Proper 7C (OT12)
329: June 23, 2019
172: June 19, 2016
Interesting interpretation of this passage: Crazy Bill: The Story of the Gerasene Demoniac Revisted by Tim Milton
How do modern listeners talk about demons?
Actual embodied manifestations of evil?
Interview with Sarah Griffith Lund
Like the ‘enemies’ in the Psalms?
Anxiety, depression, isolation, greed, self-doubt.
The only time this story appears in the lectionary
Skipped Parable of the Sower, Jesus saying, “My mother and brothers are those who hear my words and do it.” and Jesus calming the storm (which he did on this trip to other side of the Sea of Galilee).
Three stories of people not understanding.
Sower and the seed is about ¾ of seed that doesn’t take.
Jesus redefining family
Disciples fearful in the boat
This is a story of the demon knowing exactly who Jesus is.
Strange story of Jesus crossing sea, healing man, leaving him there, and going back. A lot of effort for one man, even if he is occupied by a Legion.
Gerasa - land of the Gerasenes
33 miles southeast of Galilee (Luke is terrible at Geography)
A large Roman City founded by Alexander the Great
Gadara - possible. This is where Matthew places this story and this town is only 6 miles Southeast of Galilee
A city “given” to Herod by Augustus
Both are Gentile cities with nominal Jewish populations
Greeted by “a certain man.” Man gets no name
“Possessed by demons”
For a long time: Naked, living among tombs
Had been chained and guarded
“As in many stories of persons who have a demon, the pronouns are hard to keep separate. In the phrase “He said” the ‘he’ is Legion. In the phrase “into him” the ‘him’ is the man, not Legion. It is not a linguistic problem, it is the problem of identity with anyone who has a demon. Who am I? Who am I apart from or in cohesion with this demon? Can ‘I’ be separated from ‘it’? I find stories of persons with demons to be powerfully insightful into the real dilemmas facing anyone with controlling habits, diseases, or conditions. We become identified with the disease and the behaviors, whether via pity or anger. What worse condition is there than to ask, “Who am I” and not to be able to answer?” (D Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It)
Apart from society
Demon recognizes Jesus
For it was already called out of the man
Demon tries to assert authority by naming Jesus.
Jesus responds by demanding demon’s name.
“Legion” is a clear allusion to Roman authority.
A Legion is an occupying force, about 6,000 soldiers.
“The demoniac is called by the Latin name "Legion," referring to a company of up to 6,000 Roman soldiers. This strongly suggests that Mark linked the exorcism of the evil powers occupying the demoniac with acts of Roman oppression. The demons' preference for pigs is because of the animal's negative association in Judaism. The association of a Roman legion with a herd of pigs was a priceless piece of irony (Jeffrey John, The Meaning in the Miracles, 86).
Luke, following Mark's lead, identifies Roman military might with the supernatural powers that are behind all systems of violent oppression.” (Alyce McKenzie, Patheos)
Legion begs mercy. Jesus casts him into pigs - not valued animals for the time - and they run off the cliff and die.
Ironic - they think they can flee from Jesus power by going into the sea, but Jesus has just demonstrated his authority over the sea
People’s response is not positive.
CEB: “Filled with awe”
NRSV: “And they were afraid.”
CEB: People “overcome with fear”
NRSV: People “seized with great fear”
Left Behind and Loving it: “They were bound together by fear.” So now, the man who was bound by chains now has caused the people to be “bound by fear.”
He wants to be bound to Jesus.
Following Jesus is not exchanging one oppressor for another
Jesus invites the man be free
Jesus tells man to tell people “what God had done for him.”
Man tells people “what Jesus had done for him.”
Obedience or disobedience?
Thoughts and Questions
How are mentally ill treated today? More and more, prisons are our mental health facilities. This man was chained in the tombs because of his possession. How many of those in our prison system are suffering from mental illness?
The man has no identity apart from his affliction. How many of us are defined by our failures? Two quotes from David Lose:
Don’t we also tend to define ourselves in terms of our deficiencies and setbacks, our disappointments and failures? Not always, of course, but enough to rob us of the abundant life God hopes that we experience and share. Why is it that every time we want to take a risk and in this way be vulnerable, we are reminded of every failure, every disappointment we’ve experienced before? Perhaps because we’ve allowed these things to possess us. We, too, are Legion.
There are so many voices trying to possess and discourage us that we might still call them Legion. Yet against all of them stands the still, small, but mighty voice of the one who still crosses oceans and boundaries to tell us of God’s love and call us back to our right minds and grace-filled identities. Thanks to be God
How much do we tolerate evil we think we can control? Especially when it distracts us from true systemic change? How often do we use a common enemy to unite divided factions - thereby keeping us from addressing our divisions?
