To the Church in Exile,
The peace of Christ be with you. This is our second daily Lenten devotion in this season of not meeting together. Here is one of our lectionary readings of the day:
Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.Mark 3:7-12
There’s a quote floating around on the internet:
They shouldn’t have tried to hold an election AND teach Americans how to wash their hands, all in the same week. It was too much. We were overwhelmed.
I want to say two things about being overwhelmed. Jesus is not. The unclean spirits are. Jesus is about to be crushed by crowds. The word is out that God is in charge and setting the world right through Jesus. In Mark 1, Jesus announces that God’s reign is at hand and calls people to turn (repent) and believe and trust that good news. Well, they’ve come running for the healing of the kingdom and Jesus, the smart physician, tells his reception room team to manage the crowd. He refuses to be managed by others, yet still is committed to them. I wonder how you are managing what presses in on you in this very strange season in our city.
Isn’t it odd that Jesus is being crushed by crowds and facing a world where everyone wants to touch him while we, on the other hand, live in our Seattle world where no one wants to touch us? Jesus is about to be mauled by a mob, whereas yesterday all I yearned for was to hug people and shake hands and declare “the peace of Christ be with you.” Perhaps it is a time for us Christians to step out of the box and creatively “touch” those most vulnerable in our church, our neighborhood, our workplaces.
In contrast to Jesus, the unclean spirits are completely overwhelmed. “You are the son of God!” they declare. I’ve always found it interesting that in Mark’s gospel no human being declares Jesus as the son of God. (The centurion at the cross being the exception.) Only the demons and unclean spirits grasp who Jesus is: he’s the new sheriff in town. You can smell their fear; time is up! The Reign of God brings healing and liberation. Will you let the King of Kings do his work with the spirits that hold you captive? The demonic? Fear? Panic? Frenzy? Now is a season to cast your cares upon the grand physician. Let Him clean house. And you do your work like learning to wash your hands.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us with your mighty power that we may not fall into despair, nor be overcome by adversity, and direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Jesus Christ our King. Amen.
Peace in Christ,