaching as authoritative, not merely as an emotion-less, matter-of-fact rehearsal of what everyone had heard before. This implies that Jesus connected with people in a definitive manner. Jesus came across as a singular source of authority rather than as a lifeless religious bureaucrat regurgitating tired liturgy.

Jesus’ ministry is a reminder of how a powerful speaker can convey authenticity through a combination of words, gestures, and emotions. Then as now, the content and manner of sharing a message can be the deciding factor in shaping a verbal powerhouse intended to help an audience gain insight.

Christian denominations and individual churches find themselves in ongoing controversy about the style and substance of preaching. On the one hand, there is a peculiar belief that sermons must be subtle and even self-effacing as to avoid spectacle or flamboyance. On the other hand, some of the fastest-growing and most vibrant expressions of Christian ministry correlate with high-energy speakers who arouse enthusiasm.

Jesus was not a soft-spoken, boring messenger. His presence is what is now referred to as gravitas, which is a sense of drawing people in like the irresistible force of gravity. Both the style and substance of Jesus’ messages drew strong responses from both his followers and his critics. There are speakers who are all style and no substance but that wasn’t Jesus, who exemplified how a relevant, powerhouse message hits home. Yes, Jesus delivered a one-two punch message that to this day captivates, stimulates, and prepares for action.

What can you do to help convey a compelling version of God’s message? You needn’t become a public speaker because there are other ways to serve. For one, continue supporting the St. John “We can DO it!” ministry rubric (The “D” represents discipleship and the “O” outreach). We have a wonderful message in this as we proclaim God’s love to the world.

Continue to discern how best to share your time, talent, and treasure. Whatever God calls you to accomplish, we can each join Superstar Jesus as we proclaim a life-giving message. God bless you and stay positive for 2021.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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