“In the case of the Gadarene demoniac, the people knew the locus of the evil, knew where the man lived, and devoted considerable time and expense trying to guard and to control him (v. 29). A community thus learns to live with demonic forces, isolating and partially controlling them. If it is not “spiritualizing” the story too much to say so, this partially successful balance of tolerance and management of the demonic among them also allowed the people to keep attention off their own lives. But now the power of God for good comes to their community and it disturbs a way of life they had come to accept.” - Craddock, Interpretation: Luke.
Odd as it may sound, we often prefer the devil we know to the freedom we do not. Congregations too can take a false sense of security from the dysfunctions they have learned to cope with, and they fear what change—even change for health—may bring. Communal identity is in this sense more difficult to change than individual identity. Indeed, if Luke's depiction of Jesus' ministry is any indication, effecting change among a fearful community can be even more difficult than stilling storms or casting out demons. - David Lose, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
Three weeks in Galatians
June 23 - Galatians 3:23-39, Neither Jew nor Greek… you are heirs to Abraham’s promise
June 30 - Galatians 5:1, 13-25 The fruit of the flesh vs fruit of the spirit.
July 7 - Galatians 6:(1-6) 7-16 Let us work for the good of all.
After this, four weeks in Colossians
According to Borg, Galatians is one of the oldest writings from the New Testament, second only to 1 Thessalonians
Much of the letter deals with debate over circumcision, includes objections aimed directly at Peter.
Paul is upset with those he calls false teachers who are compelling new believers to submit themselves to the Law, particularly circumcision.
If you rely on trying to follow the Law, you will always come up short. Instead, follow Christ.
Recalls the promise of Abraham to be sons and daughters of righteousness.
Builds case around righteousness being passed down through Abraham.
Jesus is the source of righteousness. His life, crucifixion, and resurrection is our source of salvation, not the Law.
Grace through faith
The Law and righteousness
The Law is God’s will and good. The problem with the Law was that it is only able to convict.
The Law makes humanity aware of its own sinfulness, but to be inheritors of Abraham’s promise we must also be aware of our righteousness.
Jesus came to free us from the prison of the Law, which is only able to reveal our sin.
From the Wesley Study Bible notes: “The purpose of the law was to deal with transgressions by making them explicitly known as violations against God… Moreover the law could not make it adherents righteous; instead it confined them to sin. This all changed when Christ came and righteousness by faith was established. Now that Christ and the new era have arrived, there is no reason to remain under the law and its method of dealing with sin.”
Children of God
This is different than the way progressives often throw around this term. Many use “Children of God” to imply that all humans are “children of God,” but I don’t think Paul would agree with this.
God wants all people to be God’s children, but becoming a “child of God” comes through faith, not simply birth.
Yet at the same time Paul is opening this idea of “Children of God” to an unprecedented level.
“John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed imagine this conversation with the Apostle Paul:
Do you think, Paul, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights? I am not speaking about all men but about all Christians. But do you think, Paul, that all people should be Christians? Yes, of course. Then do you think, Paul, that it is God’s will for all people to be equal with one another? Well, let me think about that one for a while and, in the meantime, you think about equality in Christ.30“ (Alicia Vargas, Working Preacher)
Allen Brehm, The Waking Dreamer: “think in our day and time, we should follow Paul’s lead and extend his thinking to include the whole human race as God’s chosen people. If we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we would have to admit that we have taken Paul’s scandalous overturning of the system of privilege and discrimination and turned it into a whole new means of looking down on others. We have turned our Christian faith into an exclusive mark of superiority over all “non-believers.” But it would seem to me that the God who created all things and all people, the God who called Abraham and Sarah and their descendants for the benefit of all people, and the God who in Jesus Christ came into this world to redeem all people, is the God who has chosen to love the whole human family. Truly, in and because of Christ Jesus, we are all beloved “children of God”; we are all chosen to be “one in Christ Jesus.””
No longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female.
It is impossible to overstate the impact of this statement.
Racial, religious, ethnic, class, and gender roles are deemed invalid. In a culture based on these divisions, with a careful order to everything, this is beyond radical.
According to Andrew Prior (One Man’s Web) “Based on the vocabulary, scholars think the words "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus…" are an early Christian liturgy which Paul is reminding Galatia about, and reinterpreting. (Martyn, Galatians p. 374)
They are probably part of a baptismal liturgy. The implications of these words, combined with Paul's interpretation of them, are simply stunning. Paul is undercutting the foundation of the whole world.”
Another great quote from this article: “He reminds us Paul is quoting liturgy; probably a baptismal formula. In baptism, the old opposites on which the foundations of our self understanding are laid, and the very foundations of our society are laid, are undermined.
