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Sunday Service 17th March




Lent 5: Acts of compassion

17/3/23

                    

Call to worship

Hymn 89(JP): I am the way (X2) 

 

Time for all

 

Hymn 88(JP): I am so glad that my Father in heaven

 

Reading:    Luke 8: 26-39 Amanda

Prayer

 

Hymn 561: Blessed Assurance

 

Sermon

Prayer of Dedication

 

Hymn 540: I heard the voice of Jesus say 

Benediction

 

 

Welcome to our meditation for 17th February.

WE are now in the fifth week of Lent, the preparation time for Easter.

And this week we are asked to reflect on the voices we listen to.

We will think about that after our reading and prayer from Amanda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon

 

This is a strange passage.

I think what makes it very uncomfortable is the whole idea of being so close to someone with mental illness, someone who doesn’t think the same way we do, someone who we think is unpredictable.

 

I remember a night I was called out to Leverndale Hospital, at that point it was a secure mental health institute in Glasgow.

I was called out because they had a patient that was out of control.

I can’t remember why I was specifically called out or how they got my name.

But I was asked if I would go along and help calm a patient down.

So off I went and met up with some staff and was sent to a patient who was heavily strapped down and was possibly going to cause herself some harm trying to free herself with the way she was thrashing about on the trolley.

 

In her mind’s eye she was being chased by a dragon.

Now you and I know that dragons don’t exist.

You and I know that because dragons don’t exist then she couldn’t be being pursued by a dragon.

So you and I know that she was wrong.

But in her mind the dragon was real, and the fear of the chase was real.

And if that is real to you, then how are you going to react if you are strapped down and you can’t escape the chase.

In the fairy stories of old and the princess is tied to a post to feed and placate a monster, how would you feel if you were that princess tied to the pole, you knew the monster was coming, but there was nothing that you could do, how hard would you thrash about hoping that the chains holding you back snapped so that you could escape.

That was her reality, and the actions of the nurses were feeding into the reality and causing more fear, not less.

 

Whatever this man’s problems were, whether it was mental illness, whether it was demons, this man’s problems were well beyond the skill set of the local people.

They were terrified of him, and they were reacting in fear.

Maybe they really thought that they were being the most compassionate that they could be,

chaining him up in the burial caves where he would have shelter,

where he might not harm them,

where there was not much about for him to harm himself, where they knew where he would be so they could leave food outside the cave for him to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

But in this man’s head he was surrounded by the dead.

We don’t know if the cave that they used was one that had been used to store the dead, or if it was empty.

I am sure in his irrational mind the man wouldn’t know if it had been used or not.

How would you feel sleeping beside a used tomb?

Then how would you feel sleeping beside a used tomb when you mind was creating voices?

Was it the ghosts of relatives coming to haunt him?

 

In fear he would break the chains and run away in the desert where for a while the starkness and the quiet would ease his mind.

Then maybe he would feel better, return home,

until the innate fear he would feel from the neighbours,

they way they would move their children to put their bodies between him and their children in a protective stance, even though he would never hurt a child, but that was what they thought of him,

the stress of having to always be in control, that not only every word, but the way he spoke every word, would be analysed and judged.

Until he said the wrong thing, looked the wrong way, and he feared they would attack him again, chain him up again.

 

This is a very simple message today.

 

There are voices out there that are destructive.

If we listen to them they will lead to harm.

As I was writing this there were debates on the radio and in the media about being a politician and how dangerous it is.

How they receive death threats for whatever stance they might take.

There are sites on social media that advocate self harm, and some people are very vulnerable to that.

There are young people that have committed suicide because of reaction to social media, either the abuse they have received from social media being so unbearable, or sites that encourage people to end their life and give suggestions as to how to do it.

This man had voices that were so destructive.

 

And his plight was not helped by his neighbours;

because those neighbours listened to the same voices.

They only saw destruction and threat from this man.

They acted out of fear and terror.

The voices in his head were telling him that he was evil, and the neighbours were treating him as if he was evil, there were no other voices for him to hear, no other voices that he could listen to.

 

Then Jesus’ voice becomes another voice.

Is our voice another voice?

 

Jesus gets off the boat.

He has crossed Lake Galilee for some peace. Gone over to the Gentile side of the lake where there were few Jews and he could get some peace and reflect on what had happened so far in his ministry.

He is then confronted by the man; dirty, stark naked, probably looking half starved and deranged, probably with broken chains round his ankles and wrists.

 

Jesus could have acted repulsed,

Jesus could have acted fearfully,

Jesus could have tried to get the disciples to restrain him,

or just ignored him and headed off in another direction, tried to get as much space between him and the man.

 

Instead he asked the man his name.

Jesus cared enough to stay, cared enough to find out about the man, to listen to him.

Jesus became a different voice.

 

Here’s something I had never noticed before, Jesus listened to the demons.

When the demons asked Jesus for kindness, not to be sent to the abyss but to go into a herd of pigs, Jesus gave them their request.

 

Think about that.

If Jesus was willing to show kindness to the worst part of this man, then what levels of kindness would Jesus show to the best of the man?

Whatever way you want to put it, whether it was an exorcism of the demons,

whether it was a healing of mental illness,

it was a different voice that the man had a chance to listen to.

 

The villagers came along and asked Jesus to leave.

We never know why...and there may have been many reasons.

Maybe fear of the unknown power of this stranger.

Maybe guilt that they had not helped the man earlier...and Jesus’ presence would remind them of that guilt; a guilt they didn’t want to face.

 

But this passage, difficult as it may be to work out what actually happened...is a simple passage.

It is about what voices we listen to.

Do we listen to the destructive voices that are out there in the world,

voices that only mean us harm and destroy the relationships that we have with others, destroy the image of God within us, destroy our humanity and the way we treat others.

Or will we listen to the voice of Christ, who wants us to find healing and wholeness, who wants us to be at peace with others, who wants us to know that we are loved?

 

And then one more thing, what voice do we speak to others?

A voice that attacks that brings others down, that causes hurt to others and ourselves?

Or a voice that brings healing, that brings people closer, that brings hope?

Let us pray

 

Heavenly Father

As we offer our lives to you, are we happy to play our part in kingdom building.

Or do we find ourselves reserved, hoping that it is someone else’s responsibility.

Are we uncomfortable with the idea of bringing hope to someone else,

scared of the consequences if we fail, unsure if we have the skill set.

 

May our love, our service, our time, our money, spread the gift of your love to those who have yet to be filled with the joy that knowing Jesus brings.

 

May it start by us asking their names; seeking to find out about the true person, seeking to be truly interested in their lives.

Then may it continue with kindness

 

Bless our offerings of commitment large and small, may they be given with gratitude.

 

May we also be honest about our own life.

Are we happy Lord?

I mean truly happy?

And if not what is holding us me back from jumping for joy?

Well okay...

maybe our age, maybe aching bones and tired out muscles.

 

But honestly,

what would make our heart sing?

Peace on earth and goodwill to all?

An end to people starving?

Justice for all?

Perhaps...

Or maybe just listening to your voice

Hearing how you have put people in our lives to love and be loved by...

Hearing how you have blessed our lives with enough to sustain us.

Hearing how you have given us a path to follow that will challenge and help us grow and mature in our faith.

Hearing that you will be there for us no matter what we face.

 

As we realise the blessings we have been given, may we in hope and joy seek others to know those blessings, and so may we be a voice for the kingdom.

Amen.

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