If teachers or preachers care to use any of material contained in this essay, please feel free to do so with an attribution. No other permission is necessary.
I Kings 19:1-4,(5-7),8-15a) or Isaiah 65:1-9Ps
42,43 or 22:18-27
With the Revised Common Lectionary
we have two different combinations of texts available t o use as a framework for teaching - I have chosen to use the Isaiah selection. However, I encourage you to read both Old Testament selections because there is a thread - well - a rope of similarity between the two.
The way of a prophet, regardless of the era, is a dangerous, bumpy road at best. Your chances of living a lonely, solitary life are fairly good. The chances of your message being taken seriously (depending on the person in power) are about 50/50. The chance that there will be threats to your life if they don't like the message you bring:100%. Most prophets know best to begin delivering the message with some version of 'Thus says the Lord:'. In todays
text Isaiah conveys God's fatigue over keeping open and invitation to relationship and dialogue that was ignored or turned down. Yet even then, God hold out hope that if there is - in this case - one good grape in the bunch, it is worth saving the bunch. He could punish but chooses a path of mercy for those who thirst for Him.
David's psalm mentions that the things that turn others away will not turn God away. Our merciful God will not discard or neglect the poor, does not shrink from those who are downcast or outcast.
Galatians brings up - once again - the LAW. The law of Moses had a place to keep peace when there was no other law. With the arrival of Jesus, there is a new law: we are to love and be merciful to one another because we are related to one another through Christ, heirs of Christ.
I have always listened to the story of the man possessed with some amount of compassion. Today - two millenia
later - there are still stigmas regarding mental illness. Noone
in his family knew how to deal with him. Villagers and those from neighboring towns knew him, too - yet only by reputation. They had no relations with him because he was inhabited by demons, extremely strong and ran around naked, living in tombs.
Our rational minds live on a fine edge: one side may be a form of madness and the other a form of genius. This 'demonic' knew full well, without prompting from anyone, the heart of the man that was approaching him - and that genius, ultra sensitive part of him blurted out a truth that was rarely spoken by the 'sane' people who walked with Jesus: "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Perhaps some were aghast at his action, falling at Jesus' feet; others scandalized
he called Jesus the Son of God. To a Jew this man was 'unclean' and shackled by more of the Laws of Moses than I can name..... to top it off, he lived among the corpses near a pig farm.
As shocking as it was that the man approached Jesus, it may have been more shocking to Jesus' disciples that Jesus would have anything at all
to do with this stranger, an unbeliever. Yet Jesus didn't back off. He told the demons to leave this man- and God's merciful love, he was healed. Whether demons entered the pigs I have my doubts.... they could have been spooked by the man' s behavior and headed to the waterhole of their own accord. For sure and certain, the swineherds - whose livelihood depended on the non-Jews liking pork - could not have been thrilled. A Jew walks into town, cures an incurable outcast and demolishes a herd of pigs. Naturally they were afraid and wanted him to get out of town. Pronto.
Only the man who came to his senses, healed, wanted to follow Jesus. This is one of the rare times when Jesus turns someone away from discipleship --- to become, instead, an evangelist. He is given a directive: "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you and how much mercy He has shown you". Mercy indeed. Mercy and peace the likes of which he had not known or been shown before.
It was part of the disturbed man's recovery to embrace his humanity again and to tell out of the ineffable mercy of God. Our goal, as children of God on earth, is to embrace God's healing and to be Christlike, giving dignity to those who struggle with demons of any sort. Like the man who became of one mind, we too are obliged to tell others how much mercy God has shown us. Amen and Amen.
Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue
and DJ on http://www.geraniumfarm.org/