June 19, 2016 – Healing the Townspeople – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell

The story of the demon-possessed man is a pretty colorful and dramatic one. It has all the elements of a really scary movie – this wild, naked man who cuts himself with stones and who is so strong he can break any chains that people tried to bind him with, living alone in the graveyards at the edge of town, and then the mad rush of the demonized pigs as they rushed down the hill to be drowned in the lake. It’s exactly the kind of thing film-makers really get into when they want to portray evil and scare people.

But there is evil at work in this story that isn’t so easy for us to see. And that is the power of fear that caused the people of the town to see this man as a threat, something to keep far away from, something to chain up like an animal rather than a human being in need of healing. Whenever we look at fellow human being as something rather than someone, something other than what we consider normal and right, that is the power of evil at work in the world. Only Jesus looked on the man without fear, only Jesus loved him as a fellow human being, so that he could finally be healed, sitting at the feet of Jesus “clothed and in his right mind” as Luke said.

But then, that wasn’t all the healing that needed to be done; the story doesn’t end there. It’s really important to see that Jesus sent the man back to his old neighbors and family. It is entirely understandable that he wanted to go with Jesus and leave that town behind. But it was necessary for him to return to his old hometown because they also needed to be healed – to be healed of their fear and their hatred, to be healed of the sin of de-humanizing a fellow human being – and then in being healed and reconciled to their neighbor, to bring glory to the God who is love.

Last week as we drove home from the Diocesan Convention, which was wonderful, we began to hear news reports, just as you were hearing them, about the shooting in Orlando. And I think maybe the most horrible thing about it was the sense that it was becoming old news – another shooting. Once again the great evil of fear and hatred has broken out like a plague in our world, like the shooting only a year ago in Charleston, like the violence in Syria, like the murder of an English lawmaker a few days ago, like the atrocities of ISIS. And even as we think of those things, we ourselves are in great danger of falling prey to the very same evil, refusing to see the humanity in those people who make us afraid. May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us all, and give us his eyes to see one another as brothers and sisters, and his heart to love one another without fear.

I want to read this morning the letter that our Bishop, Bishop Love, sent out in response to last week’s violence:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Ever since learning of the tragic attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando this past Sunday, in which 49 people were brutally murdered and 53 others were critically injured, I have been praying about what to say to the people of this Diocese and the wider community. What do you say in the midst of such horror, tragic loss, sorrow, and pain?

All those who were killed and injured, their families and friends, and all who have been traumatized by this senseless act of violence have been and continue to be on my heart and mind, and in my prayers. I encourage you to keep them all in your prayers as well.

The Orlando Massacre – clearly directed against the LGBT community – is one more tragic incident in a growing number of horrific attacks on various individuals and groups, in our own country and around the world, by people filled with hate and a total disregard for human life. It was exactly one year ago this week that our nation was stunned by the hate-filled and racially motivated slaughter of nine African-American Christian men and women in Charleston, South Carolina who were attending a prayer service. Last August, ISIS militants executed 12 Syrian Christians, including a 12-year-old boy. Some were beheaded, others were crucified. The women were raped before being killed. Twenty-one Egyptian Christians suffered a similar fate when they were beheaded on the beach along the southern Mediterranean Coast in February of 2015.

From the very beginning, when evil entered the world and corrupted the human race, Satan has tricked people into using race, religion, ethnic backgrounds, nationality, social and economic status, political views, sexual orientation, and gender to divide us from each other and to justify prejudice and intolerance for those who are different. Whatever form it might take, each is symptomatic of a hardened and unforgiving heart. If the insanity of the Orlando Massacre, the Emanuel AME Church killings, the barbaric slaughter of Syrian and Egyptian Christians, and the countless other acts of prejudicial hate-filled violence are ever to come to an end, the hardened and unforgiving hearts of the perpetrators will have to be dealt with. The only known antidote for a hardened and unforgiving heart is the love of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us, as His disciples and ambassadors, to speak His truth in love and to be a channel of His love, mercy and healing grace, even in the midst of our own times of sorrow, suffering and loss. We can’t do so in our own power, but we can do so through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit who lives and dwells within us. Jesus has promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

There is no power greater or more effective than God’s love in dealing with the hatred and prejudicial forces that threaten to divide us and destroy the world. Jesus came to save the world not through violence, but through love – His perfect unconditional all-sacrificial love as displayed on the cross.

May our Lord Jesus Christ give us the grace and desire to love one another as He loves us (even amongst our differences), to see one another as He sees us (each created in the image and likeness of God), and to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. God Bless You! Amen!

In Christ’s Love

+Bill

A Prayer for the Human Family

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which

infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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