Saturday, June 30Scripture Reading—Luke 4:31-37
I know it’s hard for many of us to relate to stories about demon-possession. For many of us, demon-possession is the category less scientifically sophisticated cultures employed to explain bizarre behavior they could not otherwise explain. Demon-possession does make for interesting movie plots, and the realization that there is still a ritual for exorcism in the Roman Catholic Church today intrigues many of us. Though many of us tend to interpret a text like this in more rationalistic ways, some of today’s best interpreters of Scripture humbly acknowledge that as smart as we think we are, there are still spiritual realities we cannot fully explain or comprehend. Try as we might, we cannot fully explain to our own satisfaction the presence of evil in the world, nor can we comprehend how human beings can give themselves over to the service of evil, whether their names are Hitler, Milosevic, or John Wayne Gacy. The man who enters the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath is obviously troubled and afflicted in some mysterious, disturbing way. Whether we call it a demon or some mental illness caused by a brain disorder or chemical imbalance, the problems his condition caused for him—and others—were obvious. We learn some things here from Jesus that apply in the 21st century every bit as much as the 1st. First, Jesus’ teaching has authority. He was not just an eloquent speaker, but his words had authority, authenticity, and power. His words made a difference in the world. We in the church use a lot of words—reading Scripture, preaching, and so on. But our words don’t mean a thing unless they lead to action. Unless we are inspired and challenged to go into the world to bring healing to the sick, comfort to the lonely, food to the hungry, and to seek justice for all people, our words don’t mean a thing. And second, and perhaps more importantly, Jesus’ confrontation of the man’s condition makes it clear that Jesus has authority over evil. Jesus came to challenge, defy, and defeat all the forces that rob people of their full humanity. However we interpret what happened in the synagogue in Capernaum, we all agree that the gospel is good news precisely because in Jesus, we have found one who has set us free from all the negative forces, habits, powers, and conditions that rob us of life. And those of us who have encountered Jesus’ authority over our broken, dysfunctional lives experience great joy in proclaiming the possibility of this deliverance to any who will hear it!
Thought for the day: Jesus comes to deliver us and our world from all the evil forces that threaten to rob us of life!
Prayer: O God, thank you for the ways you have brought healing to my own disordered, broken life. Continue to deliver me from all the things that prevent me from experiencing the joy for which you created me, and help me to invite others to reach out to you so that you can make them whole. Amen.