Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Ordinary Time
MARK 1:21-28/1:19-25 IV
Recognize the Holy One
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Doctrine and Covenants 161:3d
Welcome! All are welcome in the name of Jesus Christ: Healer, Counselor, Friend. Our theme today is Recognize the Holy One, drawn from a story in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus heals a man thought of as an unclean spirit in Jesus’ day. Many different illnesses during this time were attributed to possession by an evil or unclean spirit. May we this day Recognize the Holy One and be freed of stigma, welcomed in God’s love, lifted up in grace, and transformed in the care of the Holy Spirit.
Call to Worship
Scripture Reading: Psalm 111
Hymn of Recognition
“A Man of Ancient Time and Place” CCS 30
OR “We Would See Jesus” CCS 35
Sharing and Caring
Invite the congregation to share good news and prayer concerns.
The Good News of Teaching
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:21-22
Liturgy of Grace
Reader 1: As Community of Christ, we seek to be more understanding of mental health challenges in our membership and communities. For too long, ignorance and stigmatized responses have occurred.
Reader 2: 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental health or neurobiological disorders in their lifetimes. Globally, more than 300 million people are currently affected by depression.*
Reader 1: Globally, 800,000 people take their own lives each year. Four out of five are in low or middle-income countries.*
Reader 2: We offer Community of Christ as a safe space where we will strive to understand how best to share the good news of Jesus Christ in a world where darkness and despair are often present.
Reader 1: We pledge to be respectful, compassionate, and empathetic.
Reader 2: To be good listeners. When you want to share, we are here to listen confidentially, without judgment.
Reader 1: The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of hope. We are not trying to pry, but you can talk to us. If you are not currently under the care of a mental health professional, we can refer you to the help you need.
Reader 2: As Community of Christ, we desire to be good neighbors, friends and family members to all. For those individuals or those with family members experiencing depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other conditions we want you to know that this is a safe space, a spiritual home for all who seek the joy, hope, love and peace of Jesus Christ.
*World Health Organization, www.who.int, 2017
Hymn for Healing and Wholeness
“Healer of Our Every Ill” CCS 547
OR “There Is a Balm in Gilead” CCS 234
The Good News of Recognizing
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:23-24
Prayer for Peace
Light the Peace Candle.
Holy Counselor and Beloved Source of Therapy,
Each of us, even in our weakness and separation from God, still have those moments when we recognize the Holy One of God. Help us find the strength in those moments to cast out ignorance and overcome darkness. Guide us in the way of peace.
When inner calm seems to elude us, help us to reach out to you, Oh God, for the peace that passes all understanding. When sadness surrounds us, help us to imagine our best possible future and find hope in the possibility of healing and wholeness. When the pain seems too great, help us reach out for help. For we know we are loved.
We know that your peace can be found in the smile of a friend, the hug of a family member, the memories of an old photograph, the gift of a community that surrounds us with love. Grant peace for each one present. Grant peace for each one known. Grant peace for the whole world. Amen.
A Daily Prayer for Peace service is held at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA 365 days a year. Additional ideas for Prayer for Peace can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
The Good News of Healing
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:25-28
Hymn of Wholeness
“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” CCS 31
OR “Who Is This Jesus” CCS 38
Based on Mark 1:21-28
OR Personal Labyrinth Meditation
Based on Doctrine and Covenants 161:3d
Invite the congregation to spend a few minutes with the personal labyrinth. Direct the meditation with questions such as these, allowing meditation time to ponder each question. Project or print the questions for all to see.
With your finger, slowly trace the path inward. What insights do you sense? What is needed to bring you closer to God?
How does spending time in quiet meditation and mindfulness contribute to positive mental health? How does being mindful bring us closer to an understanding of God’s will?
Then, slowly trace the path outward. What insights do you sense?
How does reaching out to others and finding social connection contribute to positive mental health? What is needed to help you bring others closer to God?
How does the mission of Jesus Christ bring others closer to an understanding of God’s will?
Disciples’ Generous Response
The Good News of Liberation
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:27-28
Generosity Responsive Reading
Leader: Giver of all gifts and source of life. We gather here with hearts full of gratitude.
