Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, January 28, 2018:

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

It's interesting to consider the early days of the ministry of Jesus, as we do in these weeks before we launch ourselves into Lent.  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus preaches and teaches and does a bit of healing.  So far, so good.  But he also casts out demons.

I've written about demons before.  How do we modern folks see this act of casting out demons?

When I was young, my mother had a sensible explanation:  ancient cultures didn't understand mental illness, so demon possession was how they explained diseases of the brain.  It makes a lot of sense.

Lately, though, I wonder if we dismiss this idea of demon possession too quickly.  Perhaps it's a metaphor that can speak to us in other ways.

I joke that I'm the last person who doesn't own a smart phone.  But I also make clear that I'm not buying a smart phone package because I am surrounded by other screens.  I am no less possessed than those people who nearly walk into me because they are so distracted by their pecking at their phones, by the dinging that proves so intrusive.

I have learned the value of leaving the screens, however.  For every bit of connectivity that our technology buys us, it's worth remembering that our technology can keep us distracted and detached.  And we might feel less and less worthy as we see others who seem to be living charmed lives.  It's not hard to spiral into depression as we stay plugged in.

Our screens aren't the only things that possess us and keep us separated from each other and from God.  Maybe it's the political scene that has split you asunder from family and friends.  Maybe it's our health issues that possess us.  Some of us are possessed by our houses which need so much attention or by our vehicles.

For this week, let us think about all of our personal demons and all of our societal demons. Let us decide how we will attempt to cast them out. As a church, what can we do to minister to those afflicted? As individuals, can we be doing more to reach out to those who, for whatever reasons, feel on the outside of our communities?

When my mother-in-law was sick in the hospital, the hospital had us wear visitor stickers on our shirts. Sometimes I would forget that I was wearing mine, and I'd go to the grocery store. I noticed that people treated me more kindly. That sticker showed that I wasn't having a normal day.

We should go through our lives, seeing our fellow humans as wearing similar stickers that show their need for our gentle treatment. Think of what a different world we would inhabit if all people of faith made gentle treatment of their fellow humans a daily practice. Think of how those demons would be diminished.

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