Tuesday, December 5, 2023, Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 5:14-17
Blessing and Peace to you on this first week of the New Church Year and the first week of Advent in our lectionary and liturgical year.
This Sunday's worship is at 10AM followed by a cake reception for Melody and me for our 52nd wedding anniversary. We hope that you will come to join us at worship as we live once again with anticipation for the birth(day) of Christ and celebrate our loving partnership on this 52nd year. Please continue to keep Holly in your prayers as she recovers from a battle with pneumonia. Also continue praying for Kandice K in Hawaii whose cancer has developed a new tumor and is now under a new treatment plan which will hopefully include old tumors and the new one. Today, we continue our bible study in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark.
This passage begins with what we might think of as a huge surprise. The non-Jews on the east side of Galilee are really unhappy with the healing of the person who was mentally fragile, running naked in the cemetery. We call this man the Gerasene Demoniac. Evidently his mental health was so bad that he was constantly injuring himself in his mental rage. As you may remember from the previous reading, Jesus identifies the culprit for this mental health crisis as Legion, a host of evil spirits who are in control of the man, and Jesus moves them to a herd of pigs which immediately rushes into Galilee and drowns. There are several things going on here.
1. Jesus has just destroyed an economic resource for these people, who are providing pigs for meat for the Roman Army.
2. Jesus has threatened the financial security of these people
3. If these people are religious, Jesus has threatened their thinking about the god they worship.
4. BUT, Jesus has healed a man who has been sick for long enough for people to be comfortable with his presence. Notice: We are not told if this man has a family.
5. In this passage there is no happiness by others for this man who is "possessed" when he is healed, and Jesus is asked to leave 'the area.
The people of this time, and all too often, we too, are bothered and troubled by change. We all get far too comfortable where we are. We see it frequently for seniors who must leave, or who are being encouraged by the children to move to a place where there is a level of greater care, and dare I say it, supervision. We like things the way they are.
Another of the issues of living undisturbed is that we don't want our possessions changed either. Leave the things that I own alone. Don't change my furniture, or remodel my bathroom, or change the fire pit in the back yard, and especially don't threaten my resources.
And as I mentioned, we don't like our religion and its practice changed. I know that at American I have gotten the name of Pastor Change, because I am willing to try new music, new liturgical settings, and other different formats hoping to catch the attention of someone who may be disconnected from the church due to not liking the repeating formats and music that the church has used for hundreds of years. I know, some of us really like doing it the way that we always have done it. It's TRADITION!
Now let's talk about Jesus. If there was anyone who threw a wrench into large portions of human orthodoxy, it was, and continues to be today, Jesus! We are called through His Word to live with generosity as a hallmark of our lives. We are challenged to never judge others for the sake of protecting things the way that we like them. In fact, we worry that some of the direction of the Church which has moved to inclusivity for all people, may bring people into our midst who before this time, in her shame, the Church may have just rejected. The Great Commandment and it's second is our guide when we accept Christ as our Savior. No restrictions and no judging others who have come to faith in our Savior and Lord. Paul reiterates this in his writing, and says we can't, and don't, have the privilege of judging ourselves, let alone judging others. We are called to carry the Gospel into an ever-changing world. To never change would mean that the church would lose its meaningful place in our culture and society. Christ has come into our midst to tell us to change our hearts for the sake of the world for which He died. He is the LORD of all of creation, not just the ones who we feel most comfortable with. He ate with tax collectors and sinners and was shunned by His own people because of their hatred for those "others". Through Paul Jesus called for offerings for the early church, and hence, all churches to support the ministry of the Gospel for the sake of the world. I lived in a home with the most generous people in the face of the world’s economics. May Dad was a factory worker, who in his 50's received an estate gift from his father that would easily be worth three quarters of a million dollars today. When we needed help buying our first home, we were gifted with the down payment, when our children needed college tuition help, both my parents, and Melody's mother helped out for a tough semester for our son. In seminary, congregations that we knew and had worshiped and served in supported us with regular extra giving. But, when it came to Christ's church, my parents were not generous considering their resources. The old saying you can't out give God is true. Melody and I have lived our lives trying to be generous beyond our resources, knowing that serving the Gospel must just be the beginning of the stewardship to which we are called, and one of the reasons that we have stayed so long in my ministry for the Gospel at American is that sense of living generously for the Gospel is in others in our congregation too! We work to always provide for every need and circumstance of the church, and its members. And though our retirement years will be tight, we do not regret living as Christ has called us to live every day. When you and I give extra for CROP, or the Global Barnyard, or bring new white athletic socks to be sent to a monastery in Mexico, or provide discretionary resources, all in addition to our regular giving, we are being the people of Jesus Christ in this needy world. By the way, we are not all in equal positions to give more, and to give some considerable amount as others may see it, but what is most important, is what is in our hearts as we give and share Christ's love.
So, Jesus challenges us to let go of our heart's and mind's selfish thinking, sharing His Love in our words and deeds for the others who have yet to come to know the joy of giving thanks in all things for the unmerited Grace of God through our Savior and Lord. Christmas Eve services are at 10AM and 7PM on Sunday, December 24th.
In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim