Scripture of the Day.  January 31, 2021

Deuteronomy 18:15, 17, 19-20

15 The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me from your community, from your fellow Israelites. He’s the one you must listen to. 17 The Lord said to me: I’ll put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will hold accountable anyone who doesn’t listen to my words, which that prophet will speak in my name. 20 However, any prophet who arrogantly speaks a word in my name that I haven’t commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet must die.

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus throws a demon out

21 Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22 The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23 Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”
25 “Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” 26 The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out.
27 Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.


I.      To prepare for my sermon today I tried to find out what I
        could about the conspiracy theory that’s called QAnon.   It’s what Deuteronomy is talking about. 
        First I have to warn you.  Whatever I tell you about QAnon, is incomplete — it is something that mutates like Covid 19.  Very briefly, I found the QAnon is a theory that believes ex-President Trump is waging a secret war against a "deep state" within the US government that is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. According to the conspiracy, the cabal is largely run by Democratic politicians and liberal celebrities -- and Trump is trying to take them down.  Believers of this theory have given Trump a Messiah-like stature.
        They use slogans like:  “Where we go one, we go all,”  and “Trust the Plan,”  and “We are the Storm,” or simply, “We are Q.”
        QAnon believers have speculated that this fight will lead to a day of reckoning — called ‘The Storm’ — where prominent people such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros will be arrested and executed.
        The QAnon conspiracy theories are also spread by Russian state-backed troll accounts on social media, as well as Russian state-backed traditional media.
        Tens of thousands of people in the United States and around the world, or more, believe this or some variant of it. It spreads through social media.  People in law enforcement, people holding high positions in politics, and members of many churches believe this conspiracy theory.

II.     People have described trying to understand this phenomenon as “going down the Rabbit Hole,” a reference to Alice In Wonderland where you enter a strange and absurd alternate universe.  It is also fascinating, engrossing and time-consuming.

III.    Our readings today will make more sense if you can understand this human tendency I’m talking about where people will believe almost anything, especially if they are not happy with their current reality.  It is what the Israelites did when they made the Golden Calf — they became frustrated with Moses and God — and made their own god, one they could control.  It is a false god, a lie.
         The Bible warns us that we are inclined to lie and then believing the “alternative facts” we have made. 
        The first words spoken to God by the first human being born on the earth were a lie, and from this point in the Bible things go south.  Cain, the first human born on earth, had just killed his brother, the second human, and God asked him, “Where is Abel your brother,” and Cain said “I don’t know.”  When God told Cain God knew exactly what happened, Cain still never admitted what he did.  His only concern was how God would punish him.  He didn’t care that he just murdered his brother — but only that God’s punishment would be too harsh.

IV.     Right here in one of the first stories told in the Bible we are warned that we, as human beings, have an impulse to avoid truth.  If you receive the daily scripture readings that the church sends to you every day, you’ll see that the issue of “truth” and “falsehood” comes up often in the Bible.
        There was a problem — even three thousand years ago during the time of Moses — where people lied too easily. God even made it a commandment — it didn’t help.  But when someone called themselves a prophet and lied about God — Moses said “that prophet must die.”

V.      But what happens when the false prophets become the leaders?  Now the real prophets are in danger!  Most of the religious authorities of Jesus’ day made a conspiracy theory about Jesus — they told people Jesus was a blasphemer, an enemy of God, a soldier in Satan’s army who got his power from the devil.  Right after God-in-the-flesh-Jesus began his ministry on earth, the religious leaders told lies about him and said:   “He must be destroyed!”  The Pharisees, Scribes and High Priests were the QAnon of their day, saying that Jesus was the Satan’s agent on earth sent to destroy Israel.
        Despite the growing opposition, Jesus did his work, even if, like in today’s reading, he had to break the law and heal someone on the Sabbath by casting the evil spirit out of a man. 
        And he taught one message: that God is love, that God loves all of us — no matter who we are or where we come from OR EVEN WHAT WE BELIEVE.  God loves us more than we can understand and there’s nothing we can do to separate ourselves from God’s love.
        And he said, “That is the Gospel Truth.”