Sermon by Mary White

We are at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and he has rounded up a group of disciples who are eager to get to work.

I know if I left everything to follow Jesus, I would have plenty of questions on my mind like:

Who is this guy anyway?
Where exactly are we headed?
Where are we going to sleep tonight?

And, When’s lunch?

But being the Sabbath, Jesus takes his team to the temple. 

A good way to start a ministry - Jesus begins to preach.  

And whatever Jesus had chosen to speak about, the story tells us that the 'hearers were amazed by it'- and they were talking amongst themselves.

And it goes on until someone in the back pew, behind the lady with the big hat, starts interrupting...

It was a man with an unclean spirit. 

Now, I know that over the years, we have had a tendency to make this whole story, look like a scene from the movie “The Exorcist."

Imagine his head doing a 360 degree turn with eyes crossed and his mouth spitting out pea soup...

But that’s not what we see here… instead we see just a man, in church, who has an unclean spirit. What do we mean by an unclean spirit? 

Perhaps it was a demon?

Scientists, say it was some sort of medical condition because we don’t believe in demons anymore.

Some, believe that he was possessed by some sort of an unusual behavior - something that may have a grip on his life - that he was overcome by some kind of addiction or a mental illness.

In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that people who suffered from a mental illness was considered possessed by demons.

It was easy to take the leap and just demonize the whole person.  

But who was this person?

He was probably one of the regular church goers one of those waiting in the silence of hope… one of us.  

Perhaps, he was someone who heard some word, some spoken truth.

Maybe Jesus, touched the place deep inside - a part of the man, a part of his spirit.

...And he has cause to shout out from the back row… “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

What have you to do with us?  With us?  Who is US?  

All the people we are on the inside? All the parts of us who have come and gone during our lifetimes?

For him "us" may include a sleeping baby boy in the blanket with his mother, the toddler in his first new suit... the awkward teenager on her first date... the college freshman moving into his dorm room... the insecure interviewee speaking with a prospective employer

Us -- represents the new father, the coach, the club member, the church member, ALL those parts are us because they continue to live in us - and us, has gotten adept at hiding the selves within the universe of the skin we are in.

And so for this man, those parts... still cry out together.

“What do you want with us!”

Because amidst all the memories and hopes and experiences of all the people we are, there are things we don't want to look at, Jesus.

There’s fear and pain that we’ve suppressed. 

There’s anxiety and worry in here.

And the man begins to tremble...

Most of us have or have experienced feelings like these inside of us. We are good at hiding them. We put them in a box, and then we take our little boxes of stuff and we hide them.  
But we do that sometimes, because of the fact that we have been hurt.

And we know what hurt feels like and don’t want to live through it again. 

It’s understandable, and it’s perfectly human.  

The problem is, that when we are holding on to past hurts that turn to angers, we sometimes miss being able to be in relationship with anyone. 

We are not able to open ourselves up to the relationships that we really want, because those painful feelings, move from being in a box, to standing as a obstruction in front of us.

And they serve as walls between us and those we want to be open to.
And they keep us from  having a complete relationship with God. 

Because if we were to really open ourselves up - if we were really to give those feelings over to Christ - we would have to be open and honest with ourselves. 

We couldn’t go on pretending that we are able to do even one thing on our own. 

And that would leave us completely dependent on Christ. 

And that’s a scary place to be for most of us.

We like control - we like being in charge of ourselves and being independent.

Is it any wonder the man was trembling when Jesus was healing him? 

We don’t want to give up our stuff! 

We don’t want to give up the illusion of being totally independent.

We don’t want to give up our walls. 

And I’ll tell you that this struggle is relentless. 

For some of us, it happens over and over again. 

Because for most of us, we are only able to let go of one thing at a time.  

Thank God, Jesus comes to us over and over. 

Thank God, that the Holy Spirit continues to show us the things in our life that we can give over; to walk in a new way and with complete reliance. 

So, this week:

Think about your faith community. What are some of the things you do together in your community? How does it feel to depend on each other?