Pastor’s Blog – A Meditation on the Scripture for Worship Services on June 23rd
Scripture for this week: Luke 8:26-39
Scripture for next week: Luke 9:51-62
There is a facility in Fayetteville called Springwoods. You know about it if you have ever felt or have family or friends that have ever felt like the man who identified himself as Legion in our Gospel reading today.
Now. Before the story continues – Let’s make an agreement with each other – There are many ways to read the Bible, literally works sometimes, and metaphorically works as well. Perhaps demons are real, but let’s set that aside for a moment and discuss the very real metaphor at play in this Scripture.
At the Springwoods facility I have Spent time with many people who self-identified as Legion. Oh, how I wish I was Jesus at times like that! Oh, how I wish I could offer a deep and heartfelt prayer that could fix the crushed identities and heal the emotional pain. Unfortunately, it has taken many years and much emotional and physical pain and abuse to create the demon filled, hellish existence the residents at Springwoods are experiencing. It will take many years of hard work, love, and compassion to repair that damage.
Cutting. I learned about cutting from the Springwoods experiences. Click the blue word to the left to go to the Mayo website description of this condition. The Mayo Clinic says, “this type of self-injury is a harmful way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it’s usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions. Although life-threatening injuries are usually not intended, with self-injury comes the possibility of more serious and even fatal self-aggressive actions.”
Our Gospel author tells us this emotional pain is part of the conversation between the man who called himself Legion and Jesus. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)”
Legion was tormented by emotional pain. It had driven him wild and into the wilds of despair. The cutting was a way for Legion to try to ease the pain that was partially self-induced and partially inflicted by a society that feared anyone who was different, and put them in chains as a way to deal with the situation. Can you see any similarities between our cultures? Unfortunately, then as now, the cutting offers temporary relief that is followed by deeper shame. It leads in a downward spiral to the depths of despair.
While we can’t drive out the legion of issues that have caused people this pain, we can help them learn their true name. Beloved child of God.
In fact, we can work on developing relationships with every person we meet that demonstrates to them that we see their true identity. What if we all looked compassionately on the people we go to school with and work with or live with and modeled for them by our acceptance of them, that we can see their true identity? What if we stopped looking at every person we meet comparatively or competitively and instead only viewed them compassionately? We would change the world is the answer to that question.
Once people have begun cutting it takes many miracles to cast out the demons, and those miracles are most often enacted by professionals who are trained in these arts. But we can change the world by keeping people from falling into the rivers of despair in the first place.
What if we all made an effort to develop 1 new relationship with someone we intuit might be lonely? I’ll leave the time frame of that relationship developing plan to you. Start with one relationship a year. Maybe you’ll increase it to one new regular coffee conversation a month. I know the answer to my question, and I can imagine what it will look like when it arrives. We will be experiencing the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in heaven. The only question is how much pain are we willing to endure before we make the effort to change the way our society builds relationships?
May you be the divine agent of love and naming that our world desperately needs.