Dear Friends,Reading the start of Mark’s gospel (as we have been doing so far in 2024) it is clear that, for Jesus, proclaiming the good news of God went hand in hand with casting out demons. It seems you cannot proclaim a life-changing message and not see lives changed!
All this talk of demons and casting out (dare I mention ‘exorcisms’) is challenging for us as twenty-first century, and Western, Christians. We want to turn references to demon possession into medical conditions – epilepsy or some form of mental health illness. But this does very little to explain the power of these stories in the text – or the power of the gospel in our own lives.
American Biblical Scholar, Walter Wink writes, in Engaging the Powers, “I have a nagging hunch that the gospel’s power in our own time is about to be manifested in a manner as repugnant to the sensibilities of the society at large, and all of us who have accommodated ourselves to it, as the early Christian message was to Roman paganism. Our society is possessed, Christians as much as anyone. We are possessed by violence, possessed by sex, possessed by money, possessed by drugs. We need to recover forms of collective exorcism as effective as was the early Christian baptism’s renunciation of ‘the devil and all his works’.”
Are there other forms of possession you would want to name? (Naming powers – to gain authority over them – was another dimension of Sunday’s gospel story).
What comes to mind for me is power. We are obsessed with controlling the world around us – curating and controlling other’s perceptions of us – controlling our futures and our fates. What might it mean for us to discover – so fully and so deeply, so completely – how good Jesus is that this desire to control others and the world around us would fall away?
In Mark 3 Jesus goes up the mountain and calls to him “those whom he wanted”. The good news of God is that God wants each one of us. God calls each of our names. The good news of God is we are now called to “proclaim the message [of God’s love]” and “to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). We are empowered to find freedom in Christ and to continue finding freedom in Christ from every form of possession that inflicts us and our society.
This Sunday, as the new year gets underway and many of our programs and small groups resume, let us be empowered by the knowledge that God calls each one of and has given us this incredible ministry together! “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1a)
How good Jesus is!
P.S. This Sunday – straight after church – there will be a short (@20 minute) General Volunteer Induction in the Lounge for anyone who would like to volunteer at church. If you would like to help out – anywhere – please come along!