Not only is Paul disagreeing with the Jerusalem believers, he is handing out the ultimate insult. You are not only wrong. Your whole conception of the foundations of life with God is irrelevant. You trying to stand on a foundation which does not even exist!”
Thoughts and Questions
Charles Cousar summarizes this passage: “The redefinition of the people of God is now complete. Before the coming of Christ that people’s pride was the law; it was the gift of God which set her apart as a special people, unlike other nations and religions. By attention to the law she sought to maintain her privileged position as the chosen of God. Then the Messiah came, and the question of who really belongs to God’s people was transformed. Christ fulfiled a promise to Abraham which had to do with the expansion of his family as a component in their heritage. The people of God no longer is determined by the law but by Christ, belonging to him, being joined to him in baptism. But to redefine God’s people in this way is to imply revolutionary consequences for the nature of the new fellowship.
The distinctions do not evaporate, they are simply left powerless. Paul continues to address the distinctions in other letters. Sometimes in similarly radical ways, and at other times in more culturally-appropriate ways. The heart of this passage though is revealing a trajectory toward unity that is made possible in Christ. The distinctions are cultural constructions, not the will of God. In God through Christ, there is only oneness. As the people of Christ, we are to continue this trajectory.
In Which Jezebel Gives Way to Deborah: “I look forward to the day when women with leadership and insight, gifts and talents, callings and prophetic leanings are called out and celebrated as a Deborah, instead of silenced as a Jezebel.”
Back to 2 weeks ago to what happened after the Elijah threw down on the prophets of Baal
Elijah is coming off of a series of great victories (raising the dead, calling down the fire, overthrowing the prophets of Baal, proclaiming drought, etc) but is now weary
Driven more by fear than by love and dedication to God
Begs for death
Mount Horeb = Mount Sinai
40 days and nights in a cave - like Moses (Exodus 24:18)
God passes by - like Moses (Exodus 32:22)
Wants to die - like Moses (Numbers 11:14-15)
Qol demamah daqqah
Qol - sound or voice
Demamah - silence, whisper or stillness (see Psalm 107:29)
Daqqah - thin, small, sheer, or fine
The Sound of Silence
Not necessarily that God had nothing to do with the wind, earthquake and fire, but God chose to speak in the silence.
Not a definitive declaration or revelation that God prefers to work in the silence or that we need to quiet our hearts in order to hear God
Too many examples of God being revealed in fiery pillars, column of smoke, fire and brimstone, great floods, earthquake of crucifixion, violent winds and proclamations of Pentecost, etc.
Direct contrast to how God spoke to Moses (Exodus 19:16-19) AND contrast to Baal the Storm God (Yahweh is in the calm after the storm)
Interesting to read this passage alongside Psalm 42 - Elijah’s unspoken complaint is God’s silence in the face of great tragedy - to reveal Godself to Elijah in that moment is a reminder that even in the most defining silence - God is there!
God defies expectation
Not that God isn’t in other things, but God is in the places we least expect it- the silence of life
"A shipwrecked man prays to God to save him. A boat approaches, but the man tells it to go away because God will save him. The boat leaves. A second boat arrives, and the man sends it away, saying God will save him. The man dies of exposure. When he gets to heaven, he complains to God for not saving him when he prayed. God tells the man he sent two boats to save him but the man sent them away."
Alone: “I alone am left” v.10 and 14
God speaking in the silence is a reminder that Elijah is never alone
God’s plans never rest solely on your shoulders- you are not alone
I am inadequate or unable to provide a future for Israel or even myself
God assures Elijah that there is a future, not only for Elijah, but for Israel
There are 7000 people that Elijah doesn’t know about
There is a future ministry for Elijah (anointing a new king and calling a new prophet) that Elijah doesn’t know about
It is interesting that Elijah still feels alone after being fed by an angel - TWICE!
Sometimes, depression and despair can blind us to miracles in our midst.
Thoughts and Questions
How much time do we spend listening for God? We may talk, sing, shout and yell at God, but do we take time to listen? While God is present in all things, perhaps we need to take more time to listen to God speaking in moments of silence
Check out John Cage’s 4’33”
It is easy to fall into despair when we think the Kingdom of God rests only on our shoulders - even more so when we feel alone. Who are the partners- the 7000 - that God is calling us to connect with? How will we as pastors and churches continually reach out to others to bring about the Kingdom of God?
We may feel frustrated and exhausted as pastors and churches- but God can work with frustration and exhaustion. God can lead us to Sabbath (still waters), God can provide for us (green pastures), speak to us (restoring our souls) but does do to send us back out into the world.
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.