People: And yet we confess that at times we spend unwisely, impulsively, compulsively.
Leader: Help us to Spend Responsibly. Avoid selfishness. Seek help for hoarding.
People: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Leader: Giver of all gifts and source of life. We gather here with hearts full of compassion.
People: And yet we confess that at times we respond with less than our true capacity.
Leader: Help us to Share Generously, supporting what matters most:
People: The Mission of Jesus Christ!
During the Disciple’s Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart. Our offerings are more than meeting budgets or funding mission. Through our offerings, we are able to tangibly express our gratitude to God who is the giver of all.
As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Liberation
“When We Are Living/Pues si vivimos” CCS 242/243
Encourage participants to sing in a language other than their own.
OR “O Christ, the Healer, We Have Come” CCS 544
OR “In Christ We Live” CCS 326
You are a beloved child of God. This is your community. You are loved. Even when you feel pain, know that God loves you. Never give up. We are here for you. We love you. You are never alone. We will always try to understand and we will always care. You are a beloved child of God. Amen.
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany Ordinary Time
Exploring the Scripture
In the context of Mark’s Gospel, God’s creation is broken. Satan’s demons live in people. Nature is chaotic and threatening. Illness brings impurity. Religious and political leaders dominate—instead of serving—the people. Into this world, Jesus brought good news: God’s rule has come, and healing can begin!
The story of the man with the unclean spirit is Mark’s first example of how Jesus, as God’s agent for God’s rule, can restore wholeness. But in this Gospel, the disciples don’t understand Jesus’ identity or true purpose. The reader knows because Mark announces that Jesus is the anointed one, the Son of God. Unclean spirits recognize and obey Jesus. The sea and wind recognize his authority. In the end, even a Roman centurion announces that “Surely this man is the Son of God.” Here, in these verses, Mark prepares us for the ironic fact that at first all creation recognizes Jesus except the people closest to him.
After being tested in the desert, Jesus announced the rule of God; called Simon, Andrew, James, and John; and began to teach in the synagogue in Capernaum. There, a man with an unclean spirit approached him and called him by name, identifying him as the holy one of God.
In Jesus’ day, a name was more than a label. It stood for one’s character, personality, even destiny. To know someone’s name was to lay claim to them. People believed that if enemies knew your name, they had power over you. So when the man with the unclean spirit named Jesus, he was trying to control Jesus. Jesus told him to be quiet and commanded the unclean spirit to leave. First-century people believed Satan had power over unclean spirits. The exorcism of the unclean spirit is a direct result of Jesus’ successful confrontation with Satan in the desert.
The unclean spirit in this man foreshadows all that is wrong in the humans whom Jesus will encounter. The man was present in the synagogue—suggesting the religious authorities in Galilee and Jerusalem. He was afraid of Jesus, just like the disciples, the religious leaders, and the Romans. He tried to wield power and control over Jesus, as both the disciples and the religious leaders tried to do. And the unclean spirit was willing to destroy to save itself and secure its future. In the end, it was Jesus who showed power and brought about wholeness and salvation.
New teachings with new authority need new commitments and loyalty. Many who were curious sought this Jesus. Others were confused or uneasy with a new expression of authority. The authorities in Jerusalem noticed, and they felt fear. Simon responded with an invitation to his mother-in-law’s house, where she lay sick. Jesus healed her. She immediately got up and began to serve her guests. She fulfilled the pattern of servant ministry, the role Jesus tried over and over to explain to his followers.
Did the man who was healed become a follower? The Gospel doesn’t tell us. He experienced a transforming moment with Jesus, but his response is hidden within his history.
- The world that God created and called good is awry. It needs the good news of God’s rule bringing wholeness and renewal.
- Jesus was God’s agent, announcing that God’s rule has come into the world and inviting all to be part of that reign.
- Fear, domination, self-preservation at the expense of others, and rebellion against God’s rule reflect illnesses of the spirit in need of Christ’s healing.
- Each person who encounters Jesus’ healing touch is responsible for the choice of following or not following Christ.
Questions to Consider
- How is God’s rule bringing wholeness into the world today? Give examples.
- How have you allowed fear, domination, self-preservation, and rebellion to keep you far from the rule of God? How have you overcome those things to minister?
