Pastor Matthew on the 4th Sunday after Epiphany 2021:
Today's psalm teaches us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom and that those who practice such wisdom will also have understanding. Paul, in our epistle text for the day writes about this kind of God wisdom that leads to understanding when he encourages the early church at Corinth to always be first compassionate and loving all that they do so that their example is continually encouraging to the "young in the faith" He warns that even though they have knowledge now of the teachings of Jesus as they relate to them being "no longer under the law" in such things as dietary restrictions, they are not to act on this new knowledge if it endangers the immature faith of others in the community.
In short, if by the fear of the Lord you have gained wisdom and then understanding of a thing, it is not always right to act on the thing even though it is true. To imitate Jesus in a sacrificial and compassionate approach is always the most noble way.
The Gospel text from Mark tells of Jesus' first "act of authority" which is twofold; 1) public teaching as "one having authority and not like the scribes" and 2) exorcism. Stories of exorcism are always fascinating and off-putting for us who read about them in the modern time. Most enlightened" folks want to dismiss this type of story outright as a primitive explanation for mental illness manifested in psychotic episodes. Although I think these episodes are, almost always, stories about people in the grips of debilitating mental illness, I think it would be a mistake to disregard "the enemy's" participation in them.
Jesus teaches that there are forces that set themselves against God and the promises of God and we are fools to ignore those warnings simply because we know more about how the mind works and new ways of "exorcising" people who suffer from mental illness.
The Gospel promise of God is ultimately Liberation, liberation from everything that incarcerates us, the ultimate of which is death. To be "possessed" by something is to be held captive, to remain incarcerated, shut away from the liberation that God has already won for us in Jesus.
In the understanding of that, we disciple of Jesus, should be "exercising" all the time, with all the tools that God has placed at our disposal, antipsychotic drugs, therapy, psychiatric treatment, support groups and ultimately, all of this, with the same love and compassion that Jesus has exampled to us