The 4th Sunday after the Epiphany
Holy Eucharist, Rite II
January 31, 2021
The Celebrant and LEM stand, maintaining physical distance. There is no procession.
Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
LEM: And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.
Celebrant: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
LEM: Have mercy upon us.
Opening Hymn: How wondrous and great Hymnal 1982 #533
How wondrous and great they works, God of praise!
How just, King of saints, and true are thy ways!
O who shall not fear thee, and honor thy Name?
Thou only art holy, thou only supreme.
To nations of earth the light shall be shownl
Their worship and vows shall come to thy throne:
Thy truth and thy judgments shall spread all abroad,
Till earth’s every people confess thee their God.
The Collect of the Day
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
The Celebrant says the Collect.
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Old Testament Lesson Deuteronomy 18:15-20
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.
16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”
17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.
19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.
20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”
LEM: The Word of the Lord.
Celebrant: Thanks be to God.
Psalm of the Day: Psalm 111
1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name.
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
The New Testament Lesson: I Corinthians 8:1-13
1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;
3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.
4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.”
5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?
11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.
12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
LEM: The Word of the Lord.
Celebrant: Thanks be to God.
Gradual Hymn: O Zion haste Hymnal 1982 #539
O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling, to tell to all the world that God is Light;
That he who made all nations is not willing one soul should fail to know his love and might.
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace, tiding of Jesus, redemption and release.
Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation that God, in whom they live and move, is Love;
Tell how he stooped to save his lost creation, and died on earth that all might live above.
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace, tiding of Jesus, redemption and release.
The Gospel: Mark 1:21-28
Then, all standing, the Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying
Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
LEM: Glory to you, Lord Christ.
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,
24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”
26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching–with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
LEM: Praise to you, Lord Christ.
The Sermon: “Convulsing, Crying”
(The printed sermon text may differ from the spoken sermon)
Epiphany 4 B
And leaving, one must add, after having finally been made to shut up and stop hurting people. That’s what happened to the unclean spirit – and everyone was glad to see him gone, and no-one more than the person whom he’d been afflicting. Once he was gone, suddenly, everything was better, and the people were amazed: who is this whom even the unclean spirits obey? Who is this who can make the demons that afflict us stifle themselves and, once and for all, get good and gone?
Peace breaks out in sudden quiet, the saying goes. It is that silence, the absence of noise and strife, of distraction and dissembling, that is so wondrous and surprising. The calm after a rain, or the cold shock of a bright-sun morning after a snowfall, a heart at peace with itself, and a mind and a body no longer being insulted or abused. All of a sudden it feels, it is, so much better that we might be a little frightened of it, wondering how long it will last, and whether there’s anything we can do to make it last. Survivors of illness or trauma, displacement or abuse, even war and flight, get to know this feeling well, if they are lucky. Just to walk between the moon and stars without fear and without being hurt, insulted, hated-on or lied-to can be peace enough, if the road were stony enough. The chance and the freedom to stop, finally, as Terry McMillan wrote, waiting to exhale.
Can we, as a nation, a people, finally exhale? Not so much that we become complacent, no, nor cease our vigilance and watch, but perhaps enough to put ourselves at least in the condition of the people in Capernaum. They’d seen him leave, that spirit of filth, of defilement, or at least heard him wail and rage before losing his voice forever and leaving the one he’d afflicted, finally, alone. That uncleanness might come back, sure, but for now it’s gone, and we must care for its victims and heal the wounds it caused. Mindful of Mark Twain’s observation that “It is easier to fool people than convince them that they’ve been fooled,” we should not believe it an easy task, but it is a necessary one, and a good one. One of the reasons why we need teachers who can teach with authority, knowing what they need to know and also how to use it well, is because of that. Who knows but that the man afflicted with the unclean spirit didn’t get attached to it, and missed it once it was gone? We have to help him, folks. He’s living in a whole new world, and it isn’t easy. Thank heavens for the Man from Galilee come here to help us learn how. I don’t know what we’d do without him.
