Warm-up Question

If you see someone doing something wicked – hurting another person or themselves, for example – do you feel the responsibility to say or do something? Why does it take so much courage to do something in the face of wickedness, injustice, or evil?

Selma and “Bloody Sunday”

The movie Selma depicts events in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights in this country. To protest the lack of voting rights of African Americans and the violent intransigence of the white power structure towards voter registration efforts, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and other local and national civil rights leaders, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which King helped organize and served as president, organized a series of marches from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery in early 1965.

handsThe first of these marches took place on Sunday, March 7, 1965. In the process of crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge, the peaceful protestors were brutally attacked by state troopers, leaving many bloody and severely injured. Images of  gruesome events of “Bloody Sunday” shocked those watching the evening news or reading about the events in newspapers and magazines, and helped the turn popular support in favor of the protestors and the voting rights protections for which
they were marching.

After Bloody Sunday, Martin Luther King organized and led two more marches from Selma to Montgomery. After the second march, there was more violence, as three white ministers were harshly beaten; one of these ministers, James Reeb, died as a result of this beating. The bravery of the protestors in the face of this violence and evil cruelty spurred President Lyndon Johnson to finally introduce the Voting Rights Act to Congress and send troops to protect the protestors for the third march.

This brief summary does not do justice to those momentous events. But one aspect about these events that I hope you notice is that many of the leaders in the movement for civil rights were people of faith, including Dr. King, the SCLC, and James Reeb. Their faith moved them to action against injustice, as it did for hundreds and thousands of ordinary people whose names are not as famous. Though there have been several hard-won victories in the movement for civil rights, there are still injustices in our country and people of faith are still joining together to confront and overcome them.


Discussion Questions

  • If any of you has seen the movie Selma, what did you think of it, especially the “Bloody Sunday” scene? What have you learned in school about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Has your faith inspired you to stand up against cruelty or injustice? Perhaps this has meant joining a protest or a march, or perhaps this has meant standing up for someone who was being teased or bullied.
  • Are there any injustices in the world that you see that you think people of faith should join together to confront?

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Mark 1:21-28

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

In the Gospel reading, Jesus casts out the unclean spirit. The spirit recognizes him for who he is, the holy one of God. Others do not know who exactly this Jesus is, but in the Gospel of Mark, all the spirits know exactly who Jesus is and the power he has. The question the spirit asks, “What have you to do with us?” In other words, the unclean spirit is saying “You have special power. You can see I’m pretty powerful, too. Who are you going to side with, powerful beings or with these lowly humans? Have you come to destroy us?”

Jesus sides with us lowly humans, and shows the power he has over unclean spirits. In the ancient world, unclean spirits were thought to be the cause of disease, mental illness, and all sorts of tragedy and misfortune. They were a part of the chaos and disorder that afflicted humanity; as we see later in Mark, Jesus has the power to calm the chaos of stormy seas. Jesus frees the man from the unclean spirit, and a major part of Jesus’ ministry in Mark, chapter 1, is driving out unclean spirits, along with healing those who were ill.

As Martin Luther writes, Jesus has freed us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Working together, we as Christians can confront the evil we see in this world in the name of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Whether the injustice and evil we see is across the street or across the world, we can do this work, confident not in our own abilities or courage, but in the promise we have in the cross and resurrection of Christ – as powerful as evil is, Jesus is more powerful, and in him, we shall overcome.

Discussion Questions

  • Where do you see the church confronting “unclean spirits” in the name of Jesus?
  • Most people do not believe in “unclean spirits” in the same way that people in Jesus day did.  Is this an antiquated way of speaking?  What do these exorcisms by Jesus tell us about him?

Activity Suggestions

Search newspapers, or Internet news sites. Where do you see evil? What do you think the Christian witness of Jesus and people of faith can bring to these situations? During your time together, pray for those places where you see evil in the world.

Visit the ELCA Advocacy, ELCA World Hunger, and Stories from the Global Church blogs on the ELCA website to look for ways we are working together against injustice today. Other useful websites might be Sojourners (sojo.net) and Bread for the World (bread.org).

Go to Selma together, or watch a documentary about Martin Luther King or the Civil Rights Movement and discuss the ways people’s faith led to their involvement in the movement.

Closing Prayer

Holy God, our protector and defender, drive out those unclean spirits which cause so much harm and evil in this world. Remove the unclean spirits from our own hearts, and give us the courage and confidence to confront the evil we see in the world in Jesus’ name. It is in his name we pray. Amen.