Opening Question: Have you ever asked someone for advice? Was it good advice? What did you do if it was good advice? Bad advice?
First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:17-20
Jennifer went to her coach, Mrs. Appleton, for advice. She was having trouble at home with her parents. And she didn't know who else to talk to.
"Mrs. Appleton," Jennifer said, "my parents fight all the time. I'm afraid they are going to get divorced. What can I do?"
"Have you talked to your parents?" Mrs. Appleton responded. "Have you told them how you feel about their yelling?"
"Yes," Jennifer said. "But they just keep fighting. I feel trapped in my house. The tension is getting to be too much!"
"Have you tried praying?" Mrs. Appleton asked.
"Uh...no, I haven't," Jennifer replied, rather embarrassed.
"Jennifer," Mrs. Appleton said, "you're in a tough spot and you need all the friends you can get. Start with God. Talk to him. And pray to find others to talk to. You'll find the people you need to help you."
That night, Jennifer closed the door to her room. She could hear her parents screaming at each other. What she wouldn't do for a night of peace. Then, she remembered the advice Mrs. Appleton gave her. "Dear God," Jennifer prayed, "please help my parents stop fighting. If they won't, please help me to survive." Suddenly, Jennifer felt peaceful inside. She realized that even if her parents did not stop fighting, everything would be alright. "God, thank you for friends, like Mrs. Appleton," Jennifer continued. "Help me find more like her."
We all need friends to help us through the hard times. We need people to speak honestly to us and to give us good. advice. Moses promised someone would come to tell us the truth and to give us God's advice. His name is Jesus.
Let us pray for good advice and thank God for the gift of Jesus.
Bridging Questions: When you go to some place new, how do you know someone is in charge? Have you ever seen a fight between the person in charge and a trouble maker. What happened?
Gospel: Mark 1:21-28
Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum, a city by the Sea of Galilee. On the very next Sabbath, they entered the synagogue. And Jesus taught the people. Everyone was surprised by his teaching, for he taught with a power the experts in the Jewish Law did not have.
Suddenly, a man who was controlled by a demon entered their synagogue. He shouted, "Why do you get in our way, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? Beware! I know who you are! You're God's Holy One!"
Jesus stopped the man from talking any more. "Quiet!" Jesus demanded. "Demon, come out of the man!"
The demon inside the man threw him around, groaned loudly, and left him. Everyone was so amazed they began to tell each other, "What is this? A powerful, new teaching. Jesus commands the demons and even they obey him!" The reputation of Jesus immediately spread throughout Galilee.
Kenny was a bright, talented baseball player. And Kenny knew it. He could outplay and out "psyche" anyone on the field. But, he didn't have patience for other players who weren't as good as he was. Kenny's teams won, a lot. But, no one liked to play against Kenny, or with him. Most kids his age wished Kenny would just go away. Kenny didn't care. He just played.
Good coaches stress teamwork and team spirit. No hot dogs, work together as one. Kenny would have none of that talk. He came to be in the spotlight. He would get in the face of any coach who wouldn't let him be the star. When any coach yelled at Kenny about disrespect, Kenny would yell right back. "You want me to respect you first? You're here to help me. You got to show me respect to get my respect." Respect for Kenny meant being in charge.
More than one coach quit in mid-season. That was okay with Kenny. But not for the other coaches. "That Kenny is one wild kid!" one coach said. Another coach rolled his eyes and said, "You'd think the kid was possessed." A third coach laughed, "Possessed? He is a little demon!"
This season, however, when Kenny received his letter of acceptance, he smiled. He was going to be on Coach Ralph's team! Coach Ralph had the best record of any coach in the county. Now, Kenny would be the star on the best team! Then, Kenny remembered. If there was any coach that stressed team work it was Coach Ralph. So, Kenny decided what he needed to do. At the first practice he would get in Coach Ralph's face. That team work stuff might be okay for the rest of the team. But, Kenny was different! He was the star.
On the first day of practice, Coach Ralph called his team together to start drills. Kenny came in late, ran right up to the coach, got in his face, and interrupted, "Hey, coach! I'm here to win!"
"That's great," Coach Ralph said, as he continued again.
"No, coach. I want to win!" Kenny said. Everyone's eyes were on the coach and on the boy people called "possessed."
"That's good, Kenny," Coach Ralph said. "That's why I got this for you to watch at home." The coach pulled a video tape named "Advanced Techniques of Baseball, Part 1." Kenny stopped and looked at a video he had never seen before. He noticed the famous players and coaches listed on the tape. Kenny stood there dumbfounded. "Kenny," the coach whispered, "time for drills. Watch the tape tonight."
Kenny went home that night and watched the tape. Over and over. Every week, Kenny got a new tape and a new talk. He wanted more and got more from the coach. Every step of the way, Coach Ralph had an answer and a new technique for Kenny to learn.
What Kenny didn't realize right away was a change in his attitude. For the first time, he had a real respect for his coach. As Kenny began to show off his new techniques to the other players, the coach had him teach the other players. Soon, Kenny had new friends on the team, as he played with them. While he was still the best player on the team, he worked with others to make the team better. By the end of the season, the team was undefeated, because the team worked as a single unit. And Kenny was an important part of that unit.
Kenny never forgot the lessons Coach Ralph taught him. But he always remembered the greatest lesson. The best player on a team is the one who helps others work together. Kenny was no longer possessed by the demon of selfishness. He came to play as a team member.
Like Coach Ralph, Jesus came to teach others a better way. The demon possessed man wanted to be in charge, like Kenny. But, like the coach, Jesus would have none of that. He freed the man from the demon that possessed him. And the man became a normal part of the community.
Jesus has power to teach us the right way to live and to heal us from our sins. Let us pray and put our trust in his teaching and his healing power.
Closing Question: Have you ever seen a bully change? How did they change? How did they effect you? How can they change? How can you help them to change?