We don’t talk like that, now. I mean about people having unclean spirits or being possessed by demons. In the outré genres of horror and other escapist fantasies I suppose we do, but in the sober, every day, adult world in which most of us have to live, we tend not to think of people as possessed by forces or powers outside of themselves. No, we tend to think of people as possessed by forced and powers as much within as without, given what addictions, personality disorders, and mental illnesses do to the body and, hence, to the person. Exorcising such demons – we say metaphorically – requires far more than the traditional laying-on of hands and invoking the possessor in its own true name, saying the ritual prayer and bidding the unclean be gone. It requires even more than the bell, book, and candle used to mark the end of an excommunication, the rite the medieval church performed when it decided that someone’s behavior had been so extreme that they were to be considered dead from here on out. “Curced in kirc an sal ai be wid candil, boke, and bell” went the saying in the 1300s; “Cursed in church and e’er shall be, with candle, book, and bell.” The candle is snuffed, the book slammed closed, and a bell tolled so that all could hear: we have given up on this person. Until they choose to repent and be healed, or heal themselves, they cannot return among us. Let them be to us as the unclean spirits of old: silent and gone. Go fool someone else, and somewhere else; we’re done here and so are you.
No, it takes more than that to help people overcome mental illness or addiction, and we’re never sure that today’s triumph won’t fall to tomorrow’s relapse. As with the person, so with the people; whatever possessed (possesses?) so many of our fellows to follow leaders of hatred and deceit does not seem easily cast off by loudly saying “Be gone!” in the name of the God who is love or the love that outlasts even death and grief, or liberty, or freedom, or justice, or what have you. “It is easier to fool people than convince them that they’ve been fooled,” as I said before, quoting Twain – not to mention that even the medieval church knew that demons, present or departed, left behind “grief, desolation, disturbance of soul and clouds of the mind.” The man in Capernaum whom Jesus set free took a while, I am sure, to fully trust his healing and to get used to the absence of what had hurt him so badly and driven his neighbors crazy.
Paul, perhaps uncharacteristically, captures something of that spirit in the passage we heard today from 1st Corinthians. “Let not your liberty become a stumbling block for the weak,” he warns them. Just because you know that an idol is a false god and that any meat sacrificed to it isn’t really sacrificed to anything, don’t eat it if doing so makes it seem like you believe in that false god. People who don’t know better might get confused, and that would be your fault. That is, don’t drink around alcoholics if it makes it harder for them to resist the pull of their addiction, and don’t eat bacon and sausage around vegetarians who aren’t all that far from noshing of the pig and the cow. Don’t show hatred to people who’ve been beguiled from it until the day before yesterday, or who might still be. Don’t withhold love from the loveless and mean of spirit, lest you convince them that those who abused them, and you, were right to do so. Love even when it hurts to, not by letting abuse continue but from the compassion love requires and enables. Love even when the love you not. Do not use your knowledge to puff yourself up; inciting pridefulness and vanity is a sign that the demons aren’t yet gone. Instead, use it to set people free, or to help them set themselves free, which is the preferred method if you want it to last.
Only the truth can do that, much as only the right medicine can help a body heal, or a mind. Lies and snake oil can’t do it; wishing upon a star can’t do it. But freedom, like truth, isn’t easy, and we shouldn’t expect it to be so. People who’ve been freed from horror or abuse, or who are in the continual process of freeing themselves from illness and addiction, know that freedom isn’t easy. They also know that it is worth it, worth whatever it takes. Nothing would be worse than to the return to chains that bind or a cage that we cannot get out of, even if its bars are golden.
We don’t know what happened to the man from Capernaum, once the unclean spirit had departed from him. Perhaps he took a job on one of the fishing boats from which Jesus had just called his “fishers for people”. Perhaps he followed the man who’d set him free and spread his good news far and wide. Perhaps he saw him preach to the crowds on the mountain and on the plain, heal the sick, tend the broken-hearted, proclaim the good news to the poor. Perhaps he saw the lame walk and the blind see, and watched those who could not walk until Jesus came by, pick up their mats and walk on. Perhaps he saw the good man, the great man, ride in a people’s triumph into Jerusalem. Perhaps he saw him overturn the moneychangers’ tables in the temple. Perhaps he saw him crucified; perhaps he also saw him risen.
