Our family is mid-move to Brockton.
We have Bishop Gayle Harris coming to St. Paul's tonight. We need to close a building we don't need anymore, a building we are selling to use the assets to fund our new growth activities. The building used to be the Sunday school, with a chapel and classrooms.
Last Sunday's lessons were about God breaking in -- God making some really big noise with Elijah, and then revealing the divine self in the silence -- the still, small voice.
This parish had a huge, nasty, noisy split some years ago, over what are now the all too public issues of sexuality and authority in the Anglican Communion. It was earthquake, wind and fire all over the place.
Yet that conflict was not the whole cause of the diminution of this congregation. It was social change -- the city of Brockton changed, drastically. From its heyday in the 1920s as one of the nation's largest shoe-manufacturing cities -- well, it's followed the course of other North American factory towns. It is still an immigrant city -- it is a growing and young city -- but now the immigrants come from Cape Verde and Brazil, from Jamaica, the West Indies, from Latin America. What will it look like, a new Episcopal Church in this wild, multi-cultural community? This community of immigrants and children and hopeful people?
We are now like Elijah at the edge of the cave, listening for the still, small voice, the voice of God after the whirlwind. Listen.
Proper 7-C June 24, 2007
Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39
I heard on the radio the other day that Dr. Phil, the tv psychologist, is very popular in
Dr. Phil is no Jesus but both recognize the same thing: when you live in a crazy time, it can drive you crazy. When the society around you is crumbling, you can feel yourself coming apart. When there are conflicting voices and threats and challenges and fears, outside of you, you can feel them inside yourself, possessing yourself, almost taking your real self away from you. The world might be mad, but that madness is manifested one person at a time. As our friend in
We have lessons today about naming the demons and confronting your fears. We have God taking a direct hand in the righting of some individuals. Elijah, caught up on a deadly conflict with King Ahab and his powerful wife, Jezebel, runs into the wilderness, prepared to die – willfully to die. But God intervenes, makes him eat and drink, sends him to a mountain cave. After all the noise of earthquake, wind and fire, it is in the sheer silence, the solitude, the absolute aloneness that Elijah hears the voice of God. God restores him to his right mind, to his mission, to his life. Now go back to
In the story of the person filled with so many demons their name is “legion,” we hear great noise as well. The poor soul screams and hollers and breaks his bonds. When Jesus commands the demons to come out of him, they jump into a herd of squealing pigs and hurl themselves off a cliff. And here, too, as in the story of Elijah, all the drama is followed by silence and stillness: the man sitting clothed and in his right mind. He wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus sends him back to his home, to tell this story of God’s power.
That’s the thing about all these stories of healing in the bible. Yes, an individual is healed, but it is always an individual in a social context, in a setting, a person with a mission. The healing is to right a wrong, to get someone back on track, and then to get that person back into the community. There is not the sense that the person is at fault alone for his predicament. It’s the demons, it’s the persecution by the king – something from the outside is causing the trouble here. And when the person is healed, back he or she goes to work. The healing itself is proof that God is in charge of the world, not those demons who throw individuals out of whack, not power-hungry kings. There are no HIPA laws in the bible, no medical privacy acts. When God heals you, it is your job to get back out there, and tell the Good News.
There are a lot of stories of healing in the Gospel of Luke, so many that Luke gets nick-named “the physician.” These healings are signs, for this Luke who is telling this version of the story of Jesus, that the
And yet if we would but hear it, we can hear how these stories of healing apply to us, and to our time as well. God is breaking through in our lives, and in our time and place – God moves in to any situation where things have gotten out of whack, and if God has ever restored us to our rightful minds, then we should get out there and spread that Good News that the world is dying – literally dying – to hear.
Let’s remember this where we are, here in the heart of this city, that the treasure we have is the treasure of the Good News. Like the man healed, wouldn’t we love to get in to boat with Jesus and sail away, but Jesus speaks these words to us, too: "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So let us then proclaim throughout this city how much Jesus has done for us.
[i] From “Dr. Phil finds an audience in