23 June 2013Luke 8:26-39
“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.” (vv. 38-39)
In this story from Luke (who was a doctor), Jesus encounters a man whose condition was so disturbing that he lived outside the normal community among the tombs or, in our language, a cemetery or graveyard. The word "country" (v. 26) here can also be translated as 'an empty expanse' or 'the space lying between two places or limits'. He was so seriously disturbed he wore no clothes. Even today people often talk of struggling with their demons and this man certainly struggled with his - so much so that he was called legion (verse 30). In the days of Jesus Roman soldiers occupied Palestine. And a legion could be anything between 3,000 and 6,000 Roman soldiers.
It is interesting to note the reaction of people of the surrounding area who were alerted by the herdsmen with their story of the destruction of the herd linked to the deliverance of the man. They seem more scared of Jesus and the man being clothed and in his right mind than they were when he was manifesting disturbing behaviour, perhaps because of the transformation Jesus had brought. Also in this case Jesus tells the man to go and tell rather than come and follow.
Jesus met this man where he was and ministered to him there, Of the 20 or so miracles of healing in the Gospels only 3 are in the synagogue. A worker in a factory where I was chaplain asked what a chaplain did. When I told him, he said, "Oh I see, the people aren't coming to church so this is the church coming to the people. I like that!"
The contemporary Methodist Church has been described as "a discipleship movement shaped for mission". A website I was looking at recently said the most sacred part of a service is when God's people go out of the church door into the world to be the church sent out, with words such as "Go in the power of the Spirit to live and work to God's praise and glory!".
- Where and how have you sensed the presence of God? Was it in a religious context such as a church or cathedral or in your everyday life?
- God has been described as a 'missionary God'. What do you perceive as the missionary activity of God in your workplace, community, club, gym, supermarket, shopping mall, the neighbourhood where you are?
- What would help you to engage in God's mission in the world?