The Teacher

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

4th Sunday After Epiphany

Deut. 18:15-20, Psalm 111, 1 Cor. 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28

“The Teacher”         

            I’m going to tell you a story today.  It’s a story about a man who lived in Capernaum.  The village of Capernaum is along the Sea of Galilee.  This man had grown up in this village, and as many did, he worked along its shores.  To him home was the smell of the sea as the wind blew across its waters.  To him home was waking to the sound of seagulls calling out to one another in what sounded like laughter.  He loved his life and his village along the shore. 

         As time went on, the man gradually noticed changes within himself.   One day he realized his hands were shaking a bit and his head had begun to pound.  Soon he struggled to complete a day’s task for his body ached in ways he had never imagined.  He had always been a lite-hearted fellow who laughed and joked with others as he walked on his way to work, but lately he hadn’t felt like laughing.  More times than not, he felt angry and bitter.  This bothered him more the physical pain, which was increasing as the days went by, because he loved his village.  He loved the kind ladies at the market and the funny old men who sat and mended the nets.  He loved the children who ran through the streets laughing and playing.  No longer did he see the beauty that was Capernaum to him, for most days now anger and rage was all he felt.

         To make matters worse, the man was starting to forget and get confused.  His mind often felt cloudy, and he now ached from the pain in his body everyday.  He struggled to remember what day it was and sometimes he lost all sense of time.  Those people, whom he loved, seemed cautious around him now.  Instead of smiling at him or talking to him, they looked at him with eyes of pity.  To make matters worse, a new problem had arisen.  Lately, he would wake up in random places around Capernaum not remembering what had happened or why his fists were bloody or why his clothes were torn.  Townspeople had stopped coming near him and acted as if they were scared of him.

         He wanted to yell out to them, “It is me – do not leave please.  I think I need your help,” but the words never came.  What he heard, when he tried to speak, were words that were angry and disjointed.   His head grew cloudier and the throbbing never left him now.  “What did I do wrong?” he wondered.  What sin had he committed?  What evil had he done?  He desperately wanted some answers.  If only he had some answers to what was wrong, then maybe he could find his way out of this dark and painful place.  His life no longer felt like his own.

         In the market one day, he noticed people were excitedly talking about something.  He carefully approached in hopes of overhearing the news.  They spoke of a teacher coming - a man from Nazareth.  They said he might arrive in Capernaum soon.  Some even said he was a healer.  “A healer?” the man thought!  Oh, how he hoped the man was a healer.  Maybe this man could help him. 

         When word spread of the teacher’s arrival, the man desperately tried to gather himself.  His body ached as never before.  His arms felt like iron, and his feet burned with every step.  His mind swirled with cloudiness, and he fought his desire to rage at the world.  For though his body hurt and his mind felt overwhelmed, his soul ached to be free from this pain – from this distress.  He would go to hear this teacher even if he had to drag himself there. 

         Upon arriving at the synagogue, the man pushed his way in.  Everyone in the village appeared to be there.  The meeting space was packed with people.  As he tried to make his way through the crowd, people seemed to scamper away from him.  Why were they scared of him?  What had he done?   Then the teacher started to speak.  He truly was a teacher.  This teacher spoke with such authority.  There was something about him that was different from the others.  The man wanted to move closer – to hear more from this teacher.

         Suddenly, the man was wracked with pain.  His head felt as if it was going to explode.  His eyes burned like never before.  He felt himself hit the ground and with each thrashing of his body, his limbs felt as if they were going to break.  The rage which had consumed him grew exponentially, and he feared what he might do.  “Not now,” he thought. Not here.”

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         And just like that, all movement instantaneously stopped  – the yelling was gone…his body no longer writhing…the pain, that had consumed his life, disappeared.  Instead, he felt a warmth that radiated from his core.  His lungs were finally able to fill with air.  Oh, how his lungs had ached for this clean, fresh air.  As he continued to breathe, he realized it wasn’t just any air.  As he took another breath, he tasted it…it was sea air…oh, his beloved sea air – its scent filled his nostrils and lifted his heart. 

         The pounding that had racked his head for months was gone too…his temples no longer throbbed.  His neck muscles had finally relaxed and his shoulders felt soft.  The wretched tension that had encased his body had vanished some how.  In the distance he heard the calling of seagulls.  Oh, the sweet sound of their calls to one another as they flew over the sea…a sound for him of home. 

         Gradually, he realized the exhaustion was gone as well.  His tired, aching body was washed by the loveliest light he’d ever seen…ever felt.  What was this light that seemed to hold within it life and joy and peace?  What could create a light such as this?  He rested in that peace.  His once tired, aching body relaxed as he allowed himself to be washed in the beautiful light.  His soul no longer in anguish but peaceful and at home. Never in his whole life had he felt so free – so safe – so loved.

         As he took another slow, tender breath, he remembered having come to the synagogue.  He remembered all the people who were there.  He remembered the teacher had been talking.  Slowly, he let the room come into focus.  The people were all still there.  For some reason, everyone seemed focused on him.  As the room came more into focus, he saw standing before him the teacher from Nazareth.  As the man began to speak, the teacher softly touched his shoulder and said, “Go now for you are healed.”  

January 28th, 2018 – Year B

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