- Who do you say Jesus is? How do you respond to Christ’s touch in your life?
- What is the Holy Spirit prompting you to do in your life and ministry? In the life of the congregation? In your pursuit of mission and the rule of God?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Deuteronomy 18:15–20 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Creator God, look on us with your merciful spirit and compassionate understanding as we stumble and struggle in our life journeys. We are so often distracted by the hindrances of our own making when we neglect to seek and respond to guidance readily available through the gift of the Holy Spirit so graciously offered.
Moments of enlightenment are as bursts of light in great darkness when we allow ourselves to be still and know of a surety you are God and you are there in both the darkness of night and the brightness of a joyous day. Help us celebrate the gifts of uniqueness all around us. We desire to be enriched by the simple and the profound. Our challenge is to see daily with new eyes the possibilities in each individual person and within the changing circumstances of each day’s experiences.
We need to gain the wisdom that allows us to see that there is no one right way of experiencing life. One of your disciples has reminded us that we can find it possible to praise God from the ruins of life as well as in the beauty of nature that surrounds us, in loving relationships and in the integrity of peace and order. To participate in the glorious task of peacemaking we need to find the beauty possible in the love we share with one another.
God, forgive our lack of diligence. We need to accept forgiveness and become one of those who carry the light of hope to the darkened corners of the world. Direct our journey as peacemakers is our petition today. Amen.
Blessing of Loving Kindness
Today we will experience a blessing of loving kindness. I will say a phrase aloud. I invite you to silently repeat the words after each spoken phrase.
As we begin, take a few moments of quiet to center yourself. If you are comfortable doing so, close your eyes.
Allow the words of blessing to resonate in your heart and mind. I will pause at the end of each phrase so you can silently repeat the words.
May I be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May I be blessed with health. Pause.
May I be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May I be blessed with peace. Pause.
Think of someone who is beloved to you. Visualize the person as you pray. You may insert the person’s name into the prayer in your mind.
May my beloved be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May my beloved be blessed with health. Pause.
May my beloved be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May my beloved be blessed with peace. Pause.
Now think of a close friend. Visualize the person as you pray silently.
May my friend be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May my friend be blessed with health. Pause.
May my friend be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May my friend be blessed with peace. Pause.
Think of someone with whom you are in conflict or who has harmed you. Visualize this person. Breathe deeply and lovingly pray this blessing.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with health. Pause.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with peace. Pause.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Sharing Around the Table
Deuteronomy 18:15–20 NRSV
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God anymore, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”
The people want to hear from God, but at the same time are afraid of God’s direct presence. So, they ask that God speak through Moses. Moses is considered a prophet as he faithfully gives God’s words to the people.
There is a problem. Moses is old. When Moses is gone, how will God speak to the people? In this passage, Moses promises another prophet to come after him. Israel will become a people with a tradition of prophets, so the people will continue to have the blessing of God speaking to them.
In scripture, prophets of God speak for social and economic justice. They speak for those who are poor, the widow, the fatherless, the orphan, the stranger, and the immigrant. They call the rich and powerful to accountability, and they remind the people of their commitment to God and to each other.
Consider again these words: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.” These words had added meaning in the early Christian church. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle Peter quotes these words after healing the crippled man in the temple. Peter said these words apply to Jesus (Acts 3:22). Jesus is the faithful prophet on the side of poor and vulnerable people (Luke 4:18–19).
Community of Christ is a prophetic tradition. Called to be a prophetic people, members seek to collectively discern God’s call to the church that is brought to the people through the prophet-president. In the tradition of the prophets of old, the church is called to abolish poverty, care for the Earth and its resources, and stand against social and political systems that oppress human worth.
- How does God speak to you?
- How do you understand the difference between a people with a prophet and being a prophetic people?
- In what ways do you discern the Spirit leading this group in abolishing poverty, caring for the Earth’s resources, and standing against unjust social and political systems?
Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.
—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.
The offering prayer for Epiphany is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
May we always be generous. You have gifted each of us with boundless grace and unending love. May our response to that love and grace be humble service to others, and may generosity be part of our nature.
Invitation to Next Meeting
Community of Christ Sings 276, “All Are Welcome”