THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO MARK
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching - with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. MARK 1:21-28
Sermon: The Rev. Dr. Maryann Amor
How do we know God?
A Google search of this question resulted in one billion, three hundred forty million results. Clearly, knowing God has occupied a lot of people…it runs throughout the Bible, it is also found in the writings of the church fathers, spiritual authors, poets, novelists, and many more. So, with all this content, all this stuff we could read to figure out an answer, where might we turn to discern ‘how we know God,’ today?
Knowing God is a theme in Mark’s Gospel. In Mark, Jesus’ miracles, teachings, and actions are aimed at revealing his divine identity to those around him, showing them that he is the Messiah and that through him, they experience God. Thus, people know God, by knowing Jesus.
This is what we see in today’s Gospel, where we find Jesus in a synagogue in Capernaum. He is teaching and those present are astounded by what he says…something about how he teaches strikes them as more than what the rabbis typically teach. Then a man possessed with demons enters, crying out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ The demons have insight to Jesus’ identity, we don’t really know how they have this information, whether his ability to teach contributed to it or something else. Then Jesus silences them, calls the demons out of the man and this act leads those present to see even more about Jesus…they acknowledge him as being one who has so much authority that even the demons listen to him. And with this, word of Jesus spreads throughout the region.
As readers of Mark’s Gospel, all that Jesus does is aimed at helping us to know God. When we see what takes place in the synagogue…we might conclude that Jesus is showing us that God has authority, God teaches, God has control over the powers of darkness, God interacts with people, God cares about people, the list of what this passage shows us about God is actually endless. It is by knowing Jesus, encountering his words and actions, that we know God.
And while this sounds great, sounds obvious and easy to understand…we face a difficulty in putting it into practice. We do not experience Jesus as those in the Gospel do. We do not have him right here with us, physically present, casting out demons, and performing miracles for us. So when it comes to knowing God today, we can read about what Jesus did in the past and learn from this, but we are always, in a sense, lacking. We are always left searching for more, for bigger, better, clearer indications of who God is…no wonder there are over a billion possible answers for the question, ‘how do we know God?’
To make matters even more difficult, our focus is rarely placed on knowing God better. Many of us are overwhelmed by all that life throws at us…we carry the weight of seeing loved ones in pain, the weight of financial strain, the weight of uncertainty, of busyness. We have so much going on that it is easy to become distracted, to see only our complicated lives, and, then, to think we don’t know God because our lives lead us to forget all that Jesus reveals to us about God in the Gospels.
Without the big signs, with the weight of life, knowing God becomes a daily challenge for anyone on the path of faith. But it is not insurmountable…it just means that if we want to know God, we have to put in the work to make it happen. Turning back to the Gospels, it is interesting that Jesus met people where they were, they were living their lives, doing their thing, fishing, going to synagogue, walking down the road, and they suddenly experience Jesus, get a miracle, a teaching, a demon cast out and their eyes are opened to know God. God does the same for us, in less obvious ways. God meets us, reveals Godself to us in our own lives…we must make sure our eyes are open so we can see it. We have to read our experiences, especially our struggles, through what we see in the gospels, through the truth of God that Jesus makes known to those he meets.
For me, when I hold what I know in the Gospels first, when I try, as hard as it is, to push my worries, pains, hardships to the back of my mind, I realise that I do know God. That God, for me, is someone who always enters my life, normally in little ways, and these ways are what get me through the moments of darkness. When Finn is sleeping on my lap, I know that God is love and comfort, when the sunshine streams through my windows I know God is warmth, when my nieces laugh, I know God is joy…these might not be big super amazing signs, these are not demons being cast out, but these are the signs that God has given to me and they help me to know God…they help me to see God in my day to day and to be grateful. Can we do the work to see the signs God gives us, even when life is throwing challenges on us? Can we see our signs, even when they might be as small and simple as a puppy sleeping?
How do we know God? The answer isn’t found in the 1 billion Google results, it is found in what we know of Jesus in the Gospels, it is found in how he shared God with so many people, engaging with them in their lives, helping them to know God too. Let this truth fill your mind and be how you interpret your world, especially your struggles…find those moments in your life where you know God, the small ones and the large, where God is revealing Godself to you…as one who has authority in life, power over darkness, and so much more. When things go wrong, when life is heavy, hold onto all of this…because this is how you will know God.