Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Eucharistic Prayers & Post Comm. Collects)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM


Love Builds Up

January 30, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Mark 1:21–28

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
January 31, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Epiphany 4
Love Builds Up

After this they went to Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and began to teach; and they were astonished upon hearing his teaching for he taught them as one who had authority, unlike the Scribes. And suddenly there was a man in their synagogue possessed of an unclean spirit; who cried out saying, "What business do we have with one another, Jesus of Nazareth! Have you come to destroy us; I know who you are! You are God's Holy One!

Jesus sternly said to him, Be silent! Leave him! And the unclean spirit came out of the man convulsing him and letting out with a great scream! And they were so astonished that they kept asking one another, "What is this! What is this new teaching by which he commands the unclean spirits and they obey him!" At once his fame spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)

When the first Christians heard St. Mark read in their Divine Service shorty after Pentecost they, too, were astonished!

It is possible that some of the people who were present in the Synagogue in Capernaum that day, who had heard the Lord teach, and who witnessed his perfect power over implacable demons … It is possible that they were now sitting in the congregation, worshiping their exalted Lord. Remembering the event. And communing with him still. Then in human form, now under the forms of Bread and Wine, but still the very Body and Blood of Jesus that vaccinates us against the intrusion of unclean spirits.

Take note, Beloved! Fill your body with the Body of Christ here at Jesus’ altar and there will be no room for the devil or his minions, within the sacred temple that your body is. For devils are always looking to squat in any abandoned house they can find; and to invite their friends to have a wild party, with you as host, and you as victim.

It is further possible that the very man whom the Lord liberated was there, too, thanking and praising God from the bottom of his heart that he was now free of the addiction to lust that spotted and besotted his whole life.

Today that “unclean spirit” and many of his compatriots roam and foam freely about the world, and by all appearances one would think that they, and not Christ, are winning the war.

The estate of holy matrimony that God created in the beginning – which is but a reflection of the marriage that exists Christ and his Bride the Church – holy matrimony is in shambles.

Marriage has always been difficult. In EO theology marriage is considered martyrdom. Yes, martyrdom, because to keep things together both husband and wife must make painful sacrifices, and tolerate all the weaknesses that the spouse possesses, weakness that no one knows better than a husband or wife.

But in our day we must add a new level of intrigue to the mix: what culture’s catechism names gender confusion. But the farther the world travels down that rocky road, the harder it is ever to recover the simple fact that: “God made them male and female.”

There is a little known curse in Romans chapter one that St. Paul uses 3 times in a row: “and so God gave them over.”

He applies it to people who have sealed themselves in their own dark, cesspools that exclude their Maker, and his will for their lives. Like our man in the synagogue they are besotted with unclean spirits. They become entangled with the sin of burning lust, particularly the homosexual sin. And it is specifically at this point that the Sacred record says,

“And so God gave them over.” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28)

He cut them loose.

He let them have their way with a sin that is an assault against reason. Logic. Nature. Anatomy. Physiology. But finally against the life-creating God who made them male and female for the purpose of procreation.

Not only do you want to stay very far away from “gender confusion” but, as God’s priests and prophets you must not approve of such things in your attitudes, or encourage them. Not that anyone in the public square wants to hear Christian truth, today.

But at least in your own purified heart you must be convinced of the degradation to humanity that this sin constitutes.

Have you fallen? Has this, or any other unclean spirit soiled you?

Fear not! But repent; and believe the Gospel that our Lord has power over the demons and they must obey him. That they must go to their appointed destruction at his Lord’s Word. The Word you hear in his house today.

Yes, we are rightly distressed over our sins, and over the sins of those whom we love. But remember that Jesus who is the Chief Fisher of Men can bring back his baptized, no matter how far they run, with but a little twitch of the line:

He is able to make them stand.

Yes, we soil ourselves whenever we dance with the devil, but we have soap! Blood Type J. The Holy Blood of Jesus that was poured out on the cross, collected in the Cup, and is freely given to purify us from every sin.

But there is one more item that we need to cover in today’s gospel and that is the true confession made by the unclean spirit.

He said to Jesus, “I know who you are! You are God's Holy One!”

His confession differed little from St. Peter’s who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Or of Martha’s at the grave of her brother Lazarus, “You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

What is the difference, then, between the true confession made by the unclean spirit, and that of Peter and Martha?

It is not faith! For St. James assures us that even the demons believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

So what was the difference? The difference is what St. Paul teaches us in today’s epistle when he says: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

No, no one is more convinced of the truths of Scripture than the demons. They have ancient, first hand knowledge of what it means to rebel against God; and to suffer the consequences. Thus the unclean spirit says the Jesus: have to come to destroy us before our time.

But what the demons do not have is love. They do not love Jesus and they surely do not love you! And so no matter what they say, close your ears, and like Jesus rebuke the devil using the Lord’s own words at the first sign of temptation: “Begone Satan!” (Mt. 4:10) and they will flee from you.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

To have knowledge without love makes a person all sail, and no ballast. All sizzle and no steak. But love, on the other hand, builds up other people. It rejoices in the truth. In that “which eternally true, and truly eternal.” (Augustine: City of God)

To have faith without love is no better, “but only faith working through love.” matters. (Gal. 5:6)

The unclean spirit had not an ounce of love.

But Peter did. Martha did. The man whom the Lord liberated in today’s gospel did! And so must we for we, also, have been liberated.

Jesus, the church’s Holy Bridegroom made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He was willing to suffer scorn, thorn, shame, insult, spit, mockery, brutality and finally the tearing open of his side with a Roman spear, so that we, his Holy church, might emerge from the side of the New Adam.

And what God hath joined together, on Calvary, at this font, and at this holy altar, let not man nor unclean spirit put asunder. Amen.