Yet perhaps, instead of all that, he simply went home and took some time to get used to being free, to being the master of his own fate and of his tongue and limbs. We don’t know. But something tells me that he stayed clean, that the spirit that Jesus had driven out of him did not come back, let him alone, whether out of respect or out of the fear of the Lord that, they say, is the beginning of wisdom. All we know for sure is that the man’s life became better, and his town’s life became more peaceful, because Jesus chose to use his power to make it so. May we all use such power and grace as God has given us to make people’s lives better in our own day, love the sin and shame out of them, love the lies and deceitfulness out of them, love them as God loves them until the hate is gone, and bring to them that peace which passes all understanding. We need that peace – all of us. May God make it so.
The Deacon or Priest prepares the altar and sanctuary for the Eucharist.
The People make ready their gifts of bread and wine. The LEM continues
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Prayers of the People
The LEM prays. In the silence after each bidding, the People offer their prayers without speaking.
I ask your prayers for all God’s people; for our bishops, our clergy, and this gathering, and for all ministers and people. Pray for the Church.
I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations; and for the well-being of all. Pray for justice and peace.
I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.
Pray for those in any need or trouble.
I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of God.
Pray that they may seek, and pray that they might find.
I ask your prayers for the departed [especially N.N.]. Pray for those who have died.
I ask your prayers for those on the prayer list of this parish, and those whose needs are known to you alone.
The Celebrant adds a concluding collect.
The People stand.
Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you,
LEM: And also with you.
The Ministers and People greet one another in silence while keeping physical distance.
The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
LEM: We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
LEM: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the host of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to the glory of your Name:
The LEM says
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The people stand or kneel. The People hold forth their gifts. The Celebrant continues
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
On the night he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Lord:
LEM We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory;
The Celebrant continues
And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord of all, presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [N.N. and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation,
By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.
Now, as Christ taught us, we are bold to say,
The LEM prays
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread, and then keeps a period of silence. The Celebrant continues
Celebrant: [Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
LEM: Therefore, let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]
Celebrant: The Gifts of God for the People of God.
The People come forward to retrieve the hosts, maintaining physical distance. They consume the hosts upon returning to their seats. They consume their gifts. After Communion, the Celebrant says
Let us pray. The Celebrant prays
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing and Dismissal
The Celebrant says
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord be with you, this day and always, and give you peace.
The LEM says
Let us go forth, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
Withdrawal Hymn: Where charity and love prevail Hymnal 1982, # 581
Where charity and love prevail there God is ever found;
brought here together by Christ’s love are we thus bound.
With grateful joy and holy fear his charity we learn;
let us with heart and mind and strength now love him in return.
The Celebrant, the LEM, and the People depart, maintaining physical distance.
We hope that today’s service has been a blessing to you.
We are here to serve you, and hope to see you again.
Please feel free to call us, email us, or visit us online.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Fairland, MD
12621 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
firstname.lastname@example.org * 301-622-5860 ext. 1002
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wilkins, Priest-in-Charge
email@example.com * 301-622-5860 ext. 1001
Linda Lee, Parish Administrator
firstname.lastname@example.org * 301-622-5860 ext. 1003
Beresford Coker, Musical Director
Joyce Walker, Administrative Assistant
Lee Mericle, Senior Warden
Rosanne Tingley, Junior Warden
For information about St. Mark’s, please visit our website:
The table for readings in Year B (Epiphany) may be found here: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=B&season=Epiphany.
 Sermon text © 2021 Christopher Wilkins. All rights reserved.
Resources (available for free online)
These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.
- Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org
- Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf
- Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf
- Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982
- Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940
- Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993
- Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997
This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.
- The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/
Links to church websites – National, Diocesan and our church’s website.