Monday, January 18, 2016

Looking Forward to January 24, 2016 -- Those Poor Pigs

The Scripture Reading this Sunday is Mark 5:1-20.

The Sermon title is Madness and Calm.

Early Thoughts: What demon(s) would you want to get rid of?

In the Gospels Jesus is portrayed as being a healer, a teacher/preacher, an exorcist, and Messiah. Part of the way Jesus reveals the Kingdom is by driving out the demons that afflict people.

One of the things that jumps out at me in this story is the place of naming. Being able to name someone/something gives you power.  And so Jesus asks the demon what its name is before he can drive the demon away.

It also jumps out that the demon claims to know exactly what/who Jesus is.

And finally I can't help but notice that this is not a gradual return to "sanity". One minute the man is possessed/ill and a threat to life and property and the next he is sitting calmly with no sign of possession or illness.

So what do we do with this story? As inheritors of liberalism, modernism and the Enlightenment, which all had a focus on scientific inquiry and rationality what do we do with the stories of demons and possession and healing?

We could just dismiss them as superstition or myth.  But then why read them?

We could take this story and see it as a political allegory, especially since the name of the demon(s) [Legion] is described in one resource as
a Latin loan-word, denotes a unit of 6000 soldiers in the Roman army. Many Jewish and Christian texts, especially apocalyptic texts, express a belief that God would destroy the Romans.... {The Jewish Annotated New Testament Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler editors p.69}
The same source then asks:
Do the swine represent the expulsion...of unclean animals or the Roman armies? Are the Gerasenes angry over a symbolic battle or the loss of their herds? {ibid}
But while such a reading makes the story somewhat easier to work with, I think it misses something.

I think that while we don't use that language anymore, preferring to use medical terminology, possession is an issue that people still face.  We still wrestle with things that change us, that lead us to be someone other than who we are, that makes us act in ways that are not socially acceptable, that covers who God calls us to be. We just don't call them demons anymore.

And so I return to the question at the top of these thoughts. What demon(s) would you want to get rid of? What is there in your life, or even in your self, that needs to be sent packing so that you can be who God has called you to be?

And in a strangely ironic sense, it is possible that being who God has called you to be, might make you stand out from society.  Maybe some of the demons we wrestle with make us "normal" in a world where we are called to be a little (or a lot) abnormal.

Wonder where this line will take the sermon.....

No comments:

Post a Comment