Sermon:    ‘It Begins With Teaching’

       Rev. Jane Courtright


TEACHERS…When I think of teachers,

I don’t think of people who are popular or powerful…

at least by how most of the world judges popular or powerful.


I think of my first – grade teacher, who called on me

to answer questions or do special projects,

even though (or maybe just because)

I was too shy to raise my hand

or jump around or shout to get her attention!


I think of my High School honors teacher, Mr. Mularski,

whose creative & empowering teaching

led us to eccentric plays in Chicago,

shocking newsreel footage of historical events,

games and essays that really made us think!


I also remember that as coach,

he led our baseball team to #1 in state one year!

and at the end of the semester,

he let us pick & write on the report sheet our own grade.


I remember Mrs. Jobe,

my Community College Literature teacher

who taught me how to write better papers

& explore Greek drama with me in an independent course.

She asked that when I graduated

from other schools in the future,

I would send her an invite –

so she could keep up with me – which I did!


I remember Dr Susan Thistlethwaite,

my constructive theology professor at seminary,

who challenged me to think outside of the box

as I completed my 27 page Statement of Faith!


When I think of these teachers, and more,

I am amazed at the impact they’ve had on my life,

and the lives of so many others!


Most of them are not paid enough,

spend longer hours at their work than anyone could imagine,

(except if you were a teacher)

and had to deal with many students

who didn’t care to learn or to grow.

None of these teachers will ever be famous,

but what power they had!


Of course, I had some not-so-great teachers, too.

I imagine you probably did as well!

Some of them didn’t really care if their students learned,

Some of them used little or no creativity in their teaching.

Some of them had power & used it in wrong ways.


They have the power to wound, heal or grow young lives.


It is into this world of power and teacher

that our Gospel reading enters!

Today’s passage occurs very early in the ministry of Jesus.

During this past month, we have read

of John the Baptizer preparing Jesus’ way,

then Jesus calling the disciples,

…Today, we are right at the beginning of his ministry.


Notice how Jesus’ ministry begins. WITH TEACHING!

But not just run-of-the-mill teaching –

it’s teaching with authority!

I think it’s kind of interesting that

we don’t hear the content of Jesus’ teaching.


It’s like Mark is saying that not important in this account…

What IS important is his authority.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative because of who he is.


It’s like the teachers in our own lives.

Mostly, we don’t remember details of WHAT they taught us,

as much as we remember the power, passion

& persona of the teacher.


The people in the temple have already experienced

the teaching of the scribes.

But they can see that Jesus’ teaching has authority.

Jesus bring something extra to the table.  WHAT IS IT?


Just look at what happens next:

Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ teaching & healing

are part of the same package, the same ministry.

The people are astounded because THIS is something new.

This teacher, this JESUS, is different.


Many people use the words power & authority


But they can be very different!



In Jesus’ day,

The scribes, Pharisees & Sadducees did have power.

They decided what and who was acceptable.

Their power was a given.  They wrote the rules!


However, it wasn’t a given that they

had the support of confidence of the people.

So, they COULD lack authority.


Even today, we can see that people can have power,

yet not authority.

In a current Middle Eastern situation,

The State of Israel has power,

but not authority for everyone.

Over 60 percent of Israeli citizens

would trade land for peace.

Hamas has power right now,

but not authority for all Palestinians.

10’s of 1000’s of Palestinians would

simply like to live in peace & equality.


Where does AUTHORITY COME from?

I believe that it comes not from someone’s position,

but from intention or a sense of ‘call.’


Good teachers, for example, have authority because

they are not teaching for their own gain.

They don’t teach for money,

as I mentioned, most are not paid enough,

and they don’t teach for prestige or status (what prestige?)


They teach because they feel called to teach,

because they are creative & deeply caring people.

It is those God-given & blessed part of them…

that gives their teaching AUTHORITY!


Good leaders feel called to lead for the good of the people.


Jesus’ authority comes from God.

Sure enough, he is named by that demon

as ‘The Holy One of God.’


It’s this divine authority that we’ll see unfold

In the weeks ahead as we continue to read

the Gospel of Mark.


As we approach & travel through the season of Lent,

We’ll see Jesus’ authority questioned by those in power.


Why?  Because they feel threatened by it.

They challenged Jesus’ authority

Because they fear they will lose their own power.

For good reason, because in the end, on Easter,

Jesus’ genuine authority surpasses any worldly power!


Jesus healing the man possessed of a demon …

is just 1 early example of Jesus’ overcoming evil in the world.

This is what astonishes the people:

Jesus has the authority to prevail over evil.

It’s still amazing today if you think about it!


Evil is still a problem, whether we see it in society,

in our own lives, or within our own selves.

Do WE have the authority to make evil go away?

This question makes me remember the Apostle Paul’s insight:

“I do not understand my own actions.

For I do not what I want, but I do the very thing I hated!”



The author writes:



There’s an old Native American story about this stuggle:

“It’s like 2 dogs fighting inside of us,” said the Chief.

“There is a good dog who wants to do it right,

and the other dog wants to do wrong.

Sometimes the good dog seems stronger

and is winning the fight.

But sometimes the bad dog is stronger

& wrong is winning the fight.”


A young brave asked the Chief,

“Who is going to win in the end?”

The Chief answered, “The one you feel.”


The good dog inside of each of us

finds good Godly food in many places.

We are fed by the love, the kindness,

the heroism of others.


And why are we here today?

At church and at worship,

we are fed by the food of hope and grace.

We are fed on scripture, music, prayer,

on agape love, on the Sacraments of

Baptism and Communion.


As we leave this place,

let us take this food, this light out into the world.

Because, YES, we of all people, are given the authority

To speak, live, heal and teach….

…to continue Jesus’ ministry.


NOW, THAT’S truly astounding!   Amen.

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