Jesus cast out an unclean spirit from a man who interrupted him.

The ‘unclean spirit’  or 'demon' places in the Bible make me more than uncomfortable. In the time of Jesus, folks with brain disorders/mental illnesses were thought to be possessed by unclean spirits - demons.. That idea has carried through in religious circles long after medicine has identified brain disorders/mental illness and has found ways, in many instances, to treat it. The “pray away the demon” theology is harmful to folks who suffer from brain disorders/mental illness. But ignoring medicine in favor or a "prayer only" solution to a medical problem ignores the healing ability of medicine as well as prayer.

What doesn’t make me uncomfortable about this instance of Jesus casting out an unclean spirit is that he did it without any fancy rituals – as the healers of the day would have done – and that when the man was healed the folks “got” that Jesus was something way outside what they’d ever experienced – he was the real thing while others were just pretenders.
  • Jesus' way is one of restoration – not disdain. Have you ever treated someone with a brain disorder/mental illness, or any disability, as an outcast who just needed to “snap out of it?” 
  • Jesus' way of restoration is also one that has everything to do with justice for those who are outcast.
What are you doing individually – How are you involved in community to bring restoration and justice to those who are outcast or forgotten?


Holding back

I can think of a few ways to understand the phrase, “Holding  back.”

  • Describing someone who isn’t ready for what's next– needing more time to prepare.
  • Describing a competitor keeping some energy in reserve for a late burst of speed.
  • Describing a person who seems to be restrained from achieving a goal.

In this week’s Bible reading from Mark 1:14-20, describing briefly Jesus’ call of the first disciples, there are a couple of instances of holding back.

Jesus was holding back.
Jesus waited until John was arrested before starting his public ministry. Either he wasn’t quite ready to begin, or he held back on starting until John (who could have become a competitor rather than a herald) was out of the picture.

The first disciples were holding  back.
Simon, Andrew, James and John had taken up the family business. But when Jesus called them they immediately left and followed him. They were holding back from leaving the family business and following a rabbi because they'd never been invited by a rabbi  before. 

In our lives, what is holding up back? 
  • Is there something we’re  just not ready for, but will be soon?
  • Are we saving something for the right opportunity to come along?
  • Do we feel restrained because of fear or because of something else? 
What’s holding us back?


You Get Me

The sermon podcast for MLK Sunday at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"You Get Me" podcast



This week's Bible reflection (Bugs) was a fun way to begin today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Baptized" podcast



This past Sunday's sermon podcast from St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Directions" podcast



John the baptizer was an outdoorsy-type. I love the rugged description of him in this week’s reading from Mark 1:4-11. Camel’s hair clothing (it’s all the rage, you know) with a leather belt (not purchased from a designer).

He sounds like the Old Testament prophet he is often compared to, and even identified with, Elijah. In 2 Kings 2:8, Elijah is described like this: "A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist."

It’s possible that John was presenting himself as the new Elijah – the one that was here to begin the restoration of all things. It’s also possible that he lived the rugged life as a curiosity to get more people to come and investigate this strange wilderness man.

He had a diet that sounds like a challenge on that old TV show Fear Factor.

“Who wants to go see the guy that eats bugs and honey? This should be fun!”

OK -- Locusts and wild honey. Still -Ew.

And while the curious were there to see the side show, they heard a message they couldn’t forget.

Return to God – be baptized – be forgiven.

Without the benefit of any of the temple priests for mediation.

Oh my. Let the trouble begin.



Here's the late service Christmas Eve sermon from St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL. "He's makin a list . . . . "
"Checklist" podcast


Every Day

This week's Bible reflection (I Love Abe) provided the beginning to this morning's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove.
"Every Day" podcast


I Love Abe

I love Abraham Simpson

I have a favorite Simpson’s Christmas episode.  It’s from just a few years ago, and it is called “Holidays of Future Passed” In the episode, Maggie Simpson has a baby.

And Grandpa Abe Simpson has a great line.

“If there’s one day a year to give unwed mothers a break, it’s Christmas.”

I love the line – and the sentiment behind the line. Just show some love.

In this week’s Bible reading from Luke 1:26-38, the angel told Mary not to be afraid.

She was afraid.

She was in trouble. And regardless of her circumstances and why she was in them, she needed a break.

If the Mary scenario were to play out today, too many people who claim to follow Jesus would look at Mary and shame her.  Unacceptable.

It would be much better to listen to Grandpa Simpson.

I wish everyone would take off their “look at how holy I am” masks and just simply show some love.

And I would love to put a Grandpa Simpson ornament, or ornament looking figure, 
on my Christmas tree.



Something wonderful about music is that even in awful times it offers some tiny shouts of joy.

The last line of this week's Bible reading from Psalm 126 is this:

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

This year hasn't been my favorite, but I know that throughout the year there have been, and will continue to be, tiny shouts of joy. I'd like to bundle each tiny shout into a larger sheaf - a collection of tiny shouts of joy -- because I'm anticipating, awaiting, and hoping for the celebration to come.

I might have to sing.  Joyful blues.

Bluesing in the Sheaves 
Words and music by Kirk Moore – Refrain by Knowles Shaw (irr)

When God restored the fortunes of every dreaming girl and boy
Our mouths were filled with laughter – and our tongues with shouts of joy
Then everyone around here said “Our God has done great things”
We went on rejoicing – and bringing in the sheaves

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We went on rejoicing – bringing in the sheaves
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We went on rejoicing – bringing in the sheaves

Well we planted seeds as tears were flowing – on our face they burned
We went to the fields weeping but there was joy when we returned
Because God restored our fortunes – And in our God we do believe
We go on rejoicing – and bringing in the sheaves

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We go on rejoicing – bringing in the sheaves
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We go on rejoicing – bringing in the sheaves

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We go on rejoicing – bringing in the sheaves
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We go on rejoicing – bringing in the sheaves

© 2008 Kirk Moore