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What’s the Real Message?

Epiphany 5B; Mark 1:29 ff.; 2/7/21

Have you ever been stereotyped before?     

For my first ten years as a priest: people around the diocese saw me as a youth worker while not seeing any of the other ministry skills I possessed as a spiritual director or a counselor.  It was ironic that years later during a phone interview by a search committee who was looking for an educator, pastor and youth worker, the interview was going well until one member looked on my resume and I heard him say in the background, “hey, this guy is old!”  I was 44 at the time.  What did he know about youth work?  I had done it for 15 years. 

Then there are those of us who have experienced deep grief over the loss of a loved one, who are stereotyped by others (lacking awareness) as not being strong or faithful enough to “get over it.”   Being stereotyped can be a painful and isolating experience.

Perceptions aren’t always reality. 

People tend to stop looking at the person once they create an image of who that person is in their mind.  We’re tempted to stop looking once our initial perceptions are in place.  Haven’t we all categorized others while not looking for the other qualities that might lie within them?  Many actors play a part so well that they are not invited into other roles.  Isn’t that right, Mr. Spock? 

In what ways have you been stereotyped or type cast?  

Jesus faced the same kind of stereotypes like we do and had to live with them: 

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Why didn’t Nathaniel bother to check Jesus’ birth certificate to see that he was born in Bethlehem? 

How about the Pharisees stereotype:  “It is only by the prince of demons that this fellow drives out demons.” 

The Pharisees envy of Jesus inhibited them from keeping an open mind and led to long practice of character assassination.  

Today in Mark, Jesus is stereotyped as a healer…not the living flesh incarnated presence of God.  We’re still affected by this stereotype. 

Being human, we spend most of our time involved in sensory activity.  If sick, we are conditioned to think of physical means to physical illness.  Few realize that healing that was practiced in the church was forbidden by Pope Alexander as he forbade priests to practice healing. 

As physical science expanded, the practice of healing was relegated to the physical realm of medicine.  Spirituality was split away from physical healing.  Spirit, mind and body, once understood as three parts of a whole, were separated.  

To this day, the general population and even many church members see healing as belonging to the medical doctor alone, separating the spirit and mind from the body.  

Even though science is discovering this error, the centuries of conditioning keep us from realizing the power of the spiritual and mental to influence physical health. 

Jesus was stereotyped as a healer.  He was also stereotyped as a social justice authority, when a man asked him for a judgement against another man for a property dispute.  Jesus would not attach himself to either role.  Jesus didn’t come to build a political utopia. 

Jesus states clearly: Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

It’s easy to lose Jesus and his central message in the peripherals. 

If God isn’t leading us, then our emotions are.  When we subject ourselves to our emotions, we create all kinds of chaos, as is evident in society today. 

No longer do we have to stereotype Jesus as something less than he really is.  Projecting our ideas on Jesus can leave us alienated from the message of who Jesus really is.

But what is the message?

I’ll make this simpler than it is as Luke records what Jesus states:  “The Kingdom of God is within you.” 

+Jesus merges with us.  There is no distance from God. 

+Jesus doesn’t have a message.  He is the message.

+We are created in the Image of God and as we discover our true selves in him, we become like him. 

+Jesus is one with us—NOW! 

+Our true identity is in him. 

Let him come alive again in you right here, right now